July 31, 2019

Debate Night I

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

Sanders, Warren clash with moderates over 'Medicare for All'... The signature domestic proposal by the leading progressive candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination came under withering attack from moderates Tuesday in a debate that laid bare the struggle between a call for revolutionary policies and a desperate desire to defeat President Donald Trump.” AP News

See past issues

From the Left

The left posits that the progressives won the night, and criticizes the debate format.

“Warren and Sanders want desperately for Democrats… to stop fearing the big bad Republican wolf… ‘Let’s be clear about this: We are the Democrats. We are not about trying to take away health care from anyone. That’s what the Republicans are trying to do,’ Warren said early on, in one of the night’s first big applause lines. ‘And we should stop using Republican talking points in order to talk with each other about how to best provide that health care’… Warren warned Democrats against going for ‘small ideas and spinelessness.’ What she really wants, however, is for the party to not get bogged down in the same fight that’s long been dictated by its opponents.”
Russell Berman, The Atlantic

“One of the problems the moderates have driving home their message, aside from their own lack of fame and standing, is that it’s not very inspiring to make arguments about what isn’t possible… Of course, the moderates do have plans of their own — plans that, in most cases, are probably more ambitious than even a Democratic Senate would pass into law. And Democratic voters, unlike progressive intellectuals, are in an intensely pragmatic mood and leery of taking risks when they see defeating Trump as essential. The centrists were given ample opportunity to make the case against the party’s race to the left. But the mere fact that so many of them made it gave none of them an especially sharp profile in the role they all crave: the center-left alternative to Joe Biden.”
Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine

“Health care spending makes up somewhere around a fifth of the U.S. economy. It affects every American, and is a life-or-death issue for millions of them every year. And here in the United States, where we spend more on care but die younger than in comparable countries, it’s a mess. So let us know how you’d fix it in 15 seconds

“Tapper attempted to corner Warren and Sanders into a yes/no answer on whether they’d raise middle-class taxes to fund their ‘Medicare for All’ plans. Tax increases, as an exasperated Sanders noted, are a GOP talking point, but they’re also only part of the equation of the personal finances of health care. Because if, as Sanders and Warren promise, your taxes go up some but your out-of-pocket costs go down by more, you’re better off. That’s an argument worth discussing, but it’s a discussion that one can’t have a quarter of one minute at a time.”
Ryan Bort, Rolling Stone

“The monomaniacal focus on health care left little time for something crucial: the rest of the world. Foreign policy is, arguably, the single most important issue voters should care about in comparing these candidates. It’s one of the few domains of policy where Congress has very little role and the presidency has nearly untrammeled authority. The president can use military force without Congress; she can damage or reconfigure alliances without Congress; she can condemn or sanction adversaries without Congress. All that is a far, far cry from presidential authority on, say, health care, where the president can do almost nothing to make Medicare for All a reality without Congress… No time was spent on Saudi Arabia, none on China’s rising military influence, and almost none on Iran. North Korea got a minute at most… It was a huge wasted opportunity.”
Dylan Matthews, Vox

Finally, some argue that “so far, I’ve found Buttigieg’s campaign underwhelming on policy. But where he’s clearly leading the field is his emphasis on structural reform. Buttigieg isn’t the only candidate with good ideas on this score — Elizabeth Warren and Jay Inslee have been strong on this too — but he’s the only candidate who consistently prioritizes the issue…

“The reality is Democrats are debating ever more ambitious policy in a political system ever less capable of passing ambitious policy — and ever more stacked against their policies, in particular. Their geographic disadvantage in Congress is only getting worse, Republicans control the White House and the Senate despite receiving fewer votes for either, and an activist conservative Supreme Court just gutted public sector unions and greenlit partisan gerrymandering. Policy isn’t Democrats’ problem. They’ve got plenty of plans. Some of them are even popular. What they don’t have is a political system in which they can pass and implement those plans.”
Ezra Klein, Vox

Many note that “Biden’s opposition to [marijuana] legalization… puts him at odds with the great majority of Democrats, 75-plus percent of whom back legalization. Biden’s opposition even puts him at odds with the median Republican, with polls showing that even a majority of Republicans support legalization. Politically, then, legalization should be low-hanging fruit… Yet Biden is not quite there… It’s an especially bad look for Biden. He has a long record of pushing for punitive criminal justice and drug policies — not just supporting but actually writing many of the laws in the 1980s and ’90s that helped shape America’s modern war on drugs. For Biden to hang on to marijuana prohibition, then, just reinforces one of the major concerns that criminal justice reformers like Booker have about him.”
German Lopez, Vox

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right criticizes Sanders and Warren for adopting far-left policies, and praises Marianne Williamson’s performance.

From the Right

The right criticizes Sanders and Warren for adopting far-left policies, and praises Marianne Williamson’s performance.

“The Democratic debate Tuesday night proved to be the last stand for the moderates in the party who believe promises of free stuff are a one-way ticket to defeat by President Donald Trump in 2020… while the moderates urged a step back from the rush to a socialistic America and try to embrace the blue collar Americans who left the party of Obama to vote for Trump in 2016 — a position backed up by nationwide polling and Trump’s economic results — their opponents repeatedly beat them into submission with the support of the CNN audience and their higher polling among Democratic primary voters.”
Amber Athey, Daily Caller

Democrats doubled down on their new immigration platform: effective open borders. The vast majority of primary contenders wanted to decriminalize illegal border crossings, they wanted to provide free health insurance to illegal immigrants, they wanted to provide rapid and, apparently, unconditional pathways to citizenship. When it came to border security, they pledged to secure the border. And they offered no policies as to how they would do so… I grew up in England and moved to the U.S. permanently at age 26. I am keenly aware that immigration is the lifeblood of America, and that we should want more immigration from skilled folks who want to complement the American dream. But this country requires borders and laws. Absent those, this country is not a country.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

Warren, Sanders, and Buttigieg treaded water… If you like talk of a radical revolution sweeping away private insurance, then Sanders was yelling about it just like he always does. If you like sweeping left-wing policy proposals that have no chance of becoming law served with angry rhetoric about corporations and the wealthy rigging the game, than Warren was as on point as ever… If you like a younger face who supports liberal ideas in a calmer manner, Buttigieg held his ground…

“That leaves two other low-polling candidates who probably did the best they could to advance themselves: Williamson and Delaney. Williamson... pushed back against some of the wonky discussions alienating people, and at times separated herself from both the ideological camps that formed on stage. According to Google Trends, she was the most-searched candidate during the debate… [Meanwhile Delaney offered] pointed and specific critiques of the fairy tale nature of left-wing proposals on socialized healthcare, climate change, and trade. Both Warren and Sanders were forced to punch down throughout the debate to respond to his energetic attacks.”
Philip Klein, Washington Examiner

“Since Warren and Sanders didn’t clash, there was no clear winner between the two. However, I give the nod to Warren because she came across as less weird than Sanders. If I were a left-wing Democrat, I’d be less uncomfortable with Warren as the standard-bearer than with Bernie. But I’m not, so what do I know?... Warren and Sanders will have other opportunities to go at it. There was no need for them to unload on each other tonight. And doing so would have risked ceding some of the left lane. To clash, one would have had to be to the right of the other at some level. Neither was going to move there.”
Paul Mirengoff, Power Line Blog

“A lot of us are laughing about Marianne Williamson, but there’s some of that same dynamic that drove Trump to the nomination in 2016. She’s a figure who’s famous for being connected to the entertainment world, who isn’t interested in policy details, and who emotes in a way that generates raucous applause from the audience. She’s the political candidate for people who aren’t that into politics… A chunk of the American people is going to find talk about ‘dark psychic force’ as crystal-waving nonsense. Another chunk of the American people is going to hear Williamson and respond, ‘finally, a candidate is addressing the real problem.’”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“Williamson has been speaking in this way to gigantic audiences for close to 40 years, under the East Coast radar. And you know what? She’s really good at it. And she brought real feeling and passion to the most visceral issue for Democrats at the present moment. She essentially said that racism and white supremacy are nothing less than demonic and that saving America from their evil is a moral task.”
John Podhoretz, New York Post

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

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