Thursday night was the third debate among the Democratic candidates for President. The field has tightened: due to the rigid qualification rules, a mere ten candidates made the cut this time.
Barring changes, the same ten will take the stage in October, plus Tom Steyer, the veryvery wealthy man who launched his “Need to Impeach” campaign way back in October, 2017.
I found the debate a bit more revelatory than the two previous ones, and I thought the ABC moderators did a decent job. But I’m still not getting the sense of the candidates that I’m seeking. I’m wondering how many of you feel the same.
Despite the over-trodden, unilluminating, and needlessly divisive discussions about extending Obamacare vs Medicare for All, I don’t think the candidates are so far apart on any of the issues.
They all support ensuring universal healthcare; countering our nation’s growing economic inequality; implementing sensible gun safety legislation; beginning immediately to vigorously address climate change; reversing the anti-immigration policies that are damaging our values and threatening our economy; and seeking ways to heal the terrible divisive racial and other wounds that currently exist in our country.
But we still need more discussions centering on their foreign policy views.
Perceptions differ, and I do worry about the electability of the three current front runners.
I wonder whether/to what extent they can both energize the base and build the diverse coalition to drive vast numbers of voters to the polls, thereby resoundingly putting us on a new path and bringing Senate and House candidates along with them. I welcome your views on this matter in the comments section below.
What am I looking for in the Democrat’s eventual nominee—and, if you’re interested in a change from the current administration–what are you looking for?
As I watch and listen to these candidates, I try to picture each one in the Oval Office, in the Situation Room, and in meetings with allies and adversaries. I am trying to gauge their judgment and temperament.
Will they surround themselves with the best people they can find? Then will they listen, truly listen, to the advice they’re given, ask well-informed questions about that advice, and insist upon factual backup before making important decisions? Will they keep their cool in scary and potentially dangerous situations?
Do they demonstrate some innate wisdom in dealing with other people? Will they be careful and measured in their stewardship of the still most powerful nation in the world—and be able to undo the damage to our standing that’s been done over the past few years?
Do they possess the empathy that will enable them to understand the diverse problems that Americans are grappling with right now—so they can seek solutions that help people feel that the government is working—and is on their side?
Will they explain to us what their overall vision is on where they want to take this country, and how they’ll forge common ground on the often divisive issues we face so that they can work with Congress to move us forward?
Can they inspire us to be our best selves and advance us toward the national ideals we’ve long expounded?
I hope the debates that are held between now and the Iowa caucuses reveal more about these important aspects of the Democratic candidates. I’ve seen glimmers of what I’m seeking here and there, but I’d like to see a lot more.
Please let me know your reactions—to the candidates, the debate, my “wish list,” what you’re looking for, and anything else that comes to mind.
My Oh My! So much drama—even attacks on No Drama Obama!
Let me state at the outset that I had never intended to become so overtly partisan in this blog. I even wrote a post a while back explaining why I wouldn’t discuss the elephant in the room (President Trump) because so much stuff was appearing elsewhere, and I wanted to focus on finding our common ground.
My overarching goal remains, and in my own way, I’m still trying to do that.
When the President is an incumbent, it’s assumed the election is a referendum on him. But now that this President has made blatantly racist attacks on people of color a feature of his daily rants, I believe the 2020 election is a referendum on us.
Who are we as Americans? What kind of country do we look forward to, and how devoted are we to working toward a more perfect union?
Will we give our seal of approval to this man for another four years? I know some of you reading this post are Republicans with varying degrees of support for Trump. I’m not attacking you personally or trying to change your minds.
Rather, I’m assuming that most American voters—Democrats, Independents, and growing numbers of “Never Trump” Republicans—are seeking a reasonable alternative to Trump and want to see Washington functioning again to pass common-sense legislation in their behalf.
I believe/hope that people are eager to denounce him at the ballot box, proving that he doesn’t represent the vast majority, and that we are seeking leadership that unites us in hope and common purpose, rather than divides us in hatred and fear.
In that spirit, I offer you my thoughts after viewing the second round of debates—and I’ll explain why I found them sorely lacking.
It’s still early, but I saw little inspiration among the 20 candidates on the stage in Detroit. Part of the problem, I believe, was CNN’s approach.
It was clear that CNN wanted a food fight: the questions were designed to encourage candidates to attack one another. I didn’t think that was good TV. I also thought it was poor broadcast journalism and unhelpful for educating the public.
Admittedly, it’s tough to stage interesting debates among 10 candidates, and I felt bad about how little time each person had to make her/his points.
But the questions were also unrevealing in eliciting what kind of Presidents they would be.
Healthcare is a critical issue; it was largely responsible for the Democrats’ winning the House in 2018. Americans want to know they will have decent health care that covers preexisting conditions, is within their means, and is dependable, regardless of their circumstances.
The discussions were sometimes too wonky and confusing for viewers and at the same time often inadequate, leaving out important issues, such as cost to taxpayers.
I wish each candidate had given this answer: “We’ll bring the best minds together to come up with the most realistic affordable plan that covers the most people possible.”
In other words, we’ll progress beyond Obamacare without gutting it, adding the public option that was originally intended, and regulating both the insurance companies and Big Pharma.
Many other countries have private insurance companies as part of their healthcare mix; they simply regulate them more aggressively than we do.
Medicare for all vs “Anything less lets insurance companies ruin America” is to me an unnecessarily divisive issue.
I think improving Obamacare would satisfy most Americans—without frightening them.
And how quickly people have forgotten how hard that battle was—that passing the legislation was a “big f—–g deal,” in former VP Joe Biden’s memorable words. More about all-important processes appears below.
If the public option works as intended, we’ll get to Medicare for all but won’t immediately send our economy into a tailspin.
Healthcare is now about 18% of our GDP. We need a smooth transition to the next stage. I haven’t heard any Medicare for all candidate discuss this point.
But most importantly, the emphasis should be on the fact that every Democratic candidate believes that healthcare is a right and supports expanded coverage, while Trump and the Republicans have been decimating Obamacare and, in all the years they claimed to find an alternative, have not done so.
It is simply not an article of faith in the Republican Party as it is among Democrats. Quite the contrary.
As the terrible mass shootings mount up, I can’t write this post today without including sensible gun legislation. This is another issue where the majority of the public agrees, and so do all the Democratic candidates.
Not so the Republicans in Congress and the President. And despite his palliative words after the most recent shootings, since Trump took office, we’ve had a substantial uptick in domestic terrorism. We know white nationalists claim him as one of their own. If he cared to change that image (and possibly reduce the carnage), he would change his rhetoric.
With gun safety legislation, again, process is critical, as we’ll discuss below.
Foreign policy, which is probably the most important aspect of a President’s efforts, and is currently fraught with dangers that Trump both inherited and has created, took up a mere five minutes of the 2-1/2 hour debate.
I am puzzled why, just shortly after the Mueller testimony, CNN felt that discussing the role of Russia was barely worth mentioning. And there were no discussions of Iran, North Korea, Syria, and other potential hot spots.
Since a number of the candidates have had little or no direct involvement in this essential component of being President, it behooves the next debate organizers to build in adequate time and questions that reveal the candidates’ world views and thought processes.
I was impressed, for example, with Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s stating that he voted against entering the war in Iraq when he was a member of Congress. (He took Vice President Biden to task for voting for it.)
Inslee said the arguments for war were unconvincing. In an interview after the debate, when he was asked why so many Democrats voted to go to war, he explained that in the post-9/11 environment, the drumbeats for war were very difficult to withstand. But he did withstand them—a fact that to me says a lot about the man.
Speaking of Inslee brings us to climate change, which he has made the focus of his campaign —though not as a single issue: he has tied it to economics, undue burdens on poor and minority communities, and other important topics.
He has thought and studied the issue extensively and is clearly the candidate most deeply committed to quick concrete actions to confront climate change.
And while it’s good that every Democratic candidate accepts the scientists’ warnings and promises to act, I find his commitment especially comforting.
One extremely critical issue hasn’t come up in either debate: the judiciary.
I am quoting extensively here from two articles. One, by Dahlia Lithwick, is titled “Democrats Still Haven’t Learned Their Lesson About the Courts.”
The other, which she cites, written by Ezra Klein, is “Pete Buttigieg had the most important answer at the Democratic debate.”
I find them both important in terms of those critical process matters I referred to earlier, and I hope you’ll read them in their entirety.
Let’s start with Klein’s article in Vox. Here’s where reality lies—beyond fine policy ideas and whether they’re progressive enough.
“South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg gave the single most important answer at Tuesday’s Democratic debate.
“It came after a lengthy section in which the assembled candidates debated different health care plans that have no chance of passing given the composition of the US Senate and then debated decriminalizing unauthorized border crossings, which they also don’t have the votes to do, and then debated a series of gun control ideas that would swiftly fall to a filibuster and, even if they didn’t, would plausibly be overturned by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority.
“That’s when Buttigieg spoke up:
‘[This is] the conversation that we have been having for the last 20 years. Of course, we need to get money out of politics, but when I propose the actual structural democratic reforms that might make a difference — end the Electoral College, amend the Constitution if necessary to clear up Citizens United, have DC actually be a state, and depoliticize the Supreme Court with structural reform — people look at me funny, as if this country was incapable of structural reform.
‘This is a country that once changed its Constitution so you couldn’t drink and changed it back because we changed our minds, and you’re telling me we can’t reform our democracy in our time. We have to or we will be having the same argument 20 years from now.’”
“So far, I’ve found Buttigieg’s campaign underwhelming on policy. But where he’s clearly leading the field is his emphasis on structural reform. Buttigieg isn’t the only candidate with good ideas on this score — Elizabeth Warren and Jay Inslee have been strong on this too — but he’s the only candidate who consistently prioritizes the issue.
“The reality is Democrats are debating ever more ambitious policy in a political system ever less capable of passing ambitious policy — and ever more stacked against their policies, in particular.
Their geographic disadvantage in Congress is only getting worse, Republicans control the White House and the Senate despite receiving fewer votes for either, and an activist conservative Supreme Court just gutted public sector unions and green-lit partisan gerrymandering.
“Policy isn’t Democrats’ problem. They’ve got plenty of plans. Some of them are even popular. What they don’t have is a political system in which they can pass and implement those plans.
“Buttigieg, to his credit, has a clear theory on this. When I interviewed him in April, he argued that ‘any decisions that are based on an assumption of good faith by Republicans in the Senate will be defeated.’
“The hope that you can pass laws through bipartisan compromise is dead. And that means governance is consistently, reliably failing to solve people’s problems, which is in turn radicalizing them against government itself.”
“We now know that a single Trump judge can gut the Affordable Care Act, or permit a wall to be built on the Southern border, or try to end Roe v. Wade.
This isn’t a thing to contemplate after a Democrat wins the presidential election. It is, with every passing day, the reason to doubt whether any Democrat can win the presidential election ever again. And the same is true for the Senate, and for the House. Which is why it has to be a first-order discussion, not last.
“As Klein wrote: ‘This is what Buttigieg gets: To make policy, you have to fix the policymaking process. Some of the other candidates pay that idea lip service, when they get pushed on it. But he’s the one who places that project at the center of his candidacy.’
“The Democrats on the debate stage are embarrassed to be caught out without answers to questions about battles that their constituents cannot afford for them to continue to lose. Democratic voters showed up in 2018 in part because of their horror at losing the Supreme Court.
Sure, it’s embarrassing that Democrats have been badly outplayed by Mitch McConnell, who follows no norm or judicial ideal beyond ruthless pursuit of power.
“But it should be more embarrassing that reforming the courts has been deemed too hard to warrant a single debate question. By all means let’s talk about Trump and impeachment and ‘kitchen table issues’ and the environment; they all matter.
But the fact that the machinery of justice has been captured by a monied minority means that democracy itself is on the ballot. That should matter enough to warrant a question.”
All this is why I found the debates so disappointing. While the candidates were attacking each other—and President Obama, through Joe Biden—and discussing their plans for what they’ll accomplish once they become the President, for the most part they didn’t talk about these huge, powerful forces at all.
And this is where their energy—and ours—is essential.
I intend to vote for whoever wins the Democratic nomination, hoping that person is sufficiently inspiring to energize a broad swath of diverse constituents.
I think the divisions between moderates and progressives figure less in most voters’ minds than does their sense of the decency, competence, integrity, and leadership skills of the individual they’d like to see in the White House—especially now.
Thus, I believe it is essential that we try to defeat Trump with the largest possible mandate, demonstrating total rejection of his racism—as well as his corruption, incompetence, divisiveness, and unwillingness to protect the US from those who have directly threatened our elections and are continuing to do so.
But clearly that’s not enough. It is so important that we educate ourselves and make our voices heard about these structural issues that are making it difficult, if not impossible, to get anything substantive done in Washington.
Democrats need to take the Presidency, House, and Senate, and then focus on the critical changes needed—before a minority party eliminates any chance of the majority’s will being enacted.
These are large challenges,but while some of the candidates talk about the need for “Big Ideas,” we need to let them all know what those big ideas must include.We made it to the moon 50 years ago, you’ll recall. We can do this.
It was a gorgeous sunny day, and we were visiting friends. But all four of us spent last Wednesday indoors, in front of the TV. We were watching Special Counselor Robert Mueller testify, first before the House Judiciary Committee, and then before the House Intelligence Committee.
We knew our vigil wasn’t accomplishing anything in the larger scheme of things, but we are all political junkies with deep concerns about the fate of American democracy, so we felt compelled to watch and listen.
And while many have faulted Mueller for his halting, weary performance and his insistence on sticking to the “four corners of his report,” much emerged from those hearings.
Most important, Mueller was quite emphatic that our democracy is under attack. When asked by Republican Congressman Will Hurd if he thought the Russian involvement was a single episode, he did not equivocate.
“No. It wasn’t a single attempt. They’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it during the next campaign.”
What’s more, Mueller said:
“Many more countries have developed the capabilities the Russians have done.”
We’ll get back to the implications of that statement shortly.
Here are what I felt were the most significant of Mueller’s responses:
*His report DID NOT exonerate the President.
*The finding of lack of complicity with the Russians by the President and his associates was based on insufficient evidence to reach that conclusion (and not the absence of evidence)
*The investigation into that matter was impeded—not only by those who were convicted of lying, but also by others who told “outright lies” or were “not telling the full truth.”
*Those individuals included President Trump.
When Florida Rep. Val Demings asked if the President’s written responses to Mueller’s questions about, among other matters, the Trump Tower Moscow plans, given under oath, were “inadequate and incomplete and weren’t always being truthful,” Mueller responded: “Generally.”
Many questions Trump did not answer, and when Demings asked if some of his other responses conflicted with other information the investigation had revealed, Mueller said, “Yes.”
*Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois read public comments that Trump had made about WikiLeaks— including “I love WikiLeaks” and “This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove”—and asked Mueller if any of these quotes disturbed him.
Mueller answered: “Problematic is an understatement in terms of what it displays, giving some hope or some boost to what is and should be illegal activity.”
*In a significant exchange that seemed to go beyond the “four corners of the report,” House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff questioned the Special Prosecutor:
Schiff: You believe knowingly accepting foreign assistance in a campaign to be unethical?
Mueller: And a crime…under certain circumstances.
Schiff: And it undermines our democratic institutions and is unpatriotic?
Schiff: And wrong?
Schiff: And we should hold our elected officials to a higher standard than the mere avoidance of criminality? Mueller: Absolutely.
Schiff then asked if the need to act in an ethical manner is not only a moral one but also necessary so that it doesn’t expose the individual to compromise—which can be of a foreign nature.
Mueller: Also true.
Then Schiff noted the President’s denials. He’d said he hadn’t done business with the Russians. He also said if he had been doing business with Russia, “That’s not a crime. Why should I miss out on all those opportunities?”
“We are all left to wonder whether the President is representing us or his own interests.”
I won’t go through the morning session with the House Judiciary Committee concerning potential obstruction of justice, other than to note that it yielded Mueller’s important statement that Trump could, indeed, be indicted after leaving office.
(As I mentioned in my previous post, more than 1000 former prosecutors, who worked for both Democratic and Republican presidents, signed a statement that anyone other than the President [who couldn’t be charged due to a Justice Department precedent] would certainly have been indicted based on the findings in the Mueller Report.)
Somehow, all that possible criminality—and it seems fairly evident there was a good deal of it—does not get to me on the same visceral level as the President’s apparent indifference to/encouragement of the Russians’ disruptions of our elections.
Further evidence of the Russians’ impact came the next day, when the Senate Intelligence Committee released a bipartisan report, the first of several, stating that the Russians targeted the election systems in all 50 states in 2016 and actually probed the election systems of 21 states.
The report noted the Russians’ “unprecedented level of activity against state election infrastructure.” Though they found no evidence that any votes were changed, they observed that “Russian cyber actors were in a position to delete or change voter data” in Illinois’ voter registration database.
The report recommends that US intelligence agencies place a high priority in quickly identifying cyberattacks, and the Department of Homeland Security should develop clear channels of communication between the federal government and the states. Old outdated machines must be replaced, and paper ballots are important for backup of every vote cast.
In a statement, Committee Chair Richard Burr of North Carolina spoke of improvements that have been made “to bridge gaps in information sharing and shore up vulnerabilities” but said “There is still much work that remains to be done, however.”
Vice Chair Mark Warner of Virginia said,
“I hope the bipartisan findings and recommendations outlined in this report will underscore to the White House and all of our colleagues, regardless of political party, that the threat remains urgent, and we have a responsibility to defend our democracy against it.”
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell continues to refuse to bring bipartisan legislation that has already passed the House to the Senate floor for a vote.
I’d like to return for a moment to Mueller’s comment that many other countries are now also pursuing ways to disrupt our elections.
One commenter noted that McConnell’s plans to keep the Republicans in control of the White House and Senate by stonewalling election system improvement funding may backfire. Iran and China, he suggested, may have other ideas about the best ways to disrupt our elections.
And I am deeply concerned that Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, who emphatically warned about the Russian involvement in testimony before Congress, and has been a target of Trump’s wrath for some time, has now “resigned.”
Trump has appointed John Ratcliffe, a Republican Congressman who strongly supports him, to replace Coats. (Senator Burr, the Intelligence Committee Chair and a Republican, has already said this nominee is unqualified.)
We know the President recently jokingly castigated Putin for his interference when they met. There is no reason to believe he will change his attitude and acknowledge and act upon this threat to our national security.
We Americans all have many important issues on our minds—pocketbook and healthcare matters, climate change and a host of others. We each have our priorities. But this is a huge issue for our democracy that I believe we must find time to act upon.
Our involvement in these matters—contacting our elected officials to urge them to fund cybersecurity measures on the state and county levels—is critically important.
Tomorrow begins the next round of debates among the Democratic candidates for President in 2020. I will be looking for those who are concerned and knowledgeable about these issues and are thinking about ways to protect our elections.
These candidates have a difficult balancing act—to show they’re tough enough to take on Trump in the general election—while not destroying one another in the primaries.
But true leadership requires strength, knowledge, character, and the ability to effectively communicate one’s vision for America.
Surely thoughtful approaches to preserving our democracy in the election in which each of them seeks to be the Democrats’ standard bearer should be a major aspect of the leadership they demonstrate to us now–when we sorely need it.
Do you agree with me about the importance of protecting our elections from cyberattacks? Polls generally say that most Americans don’t really care about this issue that much. I hope those polls are wrong.
“Two nights, four hours, so, so many candidates: the first Democratic presidential debates will be like nothing we’ve ever seen. A former vice president on stage with a self-help author. Three female candidates on one night, three female candidates the next — more than have ever been on the debate stage at once. A 37-year-old squaring off against two septuagenarians.”
Now listen, friends, as I unveil the chorus Of those I’m calling 23&WE. We’re not discussing folks who came before us;
It’s those who say what this country should be
And how they’ll make enough of us agree. They’re poised to set out from the starting gate, And one of them may well decide our fate.
How do they call attention to their vision And talents that will make them best to lead? So many voters now voice skepticism
Re: turning those fine words to solid deeds
To build a worthwhile new American creed That knits together vastly different types Of folks who harbor vastly different gripes.
The polls agree the leader’s now Joe Biden,
A man well known who was a fine VP.
Experienced in world affairs, he’s ridin’
On hopes he’ll bring us back to normalcy
And thus is safe to take down Covfeve.
But some say Uncle Joe is just too dated,
And can’t forget Anita Hill deflated.
There’s Bernie S., who never seems to waver;
In 40 years he hasn’t turned the page.
He’s moved the Dems on issues gaining favor:
Medicare for all; a $15 wage.
But others now are acting on that stage.
A Democratic Socialist with pride,
If he falters, would he just step aside?
Someone to watch, the pundits say, is Warren,
On each issue she has a plan, for sure.
An ultra-millionaire’s tax could be transformin’
With free child care for all and so much more. For inequality she has a cure. But will pro-banker, moneyed folks resist,
Despite her self-description: “capitalist”?
One candidate whose fame has come quite quickly
Is South Bend, Indiana’s Mayor Pete
(Trying to rhyme his last name is quite tricky)
His scholar/military resume is neat,
But politically he fits into a tweet.
Still, he has generational appeal
And messaging that sounds both wise and real.
Kamala Harris, tough in prosecuting
Won plaudits for her querying Bill Barr.
She says in office she’d be executing
Punishments for employers who’re sub-par
In the male/female equity pay bar.
A woman of color, bona fides deep,
She’s on a lot of short lists for the Veep.
Amid the current tones of acrimony,
Cory Booker’s words sound so very nice.
He talks of love, civic grace, and harmony
And exhorts men to protect women’s rights.
And cares a lot to end our urban blights.
This Rhodes Scholar who’s certainly no fool
Has Wall Street ties and supports charter schools.
Amy Klobuchar is praised quite highly
Across the aisles in a once true blue state
She’s also known to view events quite wryly,
And humor’s in too short supply of late.
Some feel her plans don’t carry enough weight.
But one’s important, not just symbolically: Her push for statehood for Washington, DC.
Beto leapt to fame by losing narrowly;
In Texas that was seen as quite a feat.
His campaign started off quite powerfully
And then began to lose a bit of heat,
Though he engages each voter he’ll meet.
His message is important as can be:
Immigration: with “respect and dignity.”
I’ve long thought that the job of governor
Makes President a ready move to make.
There’s Hickenlooper, Inslee, and another:
Steve Bullock, who will miss next week’s debate.
Each has records touted as first-rate.
And each has worked to combat climate change
With Inslee’s speech most often in this range.
It’s time, say many Dems, to crack that ceiling
Re: healthcare, equity, diversity,
To all these goals the party is appealing
And I believe that voters sensibly
Will weigh their thoughts while seeking to agree
And try to find which candidate’s around
Who’s most likely to find that common ground.
I see I’m in trouble here numerically,
And fear my rhyme is starting to grow weak.
I’ve gone through less than half the twenty-three.
There’s still a dozen more of whom to speak,
And showtime’s coming middle of next week.
But since to verses’ end you’ve still held tight,
You’ll find all contenders’ pitches through this site.
I clearly gave only the briefest attention to the candidates I covered, and none at all to the rest. Here is how they present themselves to voters:
I know it’s early, but if you’re committed to the idea that we need new leadership in 2020, these debates are important in winnowing the field, and you may find yourself wanting to support someone who hasn’t yet gained much public attention.
So I hope you’ll watch the debates, review the candidates’ positions as they state them on their web sites, and support the candidate(s) of your choice. Small donations will be vital for qualifying for subsequent debates, so please consider even minimal financial support of candidates as well.
FIRST DEBATES: JUNE 26, JUNE 27 ON NBC, MSNBC, AND TELEMUNDO
Well, there really was a blue wave—reportedly the greatest turnover since 1974—and a number of races remain too close to call or subject to a recount. These victories are especially impressive because of the gerrymandered districts and increased state restrictions that led to long lines at the very least and disenfranchisement of numbers of voters, mostly people of color. For a detailed look at what voters faced, read What It Takes to Win, published by the Brennan Center for Justice in October.
As I stated in my last post, I view this not as a partisan issue—but as a critical win for our democracy. Unless/until the Republicans become better stewards of their Constitutional oaths, or are replaced by a new political force more willing to seek compromise for the good of the people, I hope Americans will continue to shun them in large numbers.
However, one of the consequences of this election was the defeat of some of the most moderate Republicans, increasing the likelihood that the party will become even more intransigent.
And so, although I’m grateful that the Democrats can put the brakes on many of President Trump’s chaotic, sometimes horrific actions, I see reason for concern that to accomplish anything on the substantive issues needed to show voters they are delivering and to hold their majority, the Democrats face an uphill battle.
Healthcare was the most important topic to voters according to exit polls, and the primary topic for many victorious new Representatives. Will even the hyperpartisan Mitch McConnell, who will face reelection himself in 2020, get the message and be willing to compromise—even if he’s likely to face a primary opponent to his right?
In essence, the Democrats will just have to forge ahead, showing the public where they want to go. Economics must be in the forefront. On the critical issue of income inequality, Michael Tomasky’s Op-Ed, The Democrats’ Next Job, which appeared in The New YorkTimes days before the election, provides a terrific roadmap.
Tomasky analyzes the void in the Democrats’ overarching message over the past several decades, and his prescription for the path forward is one of the clearest, most cogent, and sensible arguments I’ve read. Here are his opening paragraphs, and I quote him further, but I recommend the entire piece.
“Win, lose or draw on Tuesday, the Democratic Party will almost immediately turn its focus to the next presidential election and the fight between the establishment center and the left wing. But while the Democrats have that argument, they must also undertake the far more important task of thinking about what they agree on, and how they can construct a story about how the economy works and grows and spreads prosperity, a story that competes with—and defeats—the Republicans’ own narrative.
“For 40 years, with a few exceptions, Democrats have utterly failed to do so. Until they fix this, they will lose economic arguments to the Republicans—even though majorities disagree with the Republicans on many questions—because every economic debate will proceed from Republican assumptions that make it all but impossible for Democrats to argue their case forcefully.”
Tomasky eviscerates supply-side economics and then provides “the affirmative case for the Democratic theory of growth.” He stresses “expanding overtime pay, raising wages, even doing something about the enormous and under-discussed problems of wage theft.” And he stresses that the Democrats should say they make these arguments not “out of fairness or compassion or some desire to punish capitalists.
“We want to address them because putting more money in working- and middle-class people’s pockets is a better way to spur on the economy than giving rich people more tax cuts.”
Democrats, he adds, “should defend this argument because it’s what more and more economists argue and because it’s what Democrats believe.”
Importantly, he points out that Democrats who vary politically, such as Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Representative Raul Grijalva of Arizona, can agree on this issue.
“They’re both Democrats for a reason, and presumably that reason is they think government can be a force for good in people’s lives. So, if Democrats think it, they should say it.”
He is thereby offering a unifying position that is essential if the Democrats are to avoid defeat due to factionalism.
Tomasky accurately points out that this strong Democratic response to supply-side economics needs a name. I think the name is extremely important in garnering interest and enthusiasm for the effort. However, the one he mentions in passing, “middle-out economics,” leaves me cold.
It does have the advantage of brevity, and Democrats are always accused of failing the bumper sticker test with their lengthy explanations of positions, but it’s neither intuitively comprehensible nor catchy. A considerable effort should be made, bringing in some of the most talented wordsmiths available, to arrive at a phrase that is concise and inspiring.
If you have suggestions, please add them to the Comments section, and I will forward them to Tomasky. You can also forward them to your own representatives, explaining the context.
Two more takes on implications of the election results, both hot-button issues.
1. The speaker. I know all the arguments against Nancy Pelosi, and though I understand them, I think this is absolutely the wrong time to replace her. She’s the most powerful woman in the US government—and she has done her job with great success. She’s a prodigious fund-raising and vote-counter whose experience is essential in these wacky times.
Plus, health care has been the cause of her life. Reports are that she had planned to retire after Hillary Clinton’s election, so I don’t think she’s doing this for her ego. I expect her to be an effective mentor for the newly elected women in her caucus and to seriously broaden the leadership bench of the Democratic Party.
2. Impeachment. I fully support the Democratic House committees’ investigations into all the matters that the Republicans stonewalled or distorted. But the Democrats have an important balancing act to perform between conducting investigations and trying to enact meaningful legislation.
As much as I would love to see the President removed from the Oval Office (and VP Pence investigated for his apparent lies), I oppose impeachment efforts at this time. Unless the Mueller probe’s findings or other investigations persuade enough Republican Senators that they must act, at last, ensuring conviction by the Senate, impeachment by the House will simply play into Trump’s hands, allowing him to play the victim, making him act even more erratically, and possibly strengthening his chances of reelection.
Ultimately, these issues demand the continued and enhanced participation of all of us in our democracy by our ongoing engagement with our elected representatives on all levels.
Please let me know your thoughts on any or all of these issues. And please don’t forget to share, award stars below my name (one awful—five excellent), or like this post (if you’ve signed on via WordPress). Knowing you’re reading and considering these posts is very important to me. Thanks so much.