We Have Every Reason to Yell: Centrism Lost At The DebatesPhoto by Justin Sullivan/Getty Politics Features Democratic Primary Debates
If we truly care about lifting up every voice and fighting on behalf of the issues that keep Americans up at night, let’s start by making our conversations civil and productive. #YouDontHaveToYellpic.twitter.com/OLsP1qeSze
— Tim Ryan (@TimRyan) July 31, 2019
Then I will draw near to you for judgment. And I will be a swift witness against sorcerers and adulterers and perjurers, against oppressors of the widowed and fatherless, and against those who defraud laborers of their wages and deny justice to the foreigner but do not fear Me.
— Malachi 3:5
On a cheerful Biblical note, I’d like to say how much I enjoyed the debates this week. The second round of the Dem debates were the season finale we’d been waiting for. What a time to be alive. As Branko Marcetic wrote in a piece titled “Corporate Democrats Have Been in the Driver’s Seat for 30 Years. Not Anymore”:
For the past three decades, the Democratic Party has been living with a debilitating trauma that’s left it a shell of what it once was. But if Tuesday night’s debate is any indication, the Democrats may finally be moving into the home stretch of a long, painful recovery. … Tuesday night’s battle between, on one side, Sanders and Warren—the two most progressive candidates in the field—and, on the other, the conservative Democrats misleadingly labeled “moderates” by much of the media, suggest things may be finally changing. The debate saw a conservative onslaught on the ideas of the party’s surging left wing. Sanders and Warren—both tribunes for progressive politics during the Obama years—faced right-wing attacks and skepticism from not just their conservative opponents, but CNN’s panel of moderators as well.
Folks, I’m a poster. In my career of being very online, I’ve often use the phrase “You love to see it.” I’ve used it with sarcasm. I’ve used it with irony. But I would have waited ten thousand years for what I saw on Tuesday and Wednesday. I really did love to see it. Tuesday was better than Wednesday, but both were Disneyland’s Main Street Electric Parade as far as I was concerned.
The Establishment tried every trick, whatever device they could think of to stop the tide. They held up a picture of Trump. They used the word “taxes,” as if they’d just invented the concept. They allowed new American public enemy John Delaney onstage. They allowed famous warblogger Jake Tapper and a collection of CNN suits to ask loaded questions: every prompt was arranged to favor right-wing talking points.
They tried to compare Bernie to Trump, which was desperate. They tried to shame Dems for not wanting to drop nukes on other countries, which was vile. They tried to frame enriching insurance CEOs as responsible, which was transparent.
And the Corporate Dems still couldn’t make it happen! They were crushed like a paper cup. Bernie informing Ryan that he wrote the damn bill. Gillibrand bringing up the problems of whiteness. Williamson pointing out the difference between factory towns and suburbs: “What happened in Flint would not have happened in Grosse Pointe.”
And then this:
“I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for,” Warren told Delaney, drawing a delighted cheer from the crowd, after the former representative cast Warren’s position on healthcare as too extreme.
When Warren smacked down Delaney, I knew that God was love, that prayer was answered, and that Delaney was a good five minutes away from dropping out of the race—possibly going on a recuperative fishing trip with his identical physical twin Bill Dauterive.
I want to turn to Delaney, because Delaney is the decoder ring for the whole centrist establishment.
He kept talking about his “dad, the union electrician,” which I am sure was a killer line in his bathroom mirror. Delaney is immensely rich and immensely oblivious, and this makes him the perfect mirror image of Trump in the age of Trump. He’s the kind of guy who can talk about his union parent, and then talk about ignoring sick people in the next second. He can get away with this because he thinks “blue collar” is a cultural identity, not an economic one. And if blue collar is a cultural identity, then nobody can attack him for favoring policies which favor the rich.
And then Warren brought the reaping.
Delaney’s downfall was sweet, but it wasn’t the only great moment. Picking a single best incident from these debates is like picking your favorite shade of Steve Harvey outfit: I’m one man. I shouldn’t be faced with such a choice. Where do I begin? To quote Aladdin’s Aladdin, “Wow, America, I guess you could say this a real Cave of Wonders.”
Do I go with Marianne, who was fearless in bring up all of the perverse nightmare mishmash that makes our history? Our Lady had the courage to mention reparations and fair trade. She was emitting real David Lynch Twin Peaks Season 3 energies, and I was there for it. Real Galadriel hours.
I was also there for Liz Warren’s brilliant performance. The centrists were helpless before her. It was like watching a fistful of Slim Jims fight off a garbage disposal. “Stop, stop, he’s already dead!” I yelled at the screen, except I wasn’t yelling those words, and I was smiling, and, if I recall properly, I was laughing.
Or perhaps I should choose the enchanter of my heart, Bernard Sanders? The mainstream media told us that Liz and Bernie were going to go full carnivore on each other. It didn’t occur to the press that the two might have shared beliefs and bigger enemies to fight.
The Lorax, Liz, and the Lightbringer were the main reasons to watch. There were, simply, two kinds of Democrats on the stage Tuesday and Wednesday. The realists, and the No-We-Can’ts. The realists understood the necessity of big change. They came ready to play. The No-We-Can’ts also had a policy: what will turn on Jeff Bezos?
When Yang got the chance to speak, he was surprisingly on-point. His attempt to bridge the gap with Trump voters won’t play.
I was very impressed with DiBlasio’s turn as an economic justice brawler. His words were well-meant. You could almost forget that in day-to-day life, he is the servant of Amazon, and the employer of the man who choked Eric Garner. Gillibrand was the dazzlingest find of Wednesday night. Tulsi Gabbard had the best closing statement of both nights, as she discussed the cataclysm of war.
Biden was…Biden. He seemed unaware of that thing, History, that the rest of us are trying to escape. Booker and Harris lived up to their reputations as the candidates of Not Very Much of Anything At All. After his bravura shot at Biden’s crime record, Booker faded into the background like a Jedi ghost.
The rest of the stage pointed out Harris’ shameful past as oppressor of poor Californians. Her arrogance and dismissiveness of those complaints was on-brand. Jay Inslee reminded us that we were out of time on climate change. Castro pointed out our shameful history of deportations. I congratulate Beto on getting his parents to let him stay out late on a school night. That shows a lot of trust on their part, and I hope he doesn’t blow it by standing on a library table or anything improper.
Mayor Pete—who as I understand it is a kind of Howdy Doody puppet who was turned real by magic—tried to apply the moral hazard argument to student loan forgiveness. I bet his pre-debate notecards read: “If we forgive the poors, then they’ll never learn.”
He stanned hard for various species of rich people. And who can blame him? He’s got an eye to the future, and he’s building the brand for his future buyers. If Buttigieg has a gift, it’s working his resume, and pimping a moment hard. Incidentally, I congratulate him on discovering that white supremacy is real. Whoever forwarded him a Wikipedia article on the subject did a bang-up job.
I mention His Honor the Mayor so frequently because Buttigieg is the only face of the Midwestern Mayo Collective whose name I will remember fifty years from now. The rest of the No-we-can’ts, strictly speaking, are not individual human beings. I know this is counter-intuitive, but please remember this is what science tells us. Hickenlooper, Klobuchar, Bullock, and Ryan are basically the human centipede of garbage means-testing policies.
You’re going to read a lot of hot takes about the Democratic Civil War. There are two things to keep in mind. First, there’s no actual Civil War. There are popular policies supported by the majority of Democratic voters. There’s an elite who hates the popular policies. Some of the candidates support the Democratic voters, and some of them don’t. That’s not a Civil War, that’s a rounding error.
Second, the pundits will be saying that this is a Bernie victory—and it is. He moved the party along the path of righteousness. They’ll say it’s a Warren win. It is—Warren is a mile more progressive than anyone besides Bernie.
But in the end, it’s not Bernie’s victory or Warren’s victory. What we saw on the Tuesday debate stage (and to a lesser extent, the Wednesday debate stage) was something else. The Dem debates represent the triumph of what the public has always believed. This literally cannot be repeated enough: the public agrees with progressive ideas. Progressive ideas dominate. There are super-majorities available for every left notion.
The elite fear change. They are striking back with all the subtlety of a Cialis spam message. Tuesday and Wednesday night made clear how clumsy, how lightweight they are. John Delaney is their mascot. Do you fear him, or anything like him? No? Good. We have absolutely every reason to yell.