Now that the dust has settled on Round Two of the Democrats bifurcated debates – and all the pundits have offered up there too often biased opinions – let’s look at the results with the wide-angle lens.
The winner at the end of the Democrats’ second debate was – in my judgment — former Vice President Joe – even after the first round. Yeah, I know he was not on the stage at that time, but he was still the winner.
Despite the media evaluation, I saw round one as a bad night for Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – but especially Sanders. Oh sure, they did well by comparison – but by comparison to whom? Most pundits say that the progressive team won — especially Warren. You could say that – at least from that limited perspective. But there was another dynamic at play.
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews opined that Sanders and Warren were like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, who were locked in a partnership while taking on all comers in their famous shootout. Matthews was right. However, it is a better analogy than he intended. We must remember that Butch and Sundance wound up dead.
Moderates lose standing, but their positions win
None of the so-called moderates on the dais stood out – ergo the perceived win for Sanders and Warren. The left-wing Democrat duo was combative and very theatrical. That stuff seems to impress pundits.
None of the moderates had the kind of break out moment that will put them in contention – or even into serious double digits in the polls. There were no Kamala Harris moments. One or two of the so-called moderates may move up a point or two at the expense of other moderates on the stage – but that is it.
The fact that none of the others had that “special moment” made Sanders and Warren look better. But … and this is the key point … collectively the moderates made minced meat out of the left-wing agenda advanced by Sanders and Warren. They put their “for-campaign-use-only proposals” on full display before the American public. What came across loud and clear – and more importantly, as convincing — were the claims that the extreme progressive (socialist) agenda was a sure loser in the 2020 General Election.
Progressive platform loses ground
Sanders and Warren were feisty and tough talking, but they offered nothing new –and more importantly nothing that effectively discredited the moderate’s criticisms of the hardline progressive agenda. Free college for everyone – including the children of billionaires – is a non-start issue. So is de-criminalizing illegal border crossing, free healthcare for illegal aliens, reparations and abolishing private sector health plans.
In an interview following the debate, Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan said that the idea of taking away everyone’s private insurance would result in the Democrats losing 48 states – and he could not name two they would not lose. Perhaps a bit hyperbolic, but Ryan made his point.
If Sanders and Warren are declared the winners of the first half of the two-day debate, it is likely to be a Pyrrhic victory. While they won, their issues did not.
The second half
In the second night of the political double-header, there was a continuation of their pugilism that Harris had started in the earlier debate – but this time it turned into a barroom brawl. Biden, who crouched into a fetal position as Harris plummeted him in the earlier round showed that he knew how to fight. He went on the offensive against both Harris – for her prosecutorial record — and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker – for his support of tough police practices such as stop and frisk when he was mayor of Newark.
But others got into the fray, and it was not all directed at Biden. The desperately and embarrassingly positioned New York Mayor took up the cudgel for the progressives. From the far end of the stage, he attacked Biden. He may gain in the polls – passing the one percent mark – but it is only because the moderates are still dividing a lot of votes. Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro fell back on ageism by suggesting that Biden had not learned anything from the past.
The barroom brawl
But this was not an ambush on Biden. He had a little help in the barroom brawl. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand attacked her own Big Apple mayor for not firing the officer who killed Eric Garner. Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard delivered body punches to Harris in a four-count indictment of her record as a California prosecutor. New York businessman Andrew Yang accused the left of bringing the wrong solutions to the wrong problems. He has an interesting perspective but it will not get him much.
As in the first round of the second debate, it was the radical progressive agenda that took the biggest hit. The progressive contingent was pushing Christmas in July – gifts for everyone from our kindly Uncle Sam. Free college for everyone – including the children of those dreadful rich people. Free medical care for everyone – including illegal aliens. Decriminalizing illegal border crossing – even, it seems, for MS13. Canceling student debt. Subsidizing felons. They seem to forget or disregard the fact that our dear old Uncle Sam does not have a dime that we the people do not give him.
It costs HOW much?
While past campaigns immortalized the adage, “It’s the economy, stupid,” the moderates have undermined the entire progressive agenda with “It’s the cost, stupid.” Just the Medicare-for-All scheme –even with the so-called “option” — would cost $30 trillion over the next ten years. And if that is not bad enough, remind me of any government program that did not require more – much, much more – than the projected figure.
On top of that $30 trillion, add the free college, loan forgiveness, further opening our borders, and all the billions upon billions promised for the so-called Green New Deal, education, infrastructure, Social Security, disaster relief, etc., etc., etc., etc. … or hell, there are just not enough et ceteras.
They one thing upon which all the Democrat presidential candidates agree is that they are fighting amongst themselves for the heart and soul of their Party – maybe even its sanity.
In the next debate in September, half the candidates we heard from in the past month or so, will not be on the stage. It is most virtually certain that Biden, Sanders, Warren and Harris will be in the next debate. It is likely that Booker, Castro, Yang and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Peter Buttigieg will make the cut. That leaves only a couple chances for fifteen or so who appeared in the first two debates – and those running — like business billionaire Tom Steyer – who have not even made the first cut. That means Biden will stand alone against a field of more-or-less progressive candidates. That means Biden’s winning so far is no guarantee of future success.
In short, progressives are peddling political snake oil and the moderates have exposed what is really in the bottle. Sanders and Warren are shackled to their own anchors. The more the progressive proposals are seen for what they are – campaign b***sh*t — the less attractive the joined-at-the-hip senators will become.
There are probably enough radical or gullible people in the country to keep either Sanders or Warren as a threat to Biden – but not both. There may be enough to overtake Biden and give the nomination to Warren. In that case, the big winner will be President Trump.
So, there ‘tis.