Politics is class struggle, and that is what is obscured in these Democratic Party debates. Instead, round and round and back and forth they went. It was impossible to really make sense of it all in the maze of accusations, counter-accusations, and general, meaningless statements about “patriotism” (Tulsi Gabbard), “I will work hard every single day” (Julian Castro); “my grandmother told me nothing is impossible” (Gillibrand); “neither left nor right but forward” (Yang); the “need to heal as a nation and move forward” (Booker); the need to “collectively look in the mirror and ask who we are” (Harris); and the need to “restore the soul of this country” (Biden).
Some general impressions:
Trump is licking his chops with the thought of debating Joe Biden. While Biden was more “involved” this time, as the talking heads put it after the show, he stumbled over his words time and again. Trump won’t hesitate to mock him.
Bill de Blasio, New York City mayor, went out on a limb with his call to “tax the hell out of the rich.” He must know that he doesn’t stand a chance to win the nomination so he’s trying to make a name for himself. Meanwhile, when he spoke a group of protesters in the audience interrupted him with chants to “fire Pantaleo” – that referred to policeman Daniel Pantaleo, who strangled Eric Garner to death with an illegal choke hold. The murderer not only walks free, he’s still got his job as a cop.
Cory Booker came on strong, for instance in his attack on Biden’s proposal that would-be immigrants with a PhD be allowed to automatically enter the US. In other words, those who need it the most – the working class – would have to stand at the end of the line.
Washington State governor Jay Inslee hammered at the climate change issue. As he correctly pointed out, this is the central issue facing us today. He attacked Biden’s comment that “we will work it out”. “We cannot afford to [wait to] ‘work it out.’ The time is up,” Inslee retorted. Left unsaid by all was the fact that four years ago, it was not only Hillary Clinton but the entire media – including the moderators of the Clinton-Trump debates – who totally ignored this issue. It wasn’t mentioned once.
Andrew Yang has this clever line that he’s “the opposite of Trump. I’m an Asian guy who likes math.” But underneath it all lies the dangerous idea that there is no left or right. He revealed where he’s coming from when he said that he wants to build a coalition that includes “libertarians” and that the solution to women being harassed on the job by their boss is not to organize but for them to open their own business.
As was true the previous night, the main sticking point was on health care, specifically on “Medicare for All”. Opponents say that Americans will want to have a choice, to keep their private insurance if they like it. Supporters point to how the private insurers are bilking the health care system of billions of dollars. One point they don’t make is that if the private insurers are allowed to compete with a public plan, then the private ones will cherry pick their customers, only insuring the younger and healthier individuals. This will allow them to charge lower rates, making the public plan uncompetitive.
But there are a couple of criticisms that the supporters fail to grapple with: First is the general distrust of the government. That’s partly due to the corporate propaganda, but it’s also due to an out-of-control bureaucracy. The only way to start to deal with this is through the development of the working class as an independent force – in other words, a working class party.
On the issue of foreign policy, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran arose. Left out was Syria, where the final stages of the counter-revolution are being played out in Idlib. This includes carpet bombing and bombing of hospitals and public markets. Tulsi Gabbard made the dog-whistle reference to Syria with her comment on “wars of regime change”. This is a reference to her support for the bloody Assad regime. Nobody mentioned Gabbard’s association with the fascists in both Syria (the Syrian Social Nationalist Party) or India (the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, AKA the RSS, or “Sangh”). A fringe candidate, Gabbard is only significant because a layer of socialists have illusions in this anti-Muslim bigot.
Obscured by all of this is the central fact that the only way that the working class majority in the US can advance is to start organizing as a class – in, of, by and for itself. From the question of bigotry and white supremacy to the issue of environmental disaster, the only way that real progress can be made is through the self-organizing of the working class; through the realization that we, as a class, have our own interests and that those interests conflict at every turn with those of the capitalist class. In other words, to start down the road towards building a mass, working class party. How that can develop has been raised many times by Oaklandsocialist, including here.
In the absence of the start to this, really all that the viewer is left with is a general impression of the candidates as individuals.
That’s why Oaklandsocialist has commented so often on the hair of the candidates – as a tongue-in-cheek way of describing their general appearance. With that in mind, here goes:
Michael Bennett’s plastered down hair perfectly complements his constipated looking mouth. He comes off as an up-tight Lutheran minister. The only question regarding him is how he got this far as to be elected to the Senate.
Cory Booker’s shaved head works great for him. The guess is that he’s probably growing bald. The shaved head hides that and, instead, gives him a hard-charger look.
Julian Castro’s hair isn’t really remarkable, but his general aura of a thoughtful and kind person works well… but will be destroyed by Trump.
Kirsten Gillibrand’s hair is too much like that of Hillary Clinton – too much like a helmet and not feminine enough. However, this is compensated for by her all-American good looks.
Both Tulsi Gabbard and Kamala Harris have the right hair for a woman candidate – shoulder length and flowing, but not too feminine (equated in the minds of most men as “weak”), especially in the case of Harris, who can put on that hard, prosecutor’s stare.
As for has-been Biden: His time is up. His hair isn’t an outrageous comb-over like like Trump’s, but it wouldn’t work for him anyway. For Trump, the comb-over suits his aura. For Biden, who clearly has had hair implants, it just makes him look silly. But, then again, this matches perfectly with his frequent stumbles. He tries to be folksy with his frequent use of the phrase “here’s the deal”, but it doesn’t work. Democrats better hope they can get a stronger candidate nominated.
Update: We have just seen this moment, a true Biden foot-in-the-mouth gaffe, with Biden pleading to and putting down Kamala Harris, all in one breath: “Go easy on me, kid.”