Everything you need to know about how President Trump could win reelection was there when Democrats revealed their top 10 in the race for the 2020 presidential nomination Thursday in Houston.
Out of the gate, tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang narrowed the field of serious candidates by raffling money. It is a novel approach to fundraising and ought to violate several federal laws against buying votes. It also, sadly, generated some enthusiasm.
And then, Julián Castro, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration, was quick to accuse front-runner Joe Biden of contradicting himself – which Biden had not – and to insist it was a matter of forgetfulness on the part of the 76-year-old. It was so egregious that Pete Buttigieg said, “This is why presidential debates are becoming unwatchable.”
Sen. Kamala Harris, who attacked Biden in a previous debate, was in a different mode, several times dissolving in peals of laughter at her own jokes – except that she had not made any discernible jokes.
Some of these candidates seem to be searching for a persona, but it is a bit late for that.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar gave the kind of direct, winning account of herself and her liberal positions we have come to expect. Buttigieg was, as usual, compellingly philosophical. Both are wise moderates – and, as long as Biden is the front-runner, seem to be unneeded by the party and its base.
Beto O’Rourke notched one of the high points of the night, not so much for himself – his candidacy seems hopelessly stalled by his flakiness – but for his party, by taking the lead on guns.
Was he really proposing to take guns away? he was asked. “I am,” he said. “If it’s a weapon that was designed to kill people on a battlefield ... Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.”
It is always dangerous to assume where support lies in any enduring way in America, and yet, we think he has the country with him on this. Now, the other candidates just need to catch up.
That leaves us with Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Speaking of his Medicare for All plan, which would eliminate private health insurance, Sanders claimed it would provide “freedom of choice for doctors and hospitals,” meaning consumers would have that choice.
This is balderdash. It may be that the nation will move toward a more socialized form of health care, since something obviously needs to be done and that is the direction to go, but Sanders also must know that consumer choice is a false and irrelevant promise here.
Worse, Sanders just named Women’s March co-chair Linda Sarsour a campaign surrogate. Sarsour, a longtime Sanders supporter, also has been a champion of Louis Farrakhan, the minister of hate.
Biden was relatively steady, but some of his answers were a species of word salad. And, defending the Obama administration, he said, “We didn’t lock people up in cages.”
According to an AP fact check, that is wrong: “The ‘cages’ ... were built and used by the Obama administration ... Democrats routinely accuse Trump of using cages for children without acknowledging the same enclosures were employed when Biden was vice president.”
Warren, who wants to tax the rich more and get big money out of politics, came to the debate on the heels of a damning New York Times story, “How Elizabeth Warren Raised Big Money Before She Denounced Big Money.” This followed a Times column by David Brooks detailing how Warren had changed some of her more original and valuable policy insights to conform to progressive orthodoxy. Then she fudged on whether her version of Medicare for All would require raising taxes on the middle class – so well that Times columnist Frank Bruni credited her slickness.
If Biden’s candidacy is bound to implode, as some say, it cannot come soon enough, so that one of the other liberals, such as Klobuchar, can take his place. As it stands, the groundhogs’ shadows were seen Thursday and it means four more years of a presidency that has already driven too many Americans to distraction.