22 Thoughts…

For the 22 minutes of the Democratic primary debate in Houston that I could stomach last night (I read transcripts this morning):

  1. I expect nothing to change in the poll numbers. Debates like these are completely pointless.
  2. Harris going after Trump in her opening statement was good theatre– her team seems pretty good at that. But it also shows what a weak candidate she is. This was like her third or fourth campaign pivot (after realizing “attacking Obama to knock down Biden” was a really stupid strategy and that she too has a less than progressive past). What is the pitch for why YOU should be President? She still has not found a good narrative and time has run out.
  3. Cory Booker looks the part. He sounds the part. His policy ideas are fine. Booker is all but shouting “look at me!!!” to all the people who complain about needing a centrist alternative to Biden. Yet he just kind of sits there in the polls. I honestly have no idea why he can’t quite seem to catch on. I still think he could be the stealth candidate who could flip the script on the one of Biden/Warren/Sanders will be the nominee story.
  4. Mayor Pete’s line about trusting the American people was a great rebuttal to Medicare for All– that will play well in the general and sounds like exactly what a sane conservative party would attack the progressive plan with. If I were managing his campaign I would tell him to push this narrative hard. Out centrist Biden. That is your only path to victory.
  5. I do not know what the point of Bernie Sanders is now that Elizabeth Warren has fully established herself as a legit contender. Warren articulates all of Sanders ideas better and has more coherent plans for all of them (and many more Sanders doesn’t talk about). The longer they both stay in the race the more likely a centrist like Biden wins.
  6. I like Amy Klobuchar. She has no constituency here. Also, you just can’t make a “Houston, we have a problem” joke. That was somehow worse than Yang’s “I’m Asian so I know a lot of doctors” nonsense.
  7. Castro is a jackass.
  8. He was also wrong. Biden said that people would be automatically enrolled if they cannot afford to buy-in (I’ve got it at 8:22 PM on the transcript).
  9. Yang is a clown and I’m pretty certain he violated FEC rules with his opening remarks/infomercial pitch. Why not have a pyro display and fire a t-shirt cannon into the crowd while you are at it? Or at least hide the winning tickets in some kind of consumer good like any good-natured capitalist/little people slave-owning candy manufacturer.
  10. Sanders and Warren’s inability to articulate how Medicare for All will work or be paid had to be disappointing for progressives. Warren tried to sidestep by avoiding the tax implication and redirecting to the overall cost. I’m not sure that is compelling to people not already inclined to agree with her. Sanders pitch that employers would somehow spend the money they currently compensate employees with through healthcare into wages is hilarious. There is nothing in the last fifty years of US economic history that suggests employers will act that way. These savings will go directly to the company coffers (just like most pension money did when we shifted towards the 401k racket).
  11. The “people don’t love their insurance company, they love their doctors and nurses” line Warren trotted out is great podcast fodder (I’ve heard some variation of it at least four or five times in the last week on various liberal podcasts), but it is actually a pretty stupid line. At the very least, it shows how out of touch liberal political commentators/comedy writers are with what life is like for the upper-middle class and working “rich” (think lawyers, doctors, corporate management below the C-suite). Polls show that some of these people DO love their insurance coverage which is a part of their total compensation package for work. When you clap back on this you are insulting potential voters. Ask Hillary how that basket of deplorables thing worked out.

    I’ll use myself as an example here. I have a really great insurance program at work. All of my healthcare providers are on it, I have no monthly premium, and my employer contribution to my HSA nearly covers my deductible. Medicare for All will likely cost me 5% of my current compensation while raising my taxes by another 4% while doing nothing to improve my healthcare coverage. That is a really shitty deal for me. And this is true for lots of other Americans too. If polls are to believed, we are talking about millions of Americans who are in a similar boat. Shrugging off those concerns and insulting those voters is politically stupid. They are exactly the voters who will swing this election.

    For the record, I’d still vote for a Medicare for All candidate over Donald Trump– buoyed by the fact that there is literally no way this gets through the legislative process– but there are lots of Americans who won’t.

  12. I get that liberals do not like to hear this, but lots of people do not really want the government running important things like healthcare. For one, what happens when some unsavory characters, like say a game show host and his clown car full of sycophants, decide to limit what Medicare covers? Not to mention normal institutional stupidity. We cannot properly administer student loan payments and forgiveness plans, but you expect a much larger, much more haphazardly thrown together government agency that is deeply disliked by half the country to somehow flawlessly administer a program that holds our lives in its hands? Color me skeptical.
  13. Do Warren and Sanders have literally no memories of what happened after the passage and implementation of the ACA? That was a minor change compared to what they are proposing. THIS IS NOT POPULAR WITH THE GENERAL PUBLIC. Modest proposals that move the ball downfield compare very favorably with the Republican plan of “take away what you have and offer nothing in return.” Stop playing this game on “Nightmare” difficulty. Drop down to “Casual” and win.
  14. Joe Biden is Joe Biden. The cracks about his age and memory (mostly from Castro) are cheap and petty. Biden has been this way his entire career. You might not have noticed it when you were cheerleading for him as Obama’s number two, but it was there.
  15. Watching Beto make a year-long audition reel for his VP pitch has been exhausting. I cannot imagine a world in which I sit through a Beto-Pence VP debate. Can we just cancel them if that is the lineup?
  16. What is with the liberal twitter criticism for Biden invoking Obama (which like 70% of the field does regularly) as some cynical ploy to pander to Black Americans?  Obama is wildly popular with all Democratic voters. This position is straight-up racist. It is a dog whistle for “Blacks only like Biden because he says Obama all the time.” If the more progressive wing of the party wants to win Black voters over to their side they might want to think about actually earning their vote rather than insulting them who they do support.
  17. I haven’t checked yet, but I assume twitter is awash with Biden is the hipster candidate/jokes about Biden using archaic technology after his record player bit.
  18. The group that protested during Biden’s answer to the closing question has a poor grasp on how politics works. They are every bit as delusional as the TEA Party was. Their own website says they do not use conventional tactics (what that means is unclear) and will not “dance” with political parties and instead think that they can force change through “non-cooperation.” Good luck with that.
  19. Outside of healthcare, where Warren still hasn’t really found a pitch for Medicare for All that is substantively different than Sanders or all that compelling, she did really well. She flexed hard on the economy. Drop healthcare as one of your signature issues and stick to this angle. It is when you sound most authentic, you really are the expert in the room, and it is a wide-coalition building, winning strategy.
  20. I have never understood the criticism of Warren (and Obama) that they “lectured” at the crowd. Uh, this isn’t a conversation. The crowd isn’t speaking back. When a learned person addresses a passive audiance it SHOULD sound like a lecture. Otherwise, it is just some moron making a sales pitch or rambling incoherently. How is that preferable?
  21. Democrats need to have a serious conversation about what a realistic platform for the party in 2020 looks like. If Medicare for All is the major showcase for the ticket they will not take the Senate (and could manage to lose the House and Presidency). It is basically stillborn. There is a reason they have avoided talking about climate change much in the debates– there is no popular policy action for this (and literally nothing the US can do without unthinkable international cooperation will make a damn bit of difference). Beto’s coming for your guns is a loser too. The various student loan debt plans have potential, but you REALLY need to sell these as returning to the sort of investment in the future we used to make prior to the 1980s. A restoration of how we used to fund education is a much easier sell than “free money for soy boy.” Obviously, the candidate who wins will go a long way to setting the party platform, but the DNC should be out promoting some vision for House and Senate candidates to be campaigning on now.
  22. My advice to the Democratic party: present modest policy goals on immigration reform, economic inequality, criminal justice reform, and a strong foreign policy that re-establishes key alliances and makes clear stands against our enemies (especially Russia, North Korea, Iran, and China). This stands in stark contrast to Donald Trump’s total failure to deliver on his campaign promises. Make the GOP defend why they got nothing but tax cuts for the rich accomplished in Trump’s four years. Bring up his repeated foreign policy follies. Put Trump’s record on trial.

Iowa cannot get here soon enough.

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