The lines drawn for the first night of the second Democrat Debates were clear. The social democrats were sparring against the democratic socialists.
And let’s be clear; there is a difference.
Specifically, social democrats believe that a strong government should balance a capitalist economy, and protect the rights of the vulnerable. With that, social safety nets for the poor, disabled, and other disadvantaged should exist.
On the other hand, democratic socialists believe that a democratic system should be used to elect socialists who, in turn, implement outright socialist policy.
The Social Democrats were definitely outnumbered. Former Representative John Delaney, Congressman Tim Ryan, Former Governor John Hickenlooper, and Governor Steve Bullock stand primarily in this camp.
Unfortunately for this fearsome foursome, a number of aspects of their opponent’s campaigns thus far outshines theirs.
First, onstage presence, as the progressive wing commanded the six remaining podiums.
Second, speaking times. Three of the four moderates had less speaking time than all of the progressives, save Marianne Williamson.
Third, poll numbers. Of those on stage, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Bernie Sanders have commanding leads over the rest of the pack.
In spite of that, Delaney used his opening remarks to immediately swing at his far-left opponents. “Folks, we have a choice,” he started. “We can go down the road that Senator Sanders and Senator Warren want to take us.”
“With bad policies like Medicare for All, free everything, and impossible promises that will turn off independent voters and get Trump reelected.”
Medicare for All
Following the opening statements, the subject of Medicare for All dominated the first twenty minutes of the debate.
“Obviously I disagree with that,” Hickenlooper said regarding dismantling private insurance. “I think it comes down to that question of Americans being used to being able to make choices, to have the right to make a decision.”
Later on, he argued again on this issue, this time sparring with Senator Sanders. “You haven’t implemented the plans!” he decried. “Us governors – and mayors – we have to pick up all the pieces when suddenly the government is supposed to take over all these responsibilities!”
“And, there’s no preparation… You can’t just spring a plan on the world, and expect it to succeed!”
The Governor of Montana, Steve Bullock, fielded a question on giving free healthcare to illegal immigrants.
“I think this is a part of the discussion that shows how often these debates are detached from people’s lives,” he began. “We got 100,000 people showing up at the border right now… if we get heath care to everyone, we’ll have multiples of that.”
Bullock, who described himself as pragmatic, took just such a stance. With Americans having trouble paying for their own an their families’ healthcare and insurance, covering illegal immigrants will be impossible.
US House Representative Tim Ryan spent much of his time pushing for market-based solutions with the aid of government programs and regulations.
On industry and climate change, he called for the institution of a Chief Manufacturing Officer that would spearhead the production of electric cars. Ryan believes that doing so would help the US out-compete China, preventing the need for tariff wars.
“We have to invent our way out of this,” he stated on climate change. “Align the environmental incentives with the financial incentives, and make sure that the people can actually make money off of the new technologies that are moving forward!”
The far-left wing of the Democrat panel did not back down on their progressive platform. As the night progressed, exchanges heated up between the candidates. Of course, this was largely by design, as a number of questions asked one candidate about the opinion of another.
Medicare for All
For example, Bernie Sanders, the long-time Senator from Vermont, received the first question. It asked him to defended his Medicare for All proposal against Delaney. By contrast, Delaney doesn’t believe Medicare for All won’t work if it means dismantling private insurers.
Sanders promoted his plan, delivering the most iconic line later in the night, “I wrote the damn bill!”
Democrats defended Medicare for All ardently, in fact.
Elizabeth Warren, in one of a handful of hard-hitting retorts through the night, exclaimed, “I don’t understand why anyone goes through all the trouble of running for the President of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do or shouldn’t fight for.”
Similarly, author Marianne Williamson exclaimed that she couldn’t believe how some of the candidates could even call themselves Democrats.
The progressive democrats split on one Medicare for All issue, however. Does their plan raise taxes on the middle class?
Sanders admitted in the first debate that he would hike taxes on the middle class. Pete Buttigieg says that his tax costs would be offset by the premiums Americans would no longer have to pay.
After a long-winded, roundabout answer, moderators asked Beto O’Rourke for a direct answer and he flatly said, “no.”
The progressive wing took a position that relied on a more centralized-government to solve problems.
Sanders contrasted Ryan on his market-based ideas. He and Williamson both endorsed the Green New Deal has his favored approach.
When asked about gun control, Buttigieg pushed for universal background checks and the implementation of red flag laws. Senator Amy Klobuchar pushed even further, calling also for a federal “assault weapons” ban.
Williamson joined Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend Indiana, in calling for campaign finance reform. Both even suggested a constitutional amendment if necessary.
Williamson also joined Sanders, encouraging people to vote for candidates who have not taken donations from big-money donors such as super-PACs and special interest lobbies.
Winners and Losers
Robert “Beto” O’Rourke
Beto O’Rourke, though tied for fourth with the amount of speaking time allotted, failed to inspire. His performance was distinctly uncharismatic. What’s more, his ideas were echos of other candidates rather than much of anything original.
Representative Tim Ryan, in spite of a fair amount of well thought out arguments and compelling ideas, faltered yet again and for the same reason. Ryan stood out in his first debate appearance, not because of his message, but because of his losing exchange with Tulsi Gabbard.
Once again Tim Ryan found himself being the victim of a series of devastating blows. Bernie’s “I wrote the damn bill” retort was in response to Ryan stating that Bernie didn’t know what the final Medicare for All policy would be.
Unfortunately for Ryan, he has suffered too many blows to have made a positive impact for his campaign.
Williamson is her own worst enemy. Clearly passionate about her ideals, she is far too theatrical to be taken seriously.
Hickenlooper received the least amount of speaking time of any of the other candidates. By contrast, two Democrat candidates saw twice as much air time or more.
In his short amount of time, Hickenlooper was not able to establish himself as a primary contender to the major players in the Democrat field.
Delaney suffered a similar fate to Hickenlooper. While he also delivered a number of sensible talking points, the crowd favorites overshadowed him.
Additionally, the moderators continually steered him into fights with the other candidates. Apparently, Delaney did not win enough of these to establish himself as the man to take on Donald Trump.
The Senator from Minnesota delivered a frightfully forgetful ten and a half minute performance. Much like O’Rourke, Klobuchar seems to be a garden variety progressive with no fresh or interesting ideas.
Steve Bullock made his first appearance tonight among the Democrats, taking over the spot vacated by Eric Swalwell. In spite of that, and being a moderate in a field of progressives, Bullock was able to capture almost eleven minutes of speaking time.
He also marketed himself as an approachable, pragmatic candidate that can draw all sides of the aisle together. And his pitch worked. The Montana governor made a name for himself as the blue-politician that could win in a red state. That, with his ability to speak clearly and with conviction, likely score major points with moderates.
Elizabeth Warren also presents herself as someone approachable. She connects to her audience with clear and concise ideas, and delivers them with intelligence and conviction.
Warren won a number of bouts tonight. Her witty quips caused the audience to stir and applaud a number of times. Really, it is doubtful that she will slide in the polls after tonight.
Pete Buttigieg avoided sparring matches tonight. While that means he couldn’t win any, it means he also couldn’t lose any. Instead, he took his time delivering an even-tempered message.
At this time, Buttigieg seems to have avoided a lot of criticism. In tonight’s performance, he offered a lot of broad ideas and soft sentiments, but no specific policy proposals. This may be a factor in how he has managed to stay largely out of the fray, but eventually he will need to argue with substance.
Bernie Sanders’ performance was little different than his last. The biggest change is that Sanders was thrust into a number of debates by moderators. The best part of these bouts, for him, was that he won them, and the crowd.
List his last performance, Sanders offered his typical rhetoric in support of his ideas. This time, he added statistics that served as the premise for his proposals. Like last time, however, he offered virtually no specific details on what his policies would consist of, or how to make them work.
Tune in to CNN at 8pm EST for the second night of round two of the Democrat Presidential Debates.