Yesterday’s Democratic debate

I watched most of the debate yesterday and there was little there to change my mind about my support for Bernie Sanders as my #1 choice followed by Elizabeth Warren as #2. The rest were pretty much a wash, though I thought that Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer had a pretty good night. Elizabeth Warren got relatively little speaking time and while she made use of her time to make her points, did not seem aggressive enough in injecting herself more into the exchanges.

The more I see of Pete Buttigieg, the more he comes across as smug and patronizing. Klobuchar took him down a peg for minimizing the impeachment process as part of his shtick about how he is not part of the Washington insider group and telling Iowa voters that the hearings made him want to watch cartoons.

When the debate veered toward a discussion on experience, 38-year-old Buttigieg – a former mayor and veteran of the war in Afghanistan – contrasted himself with Biden, Klobuchar and Sanders, saying he represented experience outside of Washington. But Klobuchar, 59, shot back that “we have a newcomer in the White House, look where it got us”.

She also called out Buttigieg for saying he had found watching the impeachment trial “exhausting” (as senators, Klobuchar, Warren, Sanders, and longshot candidate Michael Bennet had all been in Washington to attend instead of campaigning in Iowa).

“That’s not leadership, to just suck up to a room and make a joke so everyone laughs at it about switching [the channel] to watch cartoons. I think that’s degrading of the work that people do,” she told CNN after the debate.

That Buttigieg is gaining so much traction, so much financial support from wealthy donors, and his links to the foreign policy and intelligence establishment, is concerning. His policy proposals are vague, consisting of essentially saying “I favor progressive policies but since I am not as extreme as the others, mine are so considerably watered down as to be ineffective” and hence of no threat to the oligarchy. I think it is becoming increasingly clear that he is now the candidate that the political establishment is pinning its hopes on, a kind of Obama version #2, since Joe Biden seems to not be able to persuade people that he should be the party’s choice.

Biden’s weakest moment was when he attacked Sanders’ Medicare for All plans, using language that could have been lifted directly from Republican talking points and the health industry.

This article gives four initial reactions to the debate. One of them, attorney, writer, and activist Malaika Jabali, made the following point, which resonated with me

Despite questions about socialism and the viability of Medicare for All, Sanders was steady and commanding. While candidates talked about uniting the party, no other frontrunner can claim to have the economic, ethnic, and ideological diversity as Sanders, who has the most people of color and lowest income constituency in his donor base and success attracting Independents.

Contrasting Buttigieg, who seems to believe billionaires are mere constituents and not a part of a power structure that siphons wealth from everyday Americans, Sanders staked his allegiance assertively with the working class. He warned that none of the progressive policies being promoted can pass if corporate and billionaire donors have undue influence on candidates, and he is the only candidate who doesn’t have billionaire financing in his campaign coffers. Talk is cheap, and few but Sanders seem like they will prioritize people over billionaire patrons when it’s time to deliver.

So now let’s see what happens in New Hampshire on Tuesday.

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