The Democratic Debate, Part 7

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W.J. Astore

I watched the Democratic Debate last night from Iowa featuring the top six candidates.  Here’s my take on the candidates and their prospects:

Joe Biden: It’s bizarre that Biden, still ahead in most polls, is hailed as doing well in these debates as long as he shows up and avoids making major gaffes.  To use a sports analogy, it’s as if you put your ace pitcher into the game and applaud him for giving up only ten runs while walking five and throwing three wild pitches.  At least he competed, right?  Biden didn’t do poorly last night, but he didn’t shine either.  Mr. Excitement he’s not, and that doesn’t bode well if he’s the Democratic candidate for president against Trump.

Pete Buttigieg: Mayor Pete has one talent: he knows how to please older people with vapid talk that seems sincere and serious.  He has almost zero support among African-Americans and very little support among people his own age and younger.  What is his path to victory?

Amy Klobuchar:  Klobuchar poses as the adult in the room, a moderate who rejects the “crazier” notions of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  Clearly, she’s against progressive politics, but what does she stand for?

Bernie Sanders: Sanders is the one true progressive on the stage.  The man is a model of consistency and heart, and he has the strongest movement behind him.  He has the best chance of defeating Trump, but his dedication to people over corporations and profits makes him an anathema to establishment Democrats.

Tom Steyer: Steyer, a billionaire, has embraced climate change as his issue of choice.  At least he puts his money where his mouth is, but he has virtually no chance to gain the nomination.

Elizabeth Warren: Warren’s campaign concocted a phony controversy in an attempt to gain traction as the Iowa caucuses loom.  Basically, the Warren campaign claims Bernie Sanders said a woman can’t win the presidency.  It’s total nonsense.  Sanders denied it, and there are multiple video clips of Bernie advocating for a woman as president.  After Sanders issued his denial, Warren refused to address it.  She also appeared to refuse to shake his hand after the debate.  Apparently, Warren thinks the best way to distinguish herself from Bernie is to play the gender card, just as Hillary Clinton attacked Bernie in 2016 for the alleged misogyny of the so-called Bernie Bros.

As the debate dragged on, I thought carefully about which one of these candidates truly has a chance to defeat Trump in November.  Who has passion, vision, heart, and the ability to take on Trump and to call him out on all his lies and misdeeds?  I see only one candidate who can do this and win: Bernie Sanders.

Americans want free stuff!

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W.J. Astore

Once again, I’ve come across the talking point that Americans who support candidates like Bernie Sanders just want a bunch of free stuff.  You know: non-essentials like health care and education.  What are these freeloading Americans thinking of?

We live in the richest country in the world, yet we seemingly can’t afford health care and education for our people.  Yet we can afford roughly a trillion dollars each and every year for national “defense.”  Why does the Pentagon want so many “free” bombers, fighter jets, drones, aircraft carriers, and missiles?  Why do the militarists always get what they want, with few complaints about the price?  (And let’s not forget roughly $6 trillion wasted on the Iraq and Afghan Wars, or for that matter the trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street and the banks.  Why did they get so much “free” stuff at taxpayers’ expense?)

We truly need a political revolution in this country, which is why I support Bernie Sanders.  He’s the only candidate who truly gets how rigged our system is — how it’s become an oligarchy, even a kleptocracy, that favors the richest and most powerful among us.  Sanders has been a model of consistency for decades, and he’s as genuine as a public servant can be.

No candidate is perfect, but Bernie will move this country in a fairer, more humane, direction.  He realizes health care is a human right.  He realizes education shouldn’t put students into a form of debt peonage.  He realizes hardworking Americans deserve to be paid more, deserve better benefits, deserve to be treated with dignity.

We need to combat an attitude in this country that says rich people are our winners and the poor are losers.  We in America are still taught to idolize the rich and fear or despise the poor. The rich represent “success” and the poor are supposedly lazy or just losers. Can’t they just get a job?  Can’t they pull themselves up by their boot straps?  If you’re poor, it’s all your fault — this is still an all-too-common idea.

We need leaders who understand the working classes and want to work for them.  Bernie Sanders is that kind of leader.

Shaking the Money Tree in the Wine Cave: The Democratic Debates, Part 6

W.J. Astore

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Andrew Yang: Not about to shake the money tree in the wine cave

Yes, there was yet another Democratic Debate among the remaining presidential candidates.  I gutted my way through most of it, gritting my teeth every time Mayor Pete opened his mouth to spout pious bromides.  In no particular order, here’s my quick take on the remaining seven candidates who made the debate stage:

Bernie Sanders: Passionate.  Bernie remains committed to a progressive agenda that will truly change lives for workers in America.  His consistency of vision is his biggest strength.

Joe Biden: Angry.  I may be biased, but when Joe tries to match Bernie’s passion, he comes off as angry instead.  There’s just nothing new here.

Elizabeth Warren: Competent.  Warren is always prepared and is capable of delivering a memorable one-liner, especially her quip that she’d be the youngest woman elected to the presidency.  But she may be the candidate least equipped to match Donald Trump in a debate.

Amy Klobuchar: Milquetoast Moderate.  Klobuchar is trying to present herself as the level-headed voice of reason between Trump’s followers and the “radicals” on the side of Sanders and Warren.  This has been tried before (anyone remember Hillary?), and it didn’t work out so well.

Tom Steyer: Earnest.  He’s putting his money where his mouth is.  I just don’t see him being a serious contender for the nomination.

Andrew Yang: Revelatory.  Yang had his best performance in this debate.  He’s shown an ability to think on his feet, and his answers are unconventional and thoughtful.  I hope he stays in these debates and wins more support.

Mayor Pete: Wine Cave.  Poor Mayor Pete.  He’s so desperate to appear serious and important.  But he’ll sell his soul for the big money (not that he’s alone here), including a big fundraiser in a wine cave, which led to the best line of the night, by Andrew Yang, when he quipped about those who are so willing to “shake the money tree in the wine cave.”

Way to go, Andrew Yang.

Too Far Left?

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W.J. Astore

Boris Johnson’s victory in Britain is generating predictable headlines in the USA.  Scanning the New York Times this morning, I saw a headline suggesting the Democratic Party is drifting too far to the left to win in 2020.  What arrant nonsense.

In the mainstream media, political issues in America are almost exclusively presented in terms of left and right.  Again, this is nonsense, because America has no leftist party.  We have two rightist ones: the Republicans and the moderate Republicans, otherwise known as Democrats.

In America, the true political divide isn’t about left-right; it’s about top-down, as in the richest Americans and corporations against the rest of America.  When Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Jeff Bezos are worth as much as the bottom 50% of Americans (that’s 160 million people), do you think top-down disparities in wealth and power might just be a bit more important than left–right issues?

At least Warren Buffett is honest about this.  “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”  The only candidate who’s willing to tackle this issue consistently, Bernie Sanders, is the one who’s either ignored or vilified as extreme by the mainstream media.

Sanders is right.  America needs a political revolution, one in which workers’ concerns would finally take first rather than last place.  And that has nothing to do with being a leftist or rightist.

The Democratic Debate for 2020, Part 5

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Booker, Gabbard, Klobuchar, Buttigieg, and Warren

W.J. Astore

Last night was the fifth Democratic debate featuring the top ten candidates for the presidency.  These are more “meet and greets” than debates, given the short time for responses and the sheer number of candidates, but they can be revealing.  Rather than focusing on who “won” (here’s a typical “Who won?” article) or the best applause lines, I’d like to summarize each candidate in as few words as possible.  Here goes (in alphabetical order):

1. Joe Biden: Fading.  Biden often misspeaks and relies far too heavily on the dubious legacy of the Obama years.  He has no apparent vision for the future.

2. Cory Booker: Wide-eyed.  Booker tries to convey enthusiasm and optimism, but somehow it hasn’t worked for him.  There’s a growing sense of desperation about his candidacy.

3. Pete Buttigieg:  Salesman.  To me, Mayor Pete looks like he should be going door-to-door, selling Bibles.  The face of young milquetoast moderation within the Democratic party; unsurprisingly, he’s attracted a lot of establishment money.

4. Tulsi Gabbard: Composed.  Tulsi is rarely flustered.  Her poise and sense of calm come through in interviews and on the campaign trail, but doesn’t translate as well in debates.

5. Kamala Harris: Affected.  Harris, a former “top tier” candidate (her words), has watched her support dwindle.  Maybe that’s because there’s something scripted about her.

6. Amy Klobuchar: Establishment.  She has positioned herself as a sensible centrist, which is another way of saying her positions are predictable half-measures that threaten no one in power.

7. Bernie Sanders: Passionate.  Bernie has lost none of his outrage at a rigged system.  He’s still calling for a political revolution.  Good for him.

8. Tom Steyer: Billionaire.  It’s interesting to see a rich guy espouse progressive ideas while vowing to attack climate change.  I don’t think he has a chance, but he’s not your typical politician.

9. Elizabeth Warren: Prepared.  Warren has a plan for everything.  But will her professorial manner translate in a general election?  Her crossover appeal seems limited.

10. Andrew Yang: Different.  Yang thinks for himself and has an eye on the future.  His out-of-the-box thinking adds some intellectual excitement to these often stale “debates.”

Of the ten candidates, Sanders and Warren are identified by the media as the “radical” progressives, whereas Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Harris, and Klobuchar are seen as moderates or centrists.  Gabbard and Yang are non-conformists but in different ways, and Steyer is anomalous in terms of his wealth.

For me, Bernie Sanders remains the clear choice for 2020.

Don’t Vote for the Person You Believe In!

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Feel the Bern

W.J. Astore

The corporate-owned media is at it again, urging Democrats to vote for a sensible centrist like Joe Biden.  According to Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post:

“Warren is a much bigger risk for Democrats (and the survival of our democracy) than is Biden. There may be candidates who could, if they managed to rise to the top of the Democratic polls and win nomination, be as competitive as Biden, but Warren and Sanders fail to attract a chunk of voters that Biden grabs, and by the way they are campaigning, they are unlikely to remedy that deficit.”

Poor Elizabeth Warren.  Not only is she a “bigger risk for Democrats.”  Her very emergence as a contender imperils “the survival of our democracy.”  And I thought a Trump presidency was bad!

Unsurprisingly, the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post is against Warren, Bernie Sanders, and other progressives.  Bezos loves his billions and doesn’t wish to share them with anyone.  Taxes, after all, are for the little people, not for the mega-billionaire owner of Amazon.

It’s amazing how the mainstream media peddles the same narrative election cycle after election cycle.  Democrats are always told to reject “radical” or “extreme” politicians like Warren and Sanders, even though Warren is a former Republican and Bernie is basically FDR-lite.  Instead, Democrats are supposed to embrace the “sensible centrist,” someone like Joe Biden, who is basically a corporate hack who will run and rule as an Eisenhower Republican (just as Barack Obama did, as he himself admitted in an interview).

It’s funny how the “radical” Republicans got their man (Donald Trump), but Democrats are advised to reject “radical” candidates who promise them better health care, student loan debt relief, taxpayer-subsidized college education, affordable housing, and the like.  That’s crazy talk!  You can’t have your man (or woman), progressives.  You need to vote for solid old Joe Biden, or Milquetoast Mayor Pete, or someone similar who’s “safe” and “moderate” in their views.

What arrant nonsense.  We need to vote for the man or woman we believe in.  The one who excites us.  The one who stands for what we believe in.

For me, that candidate is Bernie Sanders.

Healthcare in America: No Pony for Us

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Wise up, America!  Only the richest little girls get ponies (Scene from “Gone with the Wind”)

W.J. Astore

The comedian and political commentator Jimmy Dore has a great sketch about Americans not getting a pony.  The “pony” in question is taxpayer-funded, single-payer health care.  Only the most naive or gullible or spoiled Americans could possibly believe they deserve such a pony — this is an argument advanced by Democratic sages like Hillary Clinton, among many others, like Nancy Pelosi.  She’s supported today by “sensible centrists” like Joe Biden and “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg, who argue that Medicare for All is wildly impractical and crazily expensive.

As my wife quipped, for “sensible centrists” and their ilk, we don’t get a pony — but we do get to pony up.

Yes, Americans get to pony up — and up — and up, in the form of high insurance costs, deductibles, co-pays, and the like.  And let’s not forget the high cost of life-giving prescriptions, such as insulin, which under our wonderful private systems have soared in price.

Those who attempt to sell Medicare for All in America, like Elizabeth Warren this weekend, are dismissed as delusional.  Take this headline at Reuters: Republicans, Democrats, ‘SNL’ attack Warren’s U.S. ‘Medicare for All’ plan.

Wow!  Everyone is against her — even liberal comedians at Saturday Night Live (SNL).  No pony for us!

Yet, as Jimmy Dore pointed out in his skit, other countries and peoples get ponies.  The Canadians do.  The British do.  The Germans.  The French.  The Italians.  The Japanese.  And so on.

Want a pony, America?  Better move to Finland.  Or Hong Kong.  Or Greece.  Or New Zealand.  Or Tara.  Because you’re not getting a “pony” here.