CNN Debate Night 1: A Brief Review

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By:  Justin Holden

  • Centrist (corporate) Democrats go on the offensive against the higher polling progressive candidates, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
  • Governor Steve Bullock has his first debate appearance of the year; remains irrelevant.
  • Marianne Williamson stands out with her detailed answer on slavery reparations, emphasis for getting special interest money out of politics, and a call to focus on the cause of problems rather than symptoms.
  • Bernie Sanders remains on message, but goes a step further this time by calling out moderator Jake Tapper for asking a “Republican talking point” debate question.
  • Beto O’Rourke avoids confrontation, again, with the other candidates.  The anticipation of a showdown with Mayor Pete Buttigieg does not come to fruition.
  • John Delaney succeeds in gaining significant air time by initiating heated policy debates with Sanders and Warren.
  • John Hickenlooper, Amy Klobuchar, and Tim Ryan have forgettable performances.

 

It came down to moderates versus progressives on night one of the CNN Democratic Presidential Primary Debates.  John Delaney came out swinging right out of the gate, referencing Warren and Sanders in his opening statement.  Other moderate candidates, particularly Hickenlooper, Bullock, and Ryan, were also quite vocal in their opposition to progressive policies during this debate.

The first debate topic was healthcare.  You had Medicare for all (left-wing policy), public option (center-right policy), and some convoluted policies that fell somewhere in between that spectrum.  Over and over again we heard about the concept of millions of Americans being thrown off their private insurance plans and forced onto Medicare for all.  Oh the agony!  Somehow, in 2019, it’s as if politicians and the talking heads on mainstream media alike haven’t woken up to the fact that the United States is the only major country on Earth left to not guarantee healthcare to it’s citizens as a right.

Another lengthy section of the debate focused on immigration.  Several candidates supported decriminalization of crossing the border while others remained against such a policy.  There was also disagreement among the candidates as to whether or not undocumented immigrants should be guaranteed healthcare.

Williamson, Sanders, and Warren all did themselves a favor in this debate and will likely see a boost to their poll numbers in the aftermath.  Delaney, the most vocal attack dog against progressive candidates in this debate, may see a small boost in support from conservative/centrist Democrats, but his poll numbers likely won’t show significant change due to the large volume of moderate candidates in the race and with Joe Biden still having the conservative/centrist lane on lock down.

You could make a case for several candidates receiving the “biggest loser” award, but I’ll go ahead and give it to Beto O’Rourke.  Beto is not articulating his policy positions well enough and even worse, he’s failing to effectively debate policy against other candidates.  Beto’s non-confrontational approach isn’t working for him.  Until Beto goes on the offensive and shows some real passion behind his policy positions, he’ll continue to fail in raising his post-debate poll numbers.

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2020 Profiles: A Conspectus on Where Things Stand Right Now

By:  Justin Holden

I have previously written articles for my “2020 profiles” series on Richard Ojeda (who has since dropped out of the 2020 presidential race) and Tulsi Gabbard.  Many other candidates are in play at this point and I figured it would behoove me to write another article providing a broader overview on how the 2020 presidential race is shaping up, and things to look for going forward.  Let’s start by discussing the biggest elephant in the room that is not named Donald Trump…that would of course be former Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz.

 

Schultz

Since late January of 2019, Howard Schultz has been seriously contemplating running as an independent candidate for POTUS in 2020.  Up to this point, Schultz has been taken more seriously as a candidate by the mainstream media than candidates who are already politicians and have officially announced their decision to run, such as Tulsi Gabbard.  We must explore why this is.  Hmm…could it be that Howard Schultz is a billionaire?  Well, that certainly could be part of it.  In the United States, it’s pretty easy to turn heads when you have a ridiculous amount of money.  You can essentially buy your way into the political conversation.  We saw this in the 1990’s when Ross Perot ran as a third party presidential candidate and ultimately garnered more than 20% of the popular vote.  Perot was eligible to participate in the nationally televised presidential debates, despite being an independent candidate.  That alone goes to show you the power of wealth in politics.

But wealth alone does not explain why the media is giving Schultz so much airtime.  That, in my view, has more to do with his political philosophy aligning with the establishment.  I mean think about it, what does Howard Schultz actually stand for?  He has made it clear that he is very much against progressive reforms such as a single payer healthcare system, green new deal, and tuition free public college.  Schultz has equally made it clear that, in his view, the far-right has gone too far with their agenda and the election of Donald Trump.  Schultz has told us what he is against, but he conveniently has little to say about what he is actually for.  He positions himself as the sensible centrist candidate, and as an outsider that is running as an independent, but most people are seeing through the facade and realize that on policy substance he is nothing more than an establishment insider.  The polls bear this out at the moment, as Schultz has yet to poll higher than single digits.  This is pretty sad considering that he’s been given loads of free media time, including his own CNN Town Hall event.

The scary thing for Democrats when it comes to Howard Schultz is that he could very well help Donald Trump win re-election as things stand right now.  Schultz’s base, as small as it is, is essentially made up of rich elitist Democrats/Independents that prefer a moderate candidate.  The case could be made that in a general election Schultz siphons off just enough votes (that would have went to the Democratic candidate) to help Trump win.  We will have to see if Schultz remains in the presidential race despite his low poll numbers.  As of now, his candidacy appears to be nothing more than a billionaire’s vanity project.

The Democratic Establishment Candidates:

establishmentSo while we are on the subject of “establishment centrists” and “corporatists”, let’s see what the Democrats have to offer in this category for 2020 presidential candidates.  Pictured above, you will notice Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand.  Let’s not forget to include Amy Klobuchar, who also recently announced her candidacy for 2020.  If there’s one thing you need to know about this group of candidates, it’s that they are not real progressives.  Amy Klobuchar is an example of a candidate who doesn’t even try to hide the fact that she’s running as a moderate centrist.  She is for reforming the affordable care act, but has no desire to push for a “medicare for all” or “single-payer” healthcare system.  Klobuchar also hasn’t gotten on board with the idea of a $15 federal minimum wage, which many Democrats at least claim that they have warmed up to at this point.

As for the other above mentioned candidates, they appear to be towing the line on some kind of middle ground between running as moderate centrists and running as progressives.  All of these candidates’ previous record in politics paint a clear picture that time and time again they have sided with the establishment wing of the Democratic party, which as we know has led to the U.S. government giving out corporate welfare, deregulating Wall Street, inflating the military budget, starting pointless offensive wars, etc.  Furthermore, each of these candidates has taken plenty of campaign contributions in the past from wealthy donors, corporations, special interest groups and PACs.  In politics, you should always look at the source of candidates’ campaign funding because this is the best predictor of the action they will take (or decide not to take) while in office.

Having said all that, we have seen the rhetoric of Booker/Harris/Gillibrand sound increasingly progressive during the beginning phase of the 2020 presidential race.  This may be because polling indicates that more and more of the American people are siding with the progressive solution to issues such as healthcare, climate change, education, minimum wage, etc.  But ultimately, if you are for progressive solutions to political issues, you are better off looking at where candidates get their campaign funding from and how hard the mainstream media networks try to prop certain candidates up.  These are more reliable indicators of where a candidate falls on the political spectrum than their rhetoric.  Also, beware of candidates that avoid discussing policy substance.  This is another red flag that you’ll be looking at the second coming of Hillary Clinton rather than a candidate who is serious about implementing bold solutions to solve America’s problems.

The Progressive Candidates:

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Bernie Sanders is officially in the 2020 presidential race and he shattered the record for most campaign funding on the first day of announcing, hauling in a figure over $3 million comprised of thousands of individual contributions.  Grassroots fundraising at it’s finest!  Clearly, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the front-runners right now on the progressive side of the Democratic Party.  However, we should not overlook Tulsi Gabbard, nor Andrew Yang, with Yang being the first Asian-American man to ever announce his candidacy for POTUS.

But let’s talk policy on these candidates.  It is clear that Bernie Sanders is the candidate who has been unapologetic-ally pushing for progressive policies his entire career.  This of course includes “medicare-for-all”, which now has mainstream support from the American people (although not the American mainstream media).  Tulsi Gabbard has been the loudest voice when it comes to ending offensive regime change wars.  Elizabeth Warren has been a leading voice on anti-corruption (getting the corporate money out of politics) and raising taxes on the ultra wealthy.  Andrew Yang has proposed universal basic income as a solution to a future that forecasts to be increasingly dominated by technology and automation.

These candidates clearly have grassroots support on their side, as well as authenticity, and the ability to side with the majority of the American people on a number of important issues.  What these candidates have going against them is a lack of media coverage (or negative media coverage), and possibly favoritism given to their centrist primary opponents by the DNC, although that remains to be seen for this particular election cycle.  It will be interesting to see how the debates turn out for these candidates, and if Gabbard/Yang even get invited to the debate stage.

As Things Stand Now, My Prediction:

I predict that Bernie Sanders’ campaign contributions will continue to lead the pack amongst Democratic primary candidates in a huge way.  While overlooked by the mainstream media, Sanders has polled as the most popular politician in the country ever since the end of the 2016 presidential election, and it’s not even close.  Sanders now has name recognition, which he didn’t have at the beginning of the 2016 Democratic primary when he challenged Hillary Clinton.  I also believe that Sanders will benefit from a populated field of candidates, which will split the vote more and allow him to emerge as the clear favorite rather than be challenged by a single moderate/centrist candidate as he was in the 2016 primary.

The only way I see Bernie Sanders losing the Democratic primary to another candidate is if he gets relentlessly smeared by the mainstream media (a realistic possibility) OR if the DNC claims that Sanders is not a Democrat and decides to disqualify him from the Democratic primary process.  Should the latter happen, Sanders would have an interesting decision to make on whether he bows out or runs as an independent.  I believe that Sanders would ultimately bow out at that point because the prospect of further splitting the vote to help Trump win would not be something he could stomach.  Then again, let’s wait and see if Trump is even still president by the time primary voting starts.  FBI investigations still loom large.

 

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