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.