A Dozen Democrats Debate


Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonderandhome.com

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26 Responses

  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I don’t agree fully with the proposition that the debates have changed nothing.


    Now I know that OTers like to hang on to “sensible”, “is it good for JP Morgan?” “moderation” but Warren rose very well. It is not a closed deal but she was treated as the front-runner last night. The debates are not the sole cause of her rise to the top but they clearly help get the word out. In 2007, Obama’s base was largely middle-class, credentialed, liberals. It took the debates and a win in Iowa to convince African-America voters that Obama could win it. I think this is true for Warren as well.

    The demographics of OT are not the demographics for the debates and whom the candidates are trying to reach. Keep that in mind.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      (We do? I thought that we were pie-in-the-sky utopians. Or was that last week?)Report

    • Fair points. Saul you are completely right about Obama. The tide for him turned and it was South Carolina that it showed up. I have been saying all along that the most important polling in this race right now is not Iowa but SC. Biden has held a lead of anywhere from 20-30 points there and been over 50% with the AA vote. Those numbers shift, then you know. The caution is, and even Elizabeth Warren’s most die hard supports must admit, she is not Barack Obama, nor is any other candidate in this field.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

        *Disclaimer: I did not watch last night’s debate because nobody else in DC did. The Nats are in the Series!!!

        Yesterday a story said that, if she jumped in, Michelle Obama would already be the front runner. I have no trouble believing that, as it’s a very weak field.

        In 2016 the Republican field had:

        Jeb Bush, governor of Florida and considered to be inevitable
        Ted Cruz, senator from Texas and used to the spotlight
        Marco Rubio, young senator from Florida with a moving biography (his dad was from Cuba!)
        Ben Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon
        Rand Paul, senator from Kentucky and a dynamic libertarian
        Chris Christie, governor from New Jersey and a powerful personality
        Mike Huckabee, governor from Arkansas (whose daughter was Trump’s press secretary)
        Carly Fiorina, CEO of Hewlett Packard (perhaps taking the Andrew Yang role)
        Jim Gilmore, governor of Virginia
        Rick Santorum, senator from Pennsylvania
        Rick Perry, governor of Texas
        Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin
        Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisianna
        Lindsey Graham, senator from South Carolina
        George Pataki, governor of New York
        Donald Trump, real estate mogul and TV personality

        Some flamed out and most didn’t catch fire, but that’s a pretty strong field. Trump was the oddball outlier, the Marianne Williamson, if you will.

        Judging by most past races where a party lacked an incumbent, the Democratic field this year should be a whole lot stronger than it is. It should a few candidates with the weight of Pelosi, Schumer, Feinstein, or Harry Reid, and an Al Gore or John Kerry or Bill Bradley who’d have the media chirping about “gravitas” again.

        I am not sure what’s happened to bring this about. The party’s seniority system in Congress probably plays a part, and this has been pointed to in 2016 to explain why Republicans had so many prominent young Representatives and Senators compared to the Democrats, whose senior leaders seemed to all be in their 60’s and 70’s. But that doesn’t affect governors, and there are seasoned Democratic governors who jumped in but didn’t budge the needle.

        So I’m wondering if social media and the skewed demographics of online life have created a disconnect between the expectations of activist Democrats and the drudge-work of running a state, with all the budgeting and compromises that requires. Patching holes in state pensions and making sure the lights stay on just isn’t sexy when people like Bernie and AOC are preaching revolution, Kamala Harris is holding inquisitions, Schiff is screaming for vengeance, and Beto is being Beto.

        With some exceptions like Biden, who is there kind of as the default, the ones getting all the attention are the ones who are great at bomb throwing, not the ones whose resumes read like good qualifications for President. You might think “Aha! Doubly so for Trump!” But Trump’s bombs were aimed at the political class itself. That things were going wrong and they were all in on it, that the elites were either corrupt or incompetent. His opponents this cycle will let him re-iterate that message.

        I think some of the extremely boring governors, some of whom have already dropped out, would have a better shot and defeating him that the front runners, because “I’m boring… and I’m way saner than my opponent” is not a tough sell. It touches on the observation that all Democrats have to do to beat Trump is not be crazy. But along with that is the sad truth that they can’t seem to pull it off, perhaps because the media and the Twitterverse only reward crazy.

        I think what the Democrats need is a wise father figure (one whose son wasn’t in the Ukrainian gas industry), with a calm demeanor and lots of gravitas, much like Obama. Obama would just lean into the microphone and say “Donald Trump is crazy”, and then he’d lean back and say “I yield the balance of my time.” And that would be that. If not Michelle (who may not really be a skilled candidate), give someone like Tom Hanks or Oprah a try. I’d suggest a West coast tech billionaire, but the party’s activists seem more inclined to burn them at the stake.

        I know that a country gets the leaders it deserves, and 2020 is shaping up to be another sad data point on our national well-being. Things were bad, which is why Trump won, but Trump derangement is worse. How bad is it? So bad that it had Bernie Sanders pissed off that the US wasn’t using Special Forces to kill the indigenous brown population of a Third World country.

        I remarked early on that a viable, prominent Democrat wasn’t in the race, as if they decided not to really contend the 2020 contest, and I haven’t seen much to change my mind about that. If you put a period Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Barrack Obama, or Hillary on that stage the others might as well go home. Heck, the same might be true for Dukakis or Howard Dean.

        As a final note, I think Democrats are getting the tone all wrong. They’re all angry, and frankly depressing. If we really need a fundamental transformation, a revolution, a complete 180, then life must be really awful right now. Echoing online anger wraps a campaign in negativity, bad vibes, and angst.

        Trump danced around that pretty skillfully with his MAGA campaign, sometimes going on about our crumbling infrastructure and third world airports, but he’d turn it back to his hopeful message that we were going to Make America Great Again, and repeat over and over that we were the greatest people on Earth, etc. He was upbeat and positive, and his stops were like pep rallies or tent revivals. He was almost running as Barney the Dinosaur.

        A lot of people can’t stand Trump because he so often seems so angry so often (if not vicious). He’s actually ridiculously happy even more often, which pisses them off even more. Stepping way back, he smiles and laughs a lot. He loves his job. Obama was also happy, the embodiment of hope and optimism, and Hillary was quite upbeat (she thought she was a shoe-in). The 2020 candidates do not seem happy. Smiles are rare. Anger, fear, and outrage predominate. It takes a lot of political skill to make negativity appealing, especially to people who aren’t paying too much attention, because most people will choose a birthday party over a wake and a wedding over an acrimonious divorce.

        If the current dynamics turn the primary into a negativity contest, selecting the candidate whose anger and outrage seems the deepest and most authentic, it may frame the general election as a choice between hope or despair, optimism or angst, love or hate, happiness or anger. The party needs to be careful not to dig itself into a psychological hole. They need to smile a lot and play for the middle. Make Trump seem like the angry divisive one instead of trying to outdo him at it. However, tacking on way to win the primary and then tacking the other way in the general is par for the course, so there’s probably no cause for alarm unless candidates go so far out that they can’t walk it all back.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to George Turner says:

          This is quite fascinating, as an example of how right wingers repaint Dems in a positive light once they’re safely out of the public realm. I feel like we should plate glass this to preserve it for future cycles when you’ll be saying similar glowing things about the current Democratic candidates.

          But on the plus side; the fact that you’re saying nice things about HRC is proof positive that in your heart of hearts you know she’s never gonna run for public office again.Report

          • Avatar George Turner in reply to North says:

            She’ll be in as soon as Biden tanks. I’m just egging it on. ^_^

            I’m not saying nice things about her, just that if she were on stage all the other candidates should just go home (and make sure their home security cameras haven’t cut out) because the audience would assume that the others were Hillary’s valets, footmen, or campaign volunteers. From a conservative perspective, it would be like having Darth Vader on stage with a bunch of extras who are in a scene with Darth Vader.

            Also keep in mind that to the Democrats, the current Republican President is always a warmongering fascist dictator while all the previous Republic Presidents, and failed Presidential candidates, are wise and elder statesmen, or at least they are when something they said or did would be useful for bashing the current Republican President, whoever that might be.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to George Turner says:

              That’s probably because the GOP’s hypocrisy has formed especially blatant self contradicting loops in the last couple decades. And other than giving him credit for defending muslims from the “all muslims are terrorists” charges I haven’t heard anyone refer to Bush II as a wise anything. He remains a bumbling imbecile.

              As for Hillary? She’s out and isn’t getting in. If Biden tanks there’re two understudies already in the race ready to step in.Report

  2. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    So…this letter…real, or an Onion parody?


    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      That’s probably real. Erdogan was dumb enough to put Turkey in the worst position it’s been in since 1918. Last night Russian forces positioned themselves between Turkish and Syria forces, daring the Turks to attack through the Russian bear. The Turks were stopped cold. There are now isolated from everyone in the Middle East, NATO, the EU, the US, and Russia, and their hand is stuck in the cookie jar.

      With a phone call and a couple Tweets, Trump has brought about the end of the Syria Civil War. The Kurds are welcoming the Syrian army and reinforcements from Russia and the Gulf Cooperation Council, so the vast bulk of terrain, and the bulk of forces in Syria, are finally on the same side.

      Many Republicans and Democrats haven’t figured that out yet, and are repeating talking points that expired last week. So we’re supposed to help the Kurds and fight alongside them – now that they are allied with Assad and the Russians? Or are we supposed to attack Assad and the Russians who are helping the Kurds repel a Turkish and jihadist invasion force?

      Erdogan knows the situation has just flipped on him, and he’s desperate to negotiate his way out of it and try to save face.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner says:

        [Editor’s note]
        As with the Presidential tweet and follow up letter, no actual Mideast, diplomatic, or military experts were consulted on this comment.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          What is grimly funny about this letter is that Trump sent it before Ed started his offensive. So Ed get the letter, had a cabinet meeting where everybody said the Turkish equivalent of WATF then ordered his forces to attack and do some light massacring. Trump releases the letter today to look like he was being tough but it shows his 3rd grade bluster was ignored with actual extreme physical violence.Report

      • Erdogan, like Xi, Kim, and Putin before him, worked President Trump so thoroughly that he did everything but slap him on the ass and tell him his money was on the dresser.Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

          I hope more leaders do that, then, because Trump could use a Nobel Peace Prize for ending a war that Obama said would be a “multi-generational conflict” for the US.

          Ben Crenshaw co-sponsored a resolution condemning Trumps move in Syria, but to me that’s like a hypothetical resolution condemning the sale of US fighter aircraft to Italy during WW-II, passed without realizing that Italy had changed sides three days before the vote. From his time in combat, Crenshaw must know that a soldier can’t go back and re-fight last-week’s ambush, just as we can’t stick our 50 soldiers back in their base, roll Turkish troops back to their side of the border, make Syrian and Russian forces drive back to Damascus, and rip the understanding between the Kurdish and Syrian forces. (The US bases in Syria have already been occupied by Russians, who posted cool videos of our bases to show how our soldiers lived.)

          There is no option by which US forces can go in and redraw the freshly redrawn map. If we’re supposed to fight the Turks then we’ll be fighting side-by-side with Assad’s forces and Russian troops. We may even have to give Assad anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. If we choose to bomb Turkish forces we’d fly our F-16’s out of Incirlik airbase, where they could wave to the Turkish F-16 pilot’s on the apron waiting to take off to bomb US positions. Then they could all fly back and laugh about bombing each side’s ground pounders. Of course some might think that plan has a few flaws.

          The 50 US troops were not stopping Turkey, which is moving on a stretch of border that stretches over 150 miles. That’s about 3 miles of border per US soldier, and our guys do need to sleep some of the time. But hey, maybe Turkey wouldn’t dare engage any US troops, but since we don’t scatter them out, all Turkey would have to do is not attack the one or two spots in that vast stretch. We’d have two platoons worth of guys sitting outside some Syrian town while Turkey occupied the other 2,000 or so square miles of their Peace Corridor.

          With Turkey holding the roads, the Syrian forces wouldn’t be much support for our guys, and then one of those Turkish-sponsored jihadist militias would show up (who are our Free Syrian army allies), and things would probably get ugly because we’d be an impediment to their commander’s material acquisitions.

          Pundits are arguing that the US forces were somehow keeping Erdogan from acting, but how could 50 troops hold him in check when Trump’s blatant threat to destroy his economy, Merkel’s threats, Assad’s threats, Russia’s threats, and everybody else’s threats didn’t stop him from continuing on? In fact, Senators privy to the back and forth before Trump’s pullout re-iterate that Trump was trying to get Erdogan to back down and Erdogan wouldn’t, which is why Trump got our forces out of the area.

          So this all gets back to some fundamental questions, some of which Trump is publicly asking. I’ll number some of these.

          1. Why are US troops defending Assad’s border in an active conflict?
          a) If you say that we’re not defending Assad’s border, but the Kurdish border, where is the US plan to divide Syria and create an independent Kurdish state?
          i. If there is such a plan, is the US obligated to defend it for several decades against Syrian military forces, and under what resolution did this commitment occur?

          2. Since the Kurds are allied with the Syrian government, whose troops are racing toward the border with Turkey, will Congress authorize a military alliance between the US and Assad to engage in an active war against a NATO member? If not, when such a resolution might be forthcoming?

          3. What is the critical US national interest in preventing the end of the Syria civil war? What is the vital US interest in not letting Syria Kurds get along with the Syrian government? What is they US interest in having anybody in Syria, and what can those US forces do against ISIS remnants that the now united country’s forces can’t do for itself?

          Rest assured, if W Bush or Trump was trying to move US forces in to Syria, the same people condemning his withdrawal would be screaming about mission creep, quagmires, unwinnable conflicts, untrustworthy allies, and lack of exit strategies.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

          He is clearly being blacked mailed and/or bribed.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Come on. Don’t be a fool.Report

  3. Avatar North says:

    I keep going back and forth about the Debates. Have they made a difference? In of themselves I think they have to a certain degree. Certain candidates who were too over the top have suffered as a result of their performance in the debates; Castro for instance. The debates have also functioned as a winnowing mechanism in that almost everyone is failure to get into the debates as the kiss of death and it has winnowed several candidates now. I recognize your complaint about how many people are being included but the DNC is being scrupulous about the fairness charges from 2016 regardless of their merits and there’s a reason Tulsi’s whining about the process has gotten no traction at all.

    The overarching dynamic, of course, hasn’t changed. Biden is still there, plugging along. He has support from the vast and numerous moderate majority of the Democratic Party and its African American base (who’re now also mostly moderates it seems; at least in contrast with white liberal true believers). Biden is so old though, so wobbly and nerve inducing that Klobacher and Buttigieg are able to maintain their own degrees of support and are quietly pacing in Biden’s wake ready to step up if he crashes and burns.

    Then there’s Warren, the internet and media darling, who’s been steadily building up and consolidating the left flank support. She’s not bad but I can’t help but cringe at her performance under fire. This too cute by half “their overall costs will go down” nonsense is just agonizing. Her whole candidacy is based on the “I have a plan” theme but apparently she has no plan for this? She is going to need to make a decision on this- either admit that medicare for all will cost a lot and explain how you’ll make it so it’s worth that or back off the medicare for all theme and release a more moderate plan. Her current tack just makes her seem alternately robotic, inept or dishonest.

    And then there’s Bernie, chugging away with his slice of support. I don’t know if he’s denying it to Biden or to Warren but I can’t find it in me to begrudge him making his go of it.

    And then there’re the rest. The winter is coming and the lean seasons will not be kind for campaigns that are small. I hope Amy K. can hold out but she’s in serious danger of missing the next debate thresholds and being knocked out. That’d leave me with Pete as my second fav then Biden and Warren as distant thirds. I have an unhappy feeling that this contest may go down to the wire. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to the numbers once some more of the weaker candidates drop out. Maybe their support can drift to other weaker candidates or maybe Warren and Biden will suck it up. I don’t know, we’ll see.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to North says:

      I saw a tweet that said:

      News: Joe Biden has $8.98 million cash on hand

      Sanders $33.7 million
      Warren $25.7 million
      Buttigieg $23.4
      Harris $10.5

      Even before the impeachment nonsense drove his fundraising to stratospheric levels, The New York Times reported that Trump had $156 million in cash on hand.

      Hillary wildly outspent Trump and still lost. This time the big fundraising advantage goes the other way. Biden’s financials are very weak. Democrats might donate to beat Trump, but they apparently aren’t very inspired to donate to Biden.

      Warren and Sanders both scare Wall Street, and they eschew big donations, which would create another fundraising problem. Buttigieg doens’t by into that, but I don’t think a mayor from South Bend has a remote chance, and is there almost as a less-embarrassing Beto, one where people project their hopes on a relatively unknown candidate.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to George Turner says:

        So in your third paragraph you demonstrate why money’s a pretty shabby indicator of future performance then go on to gloat about how all the money he’s gotten means Trump will be a shoe in. I’m amused by the contradiction there. A large % of that boodle will probably be siphoned off and embezzled anyhow, just like Trump did with his “charitable foundation” and his inauguration fund.

        Which is without talking at all about how Trumps doing such a great job “draining the swamp” that he’s getting vast contributions from swamp creatures. His rube supporters won’t probably notice anyhow right? *whistles past the graveyard*Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to North says:

          The free press the media gave Trump in 2016, almost 24/7 coverage, meant he didn’t have to spend much last time. Now they’re so fixated on him that they can’t stop themselves from covering everything he says from the Bully pulpit. The Democrats, in contrast, have a lineup that could eliminate insomnia in our lifetime. They’re going to need to really outspend Trump.

          Look at it this way. Trump has an inherent media advantage because he draws coverage to himself, which offset the Democrats’ logistical advantages in 2016. Now his inherent media advantage is even larger, being not just an incumbent but probably the most dominant Presidential media presence since Kennedy, and he has the big fundraising advantage.

          The other day Harry Reid said Trump is extremely smart and is going to be very tough to beat. He’s not wrong.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to George Turner says:

            Heh, so money doesn’t matter except when right wingers have it. How’d that work for em in the midterms?
            I wouldn’t be so confident as to say that Trump will be easy to beat but I certainly think Reid is nuts if he’s saying Trump is smart.

            Trump won in 2016 with an opponent who was bedeviled by accusations of corruption both real and mostly imagined; who had the FBI come out and put their fingers on the scale mere weeks before the election and who ran a lackluster campaign and ill advisedly ignored the mid-western states.

            Trump also won by running to the left of his own party and making a series of dramatic promises, all of which he has now broken. Trump can’t hide behind being a cipher on policy now, he has accomplished virtually nothing of what he has promised. His only policy accomplishment is a tax cut massively tilted to the wealthy. He’s failed to resurrect manufacturing or coal, has screwed farmers sideways with his trade wars and entirely failed to repeal and replace the ACA with something better nor did he build any significant quantity of wall or get Mexico to pay for it.

            Dems aren’t going to have Hillary running again. Trump is extremely unlikely to have the FBI intervene on his behalf again and he has a list of failed promises as long as my arm that hits mid-western constituencies especially hard (manufacturing and farmers). How exactly is he going to win those blue states again and if he doesn’t then where’s he going to pick up the slack?
            Sure the “he torcs the liberals” crowd and the massively hypocritical social right will turn out for him but he’s not going to carry an election with them. Trump basically won by fluke; so how’s he gonna win again? Hope lightning strikes twice?Report

  4. Avatar Brent F says:

    Tom Steyer’s climate activism focused on pipeline blocking above all else was incredibly counter productive and toxic to Canadian politics, so I’m kinda glad he can bring his ill-advised dysfunction to his homeland.Report