#DemDebate Post-mortem

The biggest takeaway from last night’s Democratic debate was about Republicans.  Seriously, anyone who can look at the presidential fields of both parties and continue to claim both parties are the same has been proven a complete idiot. When they discussed anything, from “Wall Street” to immigration, the subject was taken seriously and the question was answered with more of a sense of caring about the American people in general than is ever expressed at a Republican gathering of any kind. Even when they misstep, as Hillary Clinton did with her rambling answer about “Wall Street,” it didn’t rise to Klown Kar proportions. Not even close.

On the Democratic side, there are three candidates with whom I would feel comfortable if they sat in the Oval Office. Are any of them perfect? Oh, hell no, but then, even the greatest presidents in history didn’t seem as if they would be great as they were running. I mean, it would have been hard to look at FDR’s campaign in 1932 and see him as a transformative figure in any way. But all three Democrats this year seem as if they would hire the right people and propose the best possible legislation to Congress, which is really all anyone can expect at this point in the process. On the other hand, it’s impossible to see anyone on the GOP side who would not be a complete disaster in office. The fact that so many pundits praise someone as despicable as John Kasich as being “the most reasonable Republican in the field should demonstrate just how far that party has fallen.

There are a few critiques, though, based on what I saw.

First, whoever is running Bernie Sanders’ campaign (and yes, Berniebots, I know who his campaign manager is, but that doesn’t mean anything!) needs to understand why I said six months ago that he couldn’t stump for a year and why he needed to introduce himself. His stump speech is getting more than a little old, folks, and his attempts to cram it into every subject does not help his image to voters.  If he really intends to win (and he may not intend to win; that does happen), he has to branch out and talk about issues other than “Wall Street” and “income inequality” and he really has to stop spouting statistics every chance he gets. A solid campaign management team would have seen Larry David imitating Bernie and would have adjusted a bit to make David’s impression look more like over-the-top satire; instead, it almost look like he was attempting to imitate David imitating him last night. A presidential candidate also has to be seen thinking on his feet and the first part of the debate, where they talked about terrorism,  was immensely awkward for Bernie, which is not a good look.

As for Hillary Clinton, she came out of the gate looking really good because, like her husband before her, she is a foreign policy wonk. She knows what she’s talking about and she understands the problems we face as citizens of the world. All three hit on the major problem we have when it comes to defense spending, but she hit the nail on the head when it came to talking about terrorism. I know a lot of “progressives” hate the idea, but the fact of the matter is, in order to be a true pacifist, you do have to realize the threat some people and some ideologies pose and you have to recognize the need to eliminate that threat. And yes, that means killing people. Sorry, but when someone poses a dire threat to innocent people and they can’t be reasoned with, you have to eliminate that threat. Sanders and O’Malley seemed a bit squishy on that because they have a warped concept of what the word “hawk” means.

Clinton did screw up a little last night, particularly when it came to her very strange “defense” of her alleged “Wall Street” ties. She actually seemed surprised by the question and she apparently felt like she needed to defend herself when she actually didn’t. The “correct” answer should have been “I want to win,” followed by a challenge on the part of anyone to give concrete examples that show that she is actually acting on the “investment” people assume “Wall Street” is making.  However, though she screwed  up, it’s not a fatal error at all, for a very basic reason; the vast majority of voters don’t care about “Wall Street.”

I know, right? “Political junkies” and PUBs think “Wall Street” and “income inequality” are the two most important issues facing the American people, while the American people themselves don’t even think about them. The average American who works his or her ass off every week just to pay the rent or the mortgage doesn’t care that Donald Trump is worth billions; they only care that they are making enough to pay the bills. And as for “Wall Street,” they generally don’t relate; their only contact with investment is through their Money Market or retirement accounts, and they usually let the experts handle that; you know, the same people you intend to trash by using “Wall Street” as a pejorative. In other words, while PUBs and pro lefties fall all over themselves to demand that everyone view “Wall Street” as a menacing specter, the reality is, most people only see tall buildings in lower Manhattan when they hear “Wall Street.” Sorry.

As for O’Malley, he has one problem, in that he’s farther to the left than even Bernie, but it’s obvious he’s not running to win; he’s running to be “heir apparent” in 2020 or 2024. He has gotten better, in that his responses seemed a bit less rehearsed last night, but he still has a perception problem. He needs to clarify his record as Mayor of Baltimore and make people aware that he had to take harsh measure to cut crime, but that he also directed enterprise zone funds to poor black neighborhoods to revitalize them. The murder rate dropped by almost half during his time as mayor, while the number of black-owned businesses more than doubled. I grew up in Baltimore, and let me tell you; the problems that city has date back to the 1960s and it will take decades to solve them. He needs to clarify that for people.  Black people reelected him by a wide margin when he was mayor.

I also like the way the Democrats each criticize each other without personally attacking them and I wish their supporters would take note. O’Malley and Sanders both hit Clinton about her Wall Street ties, while she hit both of them for their intransigence on the $15 per hour minimum wage, but none of those attacks was anything but a policy disagreement and was not designed to damage them. They are once again proving that you don’t have to attack your opponents to gain traction in a political campaign. I have to say, I agree with Hillary on the minimum wage; $15 per hour is probably unrealistic as a nationwide figure, and $11-12 is probably more realistic, but the fact that all three recommended a major increase and they all agreed that the number be tied to inflation sure beats the entire Republican field, who all believe it should probably be cut.

Once again, any one who:

  • Suggests or says that “both parties are the same.”
  • Implies that any Democrat is as bad as any Republican.
  • Calls any Democratic politician is a “tool of Wall Street,” when the alternative is worse.

is kind of a moron, and should turn in their pundit card. Two Democratic debates have shown the stark contrast between the two parties. Real progressives and liberals need to stand behind Democratic Party and defeat the GOP once and for good. It’s been time for a while…

About Milt Shook

A writer with more than 45 years in the political game (and let's face it, it is a game). I am a liberal because facts have a liberal bias, and I really like facts. If you like facts, you'll like this blog. If not, you'll have a hard time.

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