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Winners and Losers from the Second Democratic Debate

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | July 31, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | July 31, 2019 |


Last night’s Democratic debate on CNN was interesting if only for the way it highlighted the rift between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders’ progressive ideas with, frankly, the more moderate ideas of a bunch of nobodies. Aside from Bernie and Warren, John Delaney and Steve Bullock seemed to dominate the debate, and while I don’t think they did themselves any favors, objectively speaking they probably helped Joe Biden by highlighting the more moderate positions, which haven’t gotten a lot of play this election season, in part because they’re not only uninspired but because they basically portend more of the same.

Trump didn’t win by promising more of the same, and I’m not sure Democrats can generate the enthusiasm they need to win in the Electoral College by promising incremental change. The battle lines were drawn most clearly on healthcare, with Warren and Bernie pushing Medicare for All while the more moderate nobodies essentially suggested a continuation of Obamacare with improvements on the margins. I actually did like Mayor Pete’s middle-ground suggestion, which is to make Medicare for All an option for everyone, and I suspect most everyone would eventually choose that option. The moderates stoked fears about having private insurance taken away, but honestly, where are these hypothetical people who are so enamored with their private health insurance that they’d be upset about exchanging it for a different, likely better insurance plan? I have private insurance! It’s terrible and incredibly expensive, and we still end up paying thousands of dollars out of pocket for routine tests and procedures. Save for those few people who can afford Gold plans or whatever, I think everyone would ultimately move to Medicare for All, but I like that Mayor Pete’s plan at least gives us what we want but allows these theoretical people in love with their existing health plans the option to keep their crap insurance.

There was also a lot of talk between Bernie/Warren and the moderates about fairy tales and wish lists vs. what is more practical, and actually, Mayor Pete had the best line of the night on that subject. “It is true if we embrace a far-left agenda, they are going to say we are a bunch of crazy socialists. If we embrace a conservative agenda, you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to say we’re a bunch of crazy socialists. So let’s just stand up for the right policy and go out there and defend it.”

Yeah. More to the point, realistically, if the Democrats don’t take back the Senate, Republicans are just as likely to block incremental changes to Obamacare as they are to block Medicare for All. I’d rather have someone fighting for progressive measures and losing than someone trying to maintain the status quo and losing. I mean, go big or go home.

It was a good night for both Bernie and Warren, although voters trying to decide between the two are almost certainly seeing in Warren a more viable candidate and one who is better able to connect with voters. Bernie, in some ways, seems to be giving cover to Warren: They have similar policies, but Bernie is yelly, which makes Warren seem less “extreme.” On the other hand, Warren’s likability may have rubbed off a little on Bernie, given the way they tag-teamed together throughout the night. They were a pretty good team!

As for the rest of the field? They were mostly non-factors. Again, I liked some of Mayor Pete’s lines, but his youth and inexperience actually work against him on a bigger stage with veteran politicians. Beto O’Rourke completely faded — I mean, Congressman Tim Ryan made a bigger splash than O’Rourke in what was essentially O’Rourke’s last chance to make an impression. Tim Ryan looked like a guy trying to ask America to go to prom with him instead of asking for the right to be President. Hickenlooper was a non-factor — I don’t remember a single thing he said. Klobuchar didn’t present new ideas so much as she repeatedly asserted that she could beat Trump because she was from Minneapolis. She basically yelled from the rooftops, “Vote for me! I will alienate the fewest amount of constituencies!”

And then there was Marianne Williamson. Don’t. Just don’t, people. Yes, she had some good lines last night, but do not. Don’t. For the love of God, don’t even think about entertaining that possibility.

Again: Don’t.

Alas, I leave you with the best line of the night:

And here’s the kicker:

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