The next Democratic debate will take place tonight in Charleston, South Carolina which holds its primary on Saturday. This will also be the last debate before the Super Tuesday primaries next Tuesday, March 3 and so will be the final chance for candidates to make their case to a national audience before those votes are cast. There will be seven people on the stage tonight: Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, and Elizabeth Warren.
Steyer is the new addition from the last debate which means that we will have two billionaires on the stage touting their glorious billionairosity that makes them supremely qualified to take on Trump and become president. After all, phony billionaire and failed businessman Donald Trump became president, so wouldn’t either of them be better positioned to take on Trump than people who are not insanely wealthy? The sad thing is that some people actually buy that argument.
It is not hard to predict what is going to happen tonight. Issues relating to minority and especially black voters, who usually make up about 60% of the Democratic primary vote in South Carolina, will be one focus and that is a good thing, since they have not featured much so far in the debates.
You can also be sure that all the other candidates will target Sanders in order to stop him from running away with the nomination following his landslide victory on Nevada and his winning the popular vote in New Hampshire and Iowa. I am sure that Bloomberg will be hoping for this so that he is no longer the football to be kicked by everyone.
The myth that Sanders is merely the favorite of college-educated and young white men has been exploded, since it is clear that he has wide support across the board so expect to see new lines of attack. Since their previous attacks on his proposals such as Medicare For All and the charge that he is a polarizing, divisive extremist have not only failed to dent his popularity but seem to have actually generated support for him, I expect to see a lot of red-baiting. They will segue smoothly from his self-description of being a democratic socialist (which is actually a very centrist position and would not raise an eyebrow in most developed countries) to call him a socialist and from there to implying that he is a communist, which is the line that the Democratic party establishment and Republicans are pushing.
They will dig up perfectly reasonable statements that Sanders has made that reflect his realistic and nuanced view that countries like Cuba have made significant strides and investments in education and health care, to suggest that he is a puppet of the Kremlin and that as president he will set up reeducation camps for anyone who disagrees with him, if not actually lining them up on the Washington Mall and shooting them. They will seize on the stories that some Russian bots are supporting Sanders, not as a sign that the bots are trying to mess with the election and divide Democrats, but as if those bots are part of the Sanders campaign.
Sanders was interviewed on 60 Minutes yesterday by Anderson Cooper, who works for CNN and moonlights on this CBS show. (You can see the interview here.) Cooper showed that he is a loyal member of the corporate media and the political establishment by doing an excellent job of red-baiting and bringing up all the Republican and Democratic establishment talking points. Instead of discussing the substance of the things Sanders is proposing and why it might be generating so much support, he focused on his past statements on Cuba and about how Sanders will pay for his programs.
Fresh from an impressive win in the Nevada caucuses, Sanders was asked to explain how he felt about the “democratic socialism” he was touting on the campaign trail being characterized by President Donald Trump as “communism.”
Sanders said: “What democratic socialism is about is saying, ‘Let’s use the federal government to protect the interests of working families.'”
The program then played an undated clip of Sanders telling an interviewer the reason why the Cuban people did not rise up against Castro was that he managed to educate his country’s children, give them health care and “totally transformed the society.”
In Sunday’s program Sanders said: “We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad.
“When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing. Even though Fidel Castro did it?”
When interview Anderson Cooper challenged the senator on how many dissidents Castro had imprisoned, Sanders responded: “That’s right. And we condemn that. Unlike Donald Trump, let’s be clear, you want to—I do not think that Kim Jong-un is a good friend.
“I don’t trade love letters with a murdering dictator. Vladimir Putin, not a great friend of mine,” he added.
You can be sure that everything that Sanders said other than his statements about Cuba’s health and education programs will be ignored, and will used as evidence that Sanders, if not a communist himself, is a communist sympathizer. They will forget that famous commie-lover Barack Obama said basically the same things that Sanders said.
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) February 24, 2020
Sanders must have known that this red-baiting was going to come from Cooper on this CBS show in order to boost ratings for the Tuesday debate that CBS is hosting, like the way CNN manufactured and stoked the Sanders-Warren conflict just before the debate that CNN hosted to boost the ratings for that debate. But Sanders did not try to back away from his past statements. That has been Sanders’s strength, the consistency of his views and his unwillingness to revise them because of political expediency. He may even be thinking that since the red-baiting would be raised by Trump and the Republicans anyway, it would be good to get it out in the open early so that it becomes old news.
If Sanders continues to win after receiving a hammering on this issue during the debate, that will mean that voters have decided that it is no big deal and will go a long way towards blunting later Republican attacks.