The Democratic Debate Exposed A Lot Of Problems, Policies And Personalities
How far we have come.
One summer Wednesday 56 years ago, Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and declared “I have a dream.”
Today, Sen. Elizabeth Warren says, “I have a plan.”
On Wednesday, we saw how her “I have a plan” campaign strategy has triggered an arms race among the candidates, each trying to outdo the other with bold, bulleted proposals addressing every conceivable problem from climate change and healthcare to women’s pay and male pattern baldness.
Little-known candidate Julian Castro reminded us how he was the first to have a comprehensive immigration plan before challenging his opponents on stage to pledge, as he already has, to decriminalize all illegal border crossings. (Most, except fellow Texan Beto O’Rourke, agreed.)
But the hopefuls had a problem presenting their detailed “proposals” before the person next to them grabbed the mic.
Skip trying to explain the Rube Goldberg scheme and just go straight for the Hallmark Moment.
“Medicare for all”? Well, since “Medicare for some” doesn’t even work, say, “Everyone deserves decent health care — wishing you a speedy recovery!”
In that spirit, Elizabeth Warren declared, “Health care is a basic human right and I will fight for it!” (She speaks in exclamation points.)
Beto O’Rourke lapsed into English to tell us, “My goal is to ensure that every American is well enough to live to their full potential.”
Student loan payments getting you down? Say, “Everyone deserves a college education — it’s your year, it’s your moment, so proud of you, congrats, grad!”
In that vein, Sen. Amy Klobuchar tossed out this (substance-free) thought: “If billionaires can pay off their yacht, students should be able to pay off their student loans.”
A million poverty-stricken families rushing our border with millions more behind them? Don’t say what you’ll do to stop the entire world from showing up and joining the welfare rolls in your city, say, “We’re a nation of immigrants — welcome to your new home!”
Klobuchar opined, “Immigrants do not diminish America, they are America” while Robert Francis O’Rourke helpfully offered he’d “rewrite immigration laws in our own image,” whatever that means.
Congressman Tim Ryan noted that terrorists in Guantanamo Bay get better health care than child migrants at the border. What he didn’t say was that they also get better health care than many (fully American) children in the Mississippi Delta, because that didn’t fit the rhyme scheme of the greeting card he was sending.
On issue after issue, the candidates offered empty platitudes (“you have to stay engaged”) and mouthed high-minded sentiments (“you’ve got to bring everyone in to the solutions”). The precise application of those platitudes in the real world is a mystery.
The problem for Democrats is two-fold.
The first is that, despite all the Democrats’ plans, people don’t vote on policies.
A large and growing body of evidence shows “policies” are merely used to rationalize choices people have already made on the basis of emotions and personality.
And personality is a problem facing more than one of last night’s debaters.
It is perhaps epitomized by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, he who, when asked what he would do to get Mitch McConnell to approve a President de Blasio Supreme Court nominee, cryptically offered, “For the past 21 years, I’ve been raising a black son in America.”
Of course, no one believes de Blasio will be the nominee, not even de Blasio himself. He also knows he won’t be mayor much longer (thanks to term limits), so his plan is to run for president in order to increase his visibility, therefore his chances for an appointment in a future Democratic administration and his fees on the lecture circuit.
But like so many of the plans on display last night, Bill’s bumps into an inconvenient reality: the more one knows Bill De Blasio, the less one likes him. (Somewhere Christine Quinn is asking herself, “How did I lose to this guy?”)
Democrats should be asking what to do when your party is home to all bad ideas.
John Delaney, former Maryland congressman, offered his colleagues an answer: We need real solutions, not impossible promises.
No wonder he’s the least known candidate.
Curtis Ellis is policy director with America First Policies. He was a senior policy adviser for the Donald J. Trump campaign.