Democrats In Dem Primary Debate Beat Up On Elizabeth Warren From The Right
There was a big pile-up on the Elizabeth Warren Expressway during last night's Democratic debate (with special guest villain Tulsi Gabbard). This made sense because she's the frontrunner whose son isn't a colossal fuckup. Candidates treat you differently when you're no longer the kooky wonk whose endorsement they'd try to land next year. But the style of attack was a sharp contrast from how Republicans attacked Donald Trump during the 2016 primary debates. Jeb Bush boasted after the South Carolina debate that he'd shown voters that Trump "wasn't a conservative." Republicans don't run away from their ideological conservatism. But too many self-proclaimed "moderate" Democrats act as if no one really likes policies more progressive than wearing a flag pin. They tried to unmask Warren and Bernie Sanders as -- gasp! -- liberals like it was an episode of "Scooby Doo."
Warren was grilled for almost half an hour about Medicare for All. This was not gripping television. Amy Klobuchar insisted that Warren just admit that her plan will raise taxes, so no one will ever vote for her again. Back when Biden was a lock on the nomination, concern trolls warned that if we acknowledged any weakness in the candidate, like say an untied shoelace at a public event, it would turn up later in a Republican attack ad. Guess we've gotten over that now.
We already have Republicans who'll
lie their asses off claim that Warren is going to tax "regular" working people into the stone age to pay for philosophy students to debate whether their chair exists. Warren has said repeatedly that she'll "send the invoice" for her plans to extremely wealthy people. After the GOP tax scam, where everyone but Republican donors got hosed, "moderate" Democrats should stop arguing for "fiscal responsibility." That's just what Republicans say to justify letting poor people starve. No Republican at no Republican debate in recent history has asked another candidate how they intended to pay for tax cuts.
The Minnesota moderate later dropped this steaming pile.
KLOBUCHAR: I think just because you have different ideas doesn't mean you're fighting for "regular people."
"Regular people" is code for "white people in states Trump never visited prior to 2015." Democrats should stop using that ridiculous euphemism. Do "regular people" not want access to affordable health care, universal childcare, or a climate that isn't from a 1970s disaster movie? Because those are Warren's "different" ideas.
Pete Buttigieg argued that Warren would only add to Americans' "frustration with Washington" because she won't tailor her plans around what Republicans might possibly allow her to do, which is nothing, ever, at all, at no point in time. He's auditioning for the GOP's pet Democrat. Maybe he can pair up with Claire McCaskill and agree with Joe Scarborough that liberals suck and can't do anything right.
Beto O'Rourke accused Warren of pitting Americans against each other. He said she was too focused on being "punitive," as if she's going to tax "naughty" billionaires with a whip. This isn't even new material. It's the "class warfare" jargon Republicans used against Barack Obama. The brother asked rich people so nicely to maybe pay a little more in taxes and they behaved like sullen teenagers asked to clean up after dinner: "WHY DO I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING AROUND HERE! I HATE YOU!"
Warren knows that there's no polite way to get America's robber baron class on board with an economy that works for everyone. She's actually been awake for the past decade. That's why she had a "you believe this asshole?" expression on her face during Beto's criticism.
During the 2016 GOP debates, the candidates argued over whether Obama had destroyed the country accidentally or on purpose. There was no outreach to the left. No one -- not even Jeb! -- suggested that the only way to stop the looming threat of Hillary Clinton was to move to the center, try to understand what motivates liberals, maybe even marry a gay. During one debate, Marco Rubio reaffirmed his opposition to abortion rights and argued against any exceptions for rape or incest. That's more extreme than anything in a Medicare for All proposal and it's actually come to pass in some states. No Republican suggested that outright abortion bans were "pipe dreams," which was the wet blanket description Klobuchar gave for most of Warren's plans.
Sen. Marco Rubio defends pro-life position | Fox News Republican Debate www.youtube.com
That standard protocol during a primary race usually is to appeal to your party's base and spend the general election trying to win over swing voters. Too many Democrats are already giving stump speeches for #NeverTrump conservatives. If those guys voted, maybe Buttigieg would have a lock on the nomination. Right-leaning pundits, especially Jennifer Rubin, gushed over his performance, but he was mostly a smarmy creep. He kept asking Warren for a "yes or no answer" -- the most annoying dude thing ever -- when she'd already done so repeatedly, just not to his satisfaction.
It's telling that the punditry applauds Klobuchar's aggressive attacks against the liberal candidates but Kamala Harris's criticism of Joe Biden was a "cheap shot" that only helped Trump. Politico suggested that Buttigieg's moderate proposals could appeal to Iowa Republicans and independents who might participate in the caucus because they're "fed up" with Trump. I don't want people who voted for Mitt Romney choosing the Democratic nominee. That's a lose-lose situation because a mealy moderate isn't going to win. That has never worked.
Politics ain't bean bag. I'm not asking for a Warren coronation, and she's tough enough not to need one. I just want Democrats in a Democratic debate to argue for liberalism not capitulation. I'd like to see that Republicans haven't completely broken them.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.