The Democratic Debate, Part 7

debate

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.

Conservative Kookiness in Iowa

Scott Walker serves up some red meat
Scott Walker serves up some red meat

W.J. Astore

OK.  I should know better.  When you pay attention to what conservatives are saying at the Iowa Freedom Forum, attended as it is by religious activists, you’re going to hear kookiness and craziness.  But what’s sad is how the “red meat” issues raised by the likes of Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, and Rick Santorum are so devoid of nutritional value.  Empty calories, all of it.

You hear the usual talk about lower taxes and less governmental regulation, even though Republicans under Reagan and the Bushes (along with the Democrats as well) oversaw expansions in government.  George H.W. Bush famously said, “Read my lips — no new taxes,” before proceeding to raise taxes once he became president.  Along with lower taxes and smaller government, Republicans also claim to support “family values,” a vapid phrase that basically means whatever you want to read into it.  I’m not a fan of Obama’s priorities and policies, but one thing I can say for the man is that his life, his wife, and his teenage girls have exuded family values, Thanksgiving controversy or no.

So we know Republicans are supposedly for lower taxes, smaller government, and family values.  What else are they for? Abortion, of course, as in restricting it further or even eliminating it.  Voter ID laws, because we all know how the “wrong” kind of people are being bussed in en masse to skew voting results in favor of socialism (talk about an urban myth!).  And more gun rights, like open carry laws and easier approval for concealed permits to carry.

Egads!  These are the issues that sway the activist base of the Republican Party?  Fetuses, the specter of more disadvantaged people of color voting, and guns.

Wow.  Our country faces serious issues.  A crumbling infrastructure.  An unsustainable prison system.  Perpetual wars.  Climate change (even Republicans admit it’s real, though they won’t blame humans for it).  Ever widening gaps between rich and poor.  Student loan and credit card debt that threaten a fragile economic recovery.  Mediocre education.  Ever rising health care costs (still the number one cause for personal bankruptcies in America).  But forget all that: let’s talk about fetuses, non-existent voter fraud, and guns.

And Republicans like Santorum wonder why “too many people don’t think we care about them.”  Gee… I wonder why, Rick.

(A personal note: In 1976, though too young to vote, I supported Gerald Ford rather than Jimmy Carter.  In 1984, I voted for Ronald Reagan because I believed Walter Mondale lacked the gravitas to be president at a crucial moment in US-Soviet affairs.  Ever since then, the Republican Party has lost me with its cynical culture wars and active suppression of democracy, among other reasons.)