Serious Crop of Candidates Emerge in Last Night’s Debate

The ten Democrats on stage at Wednesday night’s Democratic debate made the 2016 crop of candidates look Busch League (at best) and Baltimore Orioles bad (at worst). The Trump hate-fest that everyone expected never came, and the evening was spent thoughtfully debating policy disagreements at the core of the identity of the Democratic party.

Senators Corey Booker and Elizabeth Warren were the clear winners from last night’s debate. They both firmly established their identities in the minds of the audience. They are who we thought they were. Corey Booker came off passionate and compassionate. Elizabeth Warren came off looking like a fighter, and a well-researched and quite thoughtful one for all of that.

While Booker, Beto O’Rourke, and Elizabeth Warren monopolized the time, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made the best use of their limited time. In fact, you never would have known that they had less time to get out their ideas and positions since they were both efficient and efficacious in their deliveries.

Senator Amy Klobuchar retained her image as a strong, confident, highly-organized and highly-competent liberal legal operator. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard highlighted her anti-establishment and anti-interventionist credentials, while making some extremely good points about Medicare For All that several of the other more wonkish supporters utterly missed. And Beto O’Rourke demonstrated why young people like him, and why he’ll never win a big election anywhere in the country.

Former Congressman John Delaney and current Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan made excellent arguments for why they should absolutely have run as Independents and not Democrats, making ridiculously common sense points over and over again as they appealed to real Americans who just wished politicians would shut the hell up about partisan politics and take care of the American people.

Congressman Delaney had the best argument against Medicare for all, arguing, “… its bad policy. If you go to every hospital in this country and you ask them one question, which is how would it have been for you last year if every one of your bills were paid at the Medicare rate? Every single hospital administrator said they would close. And the Medicare for All bill requires payments to stay at current Medicare rates. So to some extent we’re basically supporting a bill that will have every hospital closed.”

The best line of the debate was delivered by Marylander John Delaney who argued that he was running on “real solutions, not impossible promises.” Despite the wonkishly delicious policy discussions we were treated to last night, there was still an air of pie-in-the-sky about the entire discussion.

No Democrat on the stage last night successfully answered the question about how they would overcome Senator Mitch McConnell if elected. Therefore, none of them can confidently say that they could get any of their policy proposals through Congress.

I don’t have much to say about the special-interest candidacy of Secretary Julian Castro. He really just seems to be running in order to popularize decriminalizing illegal immigration. He aggressively challenged Beto O’Rourke on decriminalization and left O’Rourke looking moderate and weak by comparison.

On Policy
The Democrats really do seem to be split on what to do about healthcare in this country. Senator Warren and Mayor de Blasio’s frustration with our broken healthcare system leaves them firmly committed to Medicare For All.

It was Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, however, who pointed out the fact that if we moved away from employment-based health insurance, there would be a tremendous amount of savings for U.S. employers. Essentially, our health insurance is factored into our pay and benefits packages.

Americans might have to pay a great deal more in taxes, but those Americans currently paying for health insurance through their employers would likely see quite a boost in their salaries. So, maybe it all comes out in the wash. That’s the Democrats best argument and they should stick with that. Also, those arguing to retain private insurance are the only ones that will retain the support of America’s unions. The Progressives will absolutely deprive Union Workers of the private policies they’ve established for themselves.

It was extremely disappointing (but also expected) that the Democrats’ big ideas on Climate Change and Nuclear Proliferation were centered around the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran Nuclear Deal. These diplomatic agreements really don’t offer the American people much in the way of meaningful change, so this leaves a lot of space for tonight’s candidates to shine.

Only Governor Inslee really stood out on climate change. While others talked about what they might do, the Washington governor was able to talk about what he’s already done. Beto O’Rourke attempted to come off strong on this issue, but his ridiculous environmental plans reeked of pandering and impossibility. Putting everyone in an electric vehicle isn’t going to happen and no one arguing to do this will ever be elected by the American people.

We do need investments in a Green Economy and Governor Inslee’s vision of an America that leads the world in Green Technology is attractive. However, the Democratic Party has engaged Green Technology in the way you might expect, giving money to companies more competent at giving to the Democratic Party than in producing viable, economically-efficient green tech.

What Republicans Should Take Away
The Democrats of 2020 are not the weak empty suits and caricatures we faced in 2016. They are serious people with serious ideas who will have to be debated on the merits and demerits of their policy positions.

Personally, I think this is a great gift to the American public, as well as to the Republican Party, because these are policy polemics which we can absolutely win on. Whether or not President Trump is willing to have a debate on issues is another question entirely.

Republicans won’t have to worry about losing anti-interventionist Republicans to the Democratic nominee. Tulsi Gabbard won’t win and, honestly, Donald Trump has been the least-interventionist President since, well, I’m not sure anyone alive has seen a less interventionist President.

Republicans won’t have to worry about going up against intelligent, well-reasoned Democrats like Congressmen Ryan or Delaney. The Democrats will never nominate them. Bipartisanship isn’t what they are after. Actually getting anything done isn’t what they are after.

Beating Trump and hurting the Republicans — that’s what they are here for. That’s what they are focused on. Even if this wasn’t the case, that’s all the left-leaning media will talk about, so everything else will get ignored. Sorry Tim. Sorry John. You guys really should have considered running as Independents.

Congressman Ryan’s understanding of the Rust Belt working class and of the reasons why so many of them voted Republican in 2016 should have been of greater importance. That he was ignored, much like Delaney, tells us a great deal about how little the Democrats intend to pursue the very folks they’ll need to defeat Trump in 2020.

Of the candidates we saw last night, Republicans should worry about Senators Booker and Warren, as well as Mayor de Blasio. I was most impressed with the New York mayor because of his plain speech and visceral annoyance with the status quo. If Democratic voters really do hate what we have now, they’ll love de Blasio because he absolutely oozes disdain for the capitalist system that remains. Just as Trump oozed disdain for immigrants and globalism, Mayor de Blasio may garner the same excitement and loyalty of Progressive and Socialist Democrats.

However, any success enjoyed by Mayor de Blasio will come at the expense of Senators Warren and Sanders, further opening the door to an establishment caricature like Joe Biden.

I’m very much looking forward to this evening’s debate, though I cannot see how Senator Bernie Sanders or Vice President Joe Biden could do better than what we saw on stage last night.