August 3, 2019

Dems Debating Dems: Winning the Primary, Losing the General.

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

It’s a spectacle, these Democratic candidates vying to see who can give Donald Trump and the Republicans the most ammunition to use against them in the 2020 general election.

The Sanders/Warren block (clearly, the most committed and determined subset of Democratic voters) were treated to exactly what they wanted to hear; i.e. time for structural change in America, that is, the socialism they want for the capitalism they’ve got. That’s a good way to snag the Democrats on the far left while losing moderate Democrats, most independents (the largest voting bloc, by far), and virtually all Republicans. Eugene Debs couldn’t win in 1900, 1904, 1912 or 1920 with his socialist message, and neither will Sanders or Warren snag the big prize with that kind of socialist message 100 years later in 2020.

Warren is also determined to do away with all employer-provided health insurance. Everyone will like that except for the tens of millions of voters who are perfectly happy with their employer-provided health insurance. She attempts to finesse the increase to middle-income taxpayers her plan will impose with, “but overall medical costs will come down.”  As Ronald Reagan noted a generation ago, “if you think health-care costs are high now, just wait until they are free.”

Then there was all of the debating about whether or not migrants crossing illegally into the United States should be prosecuted criminally or civilly. News flash: that’s not a good debate to have in a Presidential election. Most voters don’t want anyone crossing illegally into the United States. Debating whether offenders should be prosecuted criminally or civilly is a tone-deaf argument. The answer many voters will have to that question is simply, build the damn wall.

Then to punctuate the Socialist argument, we had Bill de Blasio interjecting whenever he could, “we’re going to tax the hell out of the wealthy.”

President Trump got off easy. The Democrats, each wanting to be the last candidate standing, went at one another with relative abandon, which advances their case in a general election, not one nit. Each of the Democrats, in our opinion, should be focusing on how and why they are the best candidate to beat Donald Trump in the general election, and why beating Trump is essential to the American experience.

America is, we believe, still the essential nation in the world today. President Trump is not, in our opinion, the essential political figure of our time. Unless one of the Democrats can make the case that he or she is the best candidate to restore America’s exceptionalism, and its uniqueness among the nations of the world, they will not unseat President Trump.

President Trump is an unusually vulnerable President. He is not the stable genius he says (and, no doubt, thinks) he is. China shows no sign of crumbling in the face of the trade war that Trump assured us was a good thing and easy to win. So far, the one clear result of his trade war has been to decimate many American farmers. Well, perhaps, that’s not quite fair. His multi-billion-dollar aid package to offset the multi-billion-dollar depression his trade policy has imposed on many American farmers may insulate them for a time from the high-cost of his tariffs.  Truth be told, he has accomplished nothing with North Korea either, other than elevating Kim Jong Un to unparalleled stature.  He has prodded the Federal Reserve into a dubious interest rate cut in order to prop up the economy through the 2020 election. He is also the most divisive President of our time, and, perhaps, of our entire history. He has given the far right, the nationalists, the supremacists, and the xenophobes standing and a voice they could have only dreamed of a few short years ago. 

That said, the Democrats have to be careful condemning Trump’s tax cuts as a giveaway to the wealthy. The tax cuts, for the time being anyway, have not flowed overwhelmingly to the wealthy. Fully eighty percent of taxpayers have received a real tax cut. Today, according to the non-partisan Tax-Policy Center, the top 1 percent currently get 20.5% of the tax cut, and the top quintile gets 65.3% of the tax cut.  That flips in 2027 because of a quirk in the tax law, but we would caution the Democrats to be careful. Voters know they are keeping more of their pay today because of the Trump tax cut. Democrats also have to recognize that many voters, including us, believe he was right to move the US embassy to Jerusalem; to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and to impose really tough sanctions on both Iran and Russia. Many voters will find the choice between Trump and any one of the Democratic contenders to be a tough choice.

We thought Tulsi Gabbard was among most impressive of the Democratic debaters, not to take away from Corey Booker. Booker was sure-footed, knew his facts and was unintimidated by Joe Biden. Yang, Castro, and Williamson were also impressive. But Gabbard really stood out as a little-known contender. She raced from the back of the pack when she very coolly took on Kamala Harris. She attacked Harris where Harris is the most vulnerable; withholding exculpatory evidence in a capital case when she was Attorney General of California. Harris further burnished Gabbard’s standing with a sophomoric rebuttal, essentially, complaining that she (Harris) was a somebody, a top-tier contender, while Gabbard was a nobody; maybe a one-percenter in the polling.

Gabbard, a nobody? Not anymore…thanks to Kamala Harris.

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5 responses to “Dems Debating Dems: Winning the Primary, Losing the General.”

  1. Ben Donenberg says:

    Gabbard delivered a knock out punch that landed. Everyone else was sparring.

    Williamson reframed the debates to speak to the moral core of our nation’s soul.

    I want to continue to hear these women’s voices.

  2. Roberta Conner says:

    Your explicit acknowledgement of President Trump’s many accomplishments during his relatively short tenure is both accurate and refreshing, to wit:

    Tax cuts for the majority of Americans;
    Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem;
    Exiting the Iran Nuclear deal;
    Imposing sanctions on Iran and Russia; and
    Ongoing efforts to strengthen our Southern border.

    Presumably implicit in your analysis is Trump’s widely-acclaimed steerage of our economy to its best level in decades, including the lowest unemployment rate ever for blacks, hispanics and asians, real wage growth for middle class workers and solid GDP numbers.

    Yes, China and North Korea represent serious issues that Mr. Trump has yet to fully resolve – but by God isn’t it uplifting to finally have a leader with the courage to take on such critical challenges?

    Democrats DO NOT believe America is exceptional. They are punitive liberals who truly believe that America must be punished for its past sins of slavery, internment of the Japanese, racial inequality, etc. Furthermore, none of the current democrat candidates seek to restore America to any former level of greatness – their stated policies, as elaborated in your article, (open borders, medical care for all and other socialistic programs) would do exactly the opposite.

    Thank you for presenting a rather balanced view of the current presidential election process – you are starting to sound very much like many of my independent friends!

  3. Perry says:

    What a horrible debate spectacle it was both nights. Instead of
    putting forth real solutions to problems they insisted upon attacking one another constantly. Biden also looked terribly
    weak both physically and to some extent out dated. He along with the Representative from Minnesota are barely a reason to
    vote for any Democrat. The Truman’s, and Humphrey’s are no where to be seen. It is far from the Democratic party I once

  4. Judy says:

    Hal, for good or bad….I totally agree with you. All sad but true.

  5. Mike says:

    As usual well written. There are a couple of other points to consider

    First, Obama was a divisive President. Practically speaking, when 90 plus % of the media coverage is negative, Trumo or anyone else would be viewed as divisive. The main stream media lived Obama and this were willing to overlook the extent to which his policies and practices alienated people. As the Lois Lerner incident confirmed he was also willing to weaponize agencies such as the IRS to attack enemies. And when the IG report finally gets issued I believe his Administration’s finger prints will be all over the smoking gun.

    In my opinion, Trump’s biggest shortcomings are the tone of his tweets and comments – they are clearly not “presidential.” Worse, they alienate people he will need to have in order to get re-elected. And he appears to be unwilling to adjust – even when it means that bad things will happen. For example, in July 2018 he was warned that his tweets were hurting Republican Congressional Candidates. Too bad. He continued to tweet and the Republicans lost the House.

    Having a leader who is not willing to change and adjust is necessarily a good thing. Fortunately, his Democratic opponents are helping people overlook this fault – but it is still a fault.

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