Last night’s Democratic debate in Charleston

Hillary Clinton sitting on the COLD State House steps this morning with Todd Rutherford, awaiting her turn to speak.

Hillary Clinton sitting on the COLD State House steps this morning with Todd Rutherford, awaiting her turn to speak.

Well, I meant to write today about the Democratic presidential candidates at the King Day at the Dome observance, but technical problems intervened. I watched some of it (via WIS) on my laptop and iPad, but the signal kept getting interrupted — both wifi and 4G.

Finally, when Hillary Clinton was done and Bernie Sanders had started, and I could see him but hear nothing, I put on my coat (and hat, and gloves, and scarf, remembering the bitter cold of a similar such rally eight years ago) and walked the four blocks or so to the State House, and… it was over. I walked onto the grounds against the flow of uniformed Secret Service officers hurriedly leaving.

I saw Sheriff Leon Lott, and he told me I hadn’t missed much, in terms of what the candidates had to say. He said if you heard them last night, you heard what they said today.

So let’s talk about the debate last night.

My quick takeaways…

  • Most who watched who are not Hillary Clinton supporters saw Bernie Sanders as the winner. And that’s probably true, partly because he stayed on message and partly because ex-Sen. Clinton was so obviously, deliberately lashing out at him, in light of the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.
  • Note that term, “deliberately.” Everything Hillary Clinton does is so calculated, it’s one of the reasons a lot of people like Bernie, and a lot of other people wish Joe Biden had run.
  • Saying Bernie won does not mean I liked what he had to say. The raw paranoia of it is so disturbing — the whole Occupy Wall Street narrative about a few billionaires running the country (when anyone who looks around would see nobody’s running the country; it’s kind of on autopilot). How do people believe that stuff? Just because you aren’t doing well (and hey, I can identify with that) doesn’t mean that there’s some conspiracy against you. It just doesn’t. It’s like… when I was laid off from the paper, I wasn’t mad at anybody. The world changed, and the business model that supported newspapers collapsed under them. Nobody did it on purpose.
  • O’Malley did a nice job, and got to play the reasonable guy on the stage a number of times when Hillary was lashing out at Bernie and Bernie was spouting about super PACs, the wicked banks and billionaires. But it’s over for him.
  • I felt for Hillary when the moderator asked, “If Obama couldn’t bring the country together, how could you?” I mean, that’s a cruel question to ask someone who is Republicans’ favorite punching bag (as they are hers). He might as well have added, “… of all people.” But as she said, she has reached out and tried to work with the Lindsey Grahams of the Senate. No one would call it a core strength of hers, though.

I guess that’s enough to get some conversation going. I’ll close with this, which I tweeted when the debate was over:

Joel Lourie had asked me essentially the same question earlier in the evening, after I said I expected her to win the election. My answer? “Not all that great.” All the reasons why I preferred Obama on the Democratic side eight years ago are still present, only this time there’s no Obama.

That was, for me, the no-lose election, since I liked both Obama and McCain a lot. But this time? I like Hillary on foreign affairs, and I like that she’d veto the GOP’s perpetual attempts to scuttle the ACA. But she does not inspire enthusiasm.

And it’s looking increasingly like the sensible options on the Republican side have the odds stacked against them.

So I’m nostalgic for 2008. Maybe someone will inspire me before it’s over. But the chances of that don’t look great at the moment.

15 thoughts on “Last night’s Democratic debate in Charleston

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Slight digression:

    Moments ago, I clicked on the link to something headlined, “Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Want Your Vote.” It sounded like something written in response to qualms about her, as expressed in my conversation with Joel, mentioned above.

    But they weren’t thinking about me:

    Hillary Clinton is not going to make it easy for you to come around to supporting her. “You” meaning the good young liberal, who probably voted for Obama, and perhaps even (if you are old enough) supported him over her in 2008.

    Earlier this week, Chelsea Clinton, rather suddenly acting as a campaign surrogate, delivered a blatantly dishonest attack against your favorite old socialist Bernie Sanders, and his plan to replace America’s expensive patchwork healthcare system with a federally-funded single-payer plan for everyone…

    So never mind…

    Reply
      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Specifically, Shields said:

        The Clinton campaign this week, in perhaps the stupidest act of the entire year, took the one person who’s a character witness, who is a privileged observer of Hillary Clinton, who can testify about Hillary Clinton as a human being, as a mother, as a grandmother, as somebody who’s always been there, who’s been a force for decency in her life, who’s taught her and loved her, Chelsea Clinton, and turned her into a political hack.

        I mean, it was just absolutely reckless and stupid. They neutralized the advantage and the value of Chelsea Clinton by turning her into an attack dog on a phony charge that Bernie Sanders, a supporter of single-payer national health insurance, is somehow going to dismantle children’s health and Medicare.

        I mean, it was — it tells you how nervous, how dumb, what bad judgment there is in that campaign.

        Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Wow, Gawker has a REALLY young demographic if it has to qualify by saying “if you are old enough” to have voted in 2008.

      All five of my children were old enough to vote in the 2008 primaries. So we’re talking YOUNG…

      Reply
  2. bud

    Bernie says so much that is refreshing to hear. The big banks DO need to be broken up, We DO need universal health care. The extremely wealthy DO exert to much power over the affairs of the nation.

    It’s also true that he WON’T be able to break up the banks. He WON’T be able to enact a single payer health care plan. And he certainly WON’T be able to reduce the power and influence of plutocrat wannabes like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson. But we certainly won’t get there without trying. Until the Democrats can gain some measure of control over congress and the states we are doomed to continue down the path of a sort of hybrid neo-con plutocracy. Until folks understand who’s pulling the strings we will continue to fall behind Europe and Japan in life expectancy and quality of life as the middle class gets squeezed and despair sets in. And for this great nation to become so enamored with a political party that fails at everything it does is a sad commentary about the ability of these folk to peddle their koolaid.

    Reply
    1. Harry Harris

      Bud is both perceptive and correct in these comments.
      Bernie has the clean approach to politics we need leading the country. He has little chance of winning the nomination or the presidency. Bernie has, in my view, gotten so stuck on repeating his main talking points, he has failed to do much toward explaining them. He needs Robert Reich, marker in hand, to hit the trail with him. Hillary has the calculating savvy to get much done, but not with a right-wing intimidated Republican-led congress. Every one of the Republican candidates has a tax program that will further enrich the top wealth-holders while they claim to be helping he middle class. Meanwhile, forks like Brad claim the economy and public policy isn’t controlled by the wealthiest few. My exposure to corporate culture has shown me a top-level of hired-hands running companies for their own benefit, with inordinate compensation for the top 2-5% of company leaders, and little regard for either long-term company health or employee welfare. Greed has become quite dominant, and has pervaded thinking and action.

      Reply
    2. Bart

      When bud goes on his usual tirade about Republican billionaires and how they influence elections, it does bring a smile to my face and a shaking of the head at the same time. It is a joy to read the “plutocrat wannabes” description of the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson while totally ignoring the fact that on the other side, there are just as many Democrat billionaire “plutocrat wannabes” trying to influence politics in America. Just to name a few: George Soros (naturally), Warren Buffett, Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, and a long list of others. And on the list of donors to Democrats, add one Mr. David Koch who in 2008 donated $2,205,927.00 to Democrats and $2,205,900.00 to Republicans plus his brother also donated to both parties. Apparently David Koch liked Democrats $27 more than Republicans in 2008. I guess the Koch evil does not recognize political boundaries.

      Who among you actually believe that all other countries don’t have their own version of the 1% controlling most of the wealth and power even in socialist and communist governed countries? Do you actually believe the 1% does not exist in Sweden, Norway, Germany, France, or China? Do you actually believe for one moment that if Warren Buffett wanted an audience with Obama that he would be denied? Do you believe if anyone on the Democrat billionaire list wanted an audience with Hillary or Bernie they would be turned down? And are you actually naive enough to believe if they asked for a favor that Obama, Hillary, or Bernie would say no?

      The real squeeze on Amerca’s middle class started in the late 90s when the two parties come together to repeal Glass-Steagal and replaced it with Gramm-Bliley-Leach. It was a politically expedient win-win for Democrats and Republicans. Then when the proverbial stuff hit the fan in 2007-2008 as a result of Republican/Democrat political greed, in order to correct the ship, behold, we were given the Dodd-Frank fiasco to live with.

      There are several other milestones along the way that can be considered instrumental as significant contributors to the current situation and both sides share equally in the condition of the economy, good or bad, depending on your personal point of view.

      As for peddling koolaid, drinking it all depends on the flavor one is peddling and the flavors are varied; Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, progressive, conservative, far left, far right, and downright bat poop crazy.

      We all have our individual version of preferred politics and “Hollywood” over the years has offered up many idealistic movies to feed the public’s fantasies about a political maverick who defies the establishment and wins out in the end. But, once we stop to connect the dots, in the end, the 1% (Republican and Democrat) will be the winners and neither you or I will share in their good fortune. When was the last time Speilberg or Adelson sent you or anyone you know a free movie pass or a complimentary stay at the Venetian?

      This is not meant to be cynical, just realistic after being on this earth for over 70 years and removing the blinders a long time ago.

      Reply
      1. bud

        When bud goes on his usual tirade about Republican billionaires …
        -Bart

        If some Democrats are behaving like plutocrats then that’s a problem too. Let me be clear, I’m a liberal first and foremost. The Democrats are at their worst when they behave like Republicans. Clinton signed Republican legislation that scaled by regulations of the banking industry. That was a failure of conservatism as implemented by a Democrat. Obama continues to bomb and drone people in the Middle East. That’s a foolish, conservative policy implemented by a Democratic president.

        Let’s face it, Rush Limbaugh style conservatism is a failed philosophy that gets us into trouble again and again regardless of which party is doing the implementing. Let’s try the liberal approach. It has worked in the past to end child labor atrocities, bring about women’s suffrage, eradicate Jim Crow, end the failed war in Vietnam and clean up our environment. It can work now to solve this great nation’s problems.

        Reply
  3. Mprince

    Sanders is not a purveyor of paranoia. Your use of such pejorative aims to paint his views as unhinged or delusional. He doesn’t allude to cabals or conspiracies. That’s your own simplification. Sanders’ familiar reference to “millionaires and billionaires” is shorthand for the outsized role that high finance, corporate interests and the affluent exercise in influencing American politics and policy-making.

    Here are a couple of longer articles that flesh out what he’s talking about:

    http://www.demos.org/stacked-deck-how-dominance-politics-affluent-business-undermines-economic-mobility-america
    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/08/30/covert-operations

    Communitarianism and corporatism are not complementary, they are opposites.

    Reply
  4. Phillip

    Bart, I wouldn’t disagree with you that big money also infects and influences the Democratic Party. Party politics in general at the federal level is determined in large part by who has the most power and influence, and money is power. That’s not paranoia, that’s America. Of course it’s not always a one-to-one relationship—-money can’t always buy an election, that’s true. But how can one deny that money equals access and influence in a mega-capitalist society? Bart, you’re absolutely right that it’s a two-party phenomenon, and that is why there is such general disillusion and disgust among the population in general about party politics at least as practiced at the federal level. That’s also, incidentally, why Sanders is not a “party” Democrat, he is in fact at odds with most of his party, including Hillary. In the Democratic race, he is clearly the outsider. In this sense (and ONLY in this sense) he is the parallel to Trump or Cruz on the GOP side.

    I will disagree with you on your question the “1%” in countries like “Sweden, Norway, Germany, France.” (I’m taking China out of your example because it is not and does not aspire to be a liberal democracy). But let’s throw in Japan for the moment. The difference in those countries (and it’s not like they don’t have big problems of their own, maybe different ones than us) is that there is not the vast income/wealth disparity as in our country. On a purely mathematical basis, of course there is a 1% in the countries you mentioned, but wealth is not concentrated in the extreme in that 1% to the extent it is in the US. Moreover, the very political structure of those nations is more oriented to checks and balances towards the influence of concentrated wealth. You can argue that’s a good or a bad thing for them economically, but there’s no question that they generally believe in more checks and balances to a completely “free” market, or let’s say they are not enthusiasts for unrestrained mega-capitalism.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      But I have to disagree with you, Phillip, when you say the ONLY way Sanders is similar to Trump and Cruz is in the fact that they’re all outsiders.

      It’s not just that they are all outsiders; it’s that they are outsiders for some of the same reasons. They’re all manifestations of the resurgence of Jacksonianism that I referred to yesterday

      Reply
      1. bud

        No Brad, Bernie Sanders is most definitely not Jacksonian in the sense that he approaches issues with a totally different mindset than Andrew Jackson. Do you really think Bernie Sanders wants to eliminate the central bank or herd human beings hundreds of miles from their home? Sanders is a compassionate person who has ALL the people’s interest at heart. Andrew Jackson was a cruel, inflexible pompous ass.

        Reply

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