Democratic debates Round II, first evening

Like millions of others, I was unable to listen to the entire debate among the first group of Democratic Party candidates. It just got too boring. 

CNN slants the questions

One thing was clear: The moderators were trying to advance accountant lookalike Tom Delaney, who presently is at 1% support in the polls. As for the issues and debates between the candidates, all you need to know is what happened when Bill Clinton was pushing the massively unpopular NAFTA through congress. A group of Democratic members of congress wrote to Clinton to say that they were going to vote against NAFTA… unless their votes were needed for its passage. In that case, they’d vote for it.

This perfectly encapsulates the game the Democrats play and it tells you all you need to know about all the wonderful sounding plans the different candidates advance: Just enough Democrats will join with the Republicans to kill it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Green New Deal, Medicare for all, or eliminating student debt.

With that in mind, there were some other issues to consider:

  • On climate, Delaney was allowed to prattle on about US innovative economy and similar other garbage which meant that the “free” market will prevent climate disaster. Hickenlooper went unchallenged about the fact that he’s known in Colorado as Governor Frackenlooper because of how he’s pushed that disastrous practice. In fact, none of the candidates even mentioned fracking and the fact that the Democratic Party’s policy for years has been to further the use of natural gas.Sanders denounced the oil companies but didn’t even hint at what’s necessary to combat their crimes: Expropriation.

    Tim Ryan did mention regenerative agriculture, which is hugely important in preventing climate disaster. But it was only mentioned in passing. This gets to the main point, which was avoided like the plague:
    The fact that the only way to avert climate disaster is through a national (in fact, an international) plan – a democratically planned economy.

  • On health care, there was a lot of criticism of Medicare for all and the intent to end private insurance – “take away people’s private health plans” it was called. The point is, though, that a public health insurance plan could not compete with private plans because the private plans would cherry pick; they would only take in the younger and healthier people, thereby being able to charge cheaper rates.

    Much was said about how union workers love their health plans and that they’ve sacrificed wages on the paycheck for those plans. In the first place, many union health plans have high deductibles nowadays. And secondly, if Medicare for all were introduced, the money the employers contribute to health insurance would simply go onto the paycheck.

  • Medicare for all was also attacked on the grounds that it would force the closure of many hospitals. There is an element of truth to this; hospital consolidation and closing has been accelerating and will accelerate even more under Medicare for all. The real solution is not public health insurance only; it’s socialized medicine. If we don’t pay to have the fire fighters come put out a fire in our house, if that is considered a public service for the benefit of all, then why shouldn’t health care be seen in the same light?
  • On trade, there was general agreement that tariffs are bad. But what’s the alternative? Not even a thought, of course, for workers organizing internationally as workers.
  • On racism and white supremacy, there was again agreement that it’s bad and that Trump is responsible. There was some support for reparations, but no explanation of how it would work from the advocates. And no explanation of the group identity that is the alternative to white supremacy: class identity. (Note: working class identity does not mean ignoring all different forms of bigotry or putting it on the back burner; it means understanding that we, as workers, have a vested interest in combating it.) But since every single candidate supports national identity, they are in a weak position to oppose where that tends to lead – xenophobia and racism.
  • On what really matters, the candidates persona, Tim Ryan still looks like an accountant or corporate treasurer; Steve Bullock, with his full head of hair, looks like a middle age former playboy trying to hold on to his looks; Elizabeth Warren looks surprisingly convincing as the adult in the room (“surprising” because of her short hair; normally female candidates need long flowing hair); and Bernie looks like… well… Uncle Bernie. We also had a high school football coach (Tim Ryan), Alfred E. Neuman (Pete Buttigieg) and Marianne Williamson (who got off some of the best comments of the evening).

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