Darrell Berkheimer: Low-ranked candidates offer savvy comments
In watching the two nights of the Democratic Party debates in Detroit, I watched for and was impressed by the savvy and pertinent comments given by the lower-ranked candidates.
Of course the front-runners got much of the attention as our national media particularly highlighted the back-biting directed as former Vice President Joe Biden and our California Sen. Kamala Harris. But I’m choosing to highlight the lower-ranked candidates, many of whom will be forced out of the race by failing to qualify for the September debate.
As some of the comments inevitably referred to the corrupting influence of big money spending for individual campaigns, Marianne Williamson observed that requiring public financing of campaigns would go a long way toward limiting corporate influence.
And Montana Gov. Steve Bullock in his debate debut noted, “America is great, but not everyone can access America’s greatness.”
But it was Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan who most emphatically observed that Medicare for All, or any universal health care plan, must provide a public option for those who prefer to keep their current insurance plans — such as the many union members in his state.
That was a battle issue throughout both debate nights as most candidates appeared to divide into two groups — those leaning to the far left to support a government-operated health care system, and those who advocate a more moderate approach that would provide buy-in options. They appear no closer to settling that issue despite polls that show the majority of Americans are not ready to support a government-run system if it means losing their private coverage options.
That argument prompted Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar to observe, “What I don’t like about this is we are talking more about winning an argument than winning an election.”
But it was South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg who provided the most important answer at Tuesday’s debate, according to Vox commentator Ezra Klein, who wrote:
“It came after … Democrats debated different health-care plans that have no chance of passing given the composition of the U.S. Senate, and … decriminalizing unauthorized border crossing, which they also don’t have the votes to do, … a series of gun control ideas that would swiftly fall to a filibuster and, even if they didn’t, would plausibly be overturned by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority.
“That’s when Buttigieg spoke up:
“(This is) the conversation that we have been having for the last 20 years. Of course we need to get money out of politics, but when I propose the actual structural democratic reforms that might make a difference – end the electoral college, amend the Constitution if necessary to clear up Citizens United; have D.C. actually be a state, and depoliticize the Supreme Court with structural reform – people look at me funny, as if this country was incapable of structural reform.
“This is a country that once changed its Constitution so you couldn’t drink, and changed it back because we changed our minds, and you’re telling me we can’t reform our democracy in our time. We have to, or we will be having the same argument 20 years from now.”
The big winner of the first night’s debate in Detroit was Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. The was the decision of eight of the 10-member panel of Iowa residents assembled to comment on the debate. That panel, however, cited a three-way split after Wednesday night’s debate, when its 10 members said the winners were New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Booker, lagging behind most of the pack in the polls, advised fellow candidates to refrain from attacking each other and thus providing sound bites for President Trump’s campaign. But that didn’t stop him from challenging Biden over his past statements on criminal justice.
Castro also sparred with Biden over Biden’s past immigration positions. The exchange, rather direct and personal, apparently helped give a bit of new life to Castro’s campaign.
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the only military veteran on the state Wednesday night, reiterated her opposition to military involvement in foreign nations experiencing civil strife or regime change. Gabbard, who again triggered the most candidate Google searches, also struck out at Sen. Harris over her prosecutorial record.
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, whose immigrant mother was separated from her parents during the Holocaust in Poland, said that’s why immigration reform is so important to him. He noted he was a co-writer of the 2013 immigration bill — with Sen. John McCain — which provided a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people already in the U.S. But the bill failed to gain approval in the U.S. House.
Bennet was joined by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in urging action on education. The audience cheered when Bennet, a former Superintendent of Denver Public School, raised his voice and noted 88 percent of the people in prison didn’t finish high school. And they cheered when he added, “Let’s fix our school system and maybe we can fix the prison pipeline we have.”
Inslee used most of his time to hammer on the “climate crisis,” his core issue. In noting that it affects literally everything, he said, “Climate change is not a singular issue, it is all the issues that we Democrats care about. It is health. It is national security. It is our economy.”
Inslee already has hinted that he may seek a third term as Washington’s governor since his presidential campaign is fizzling.
He also cited the Democrats real problem: Mitch McConnell. He said Democrats won’t be able to do anything if they don’t take back the Senate in 2020. And he noted McConnell, by using the filibuster, will continue to run the Senate “even if we take a majority.”
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand provided the best crowd-pleaser of the night. When she becomes President, she said the first thing she will do “is Clorox the oval office.”
That idea should be carried a bit farther – into each of the offices of Trump’s cabinet secretaries, where I am sure there will be a lingering stench of corruption.
Business entrepreneur Andrew Yang appeared more comfortable in his candidate role as he continued to tout his plan for a universal basic income of $1,000 for all adults over 18, which he sees as necessary as robots continue to gobble up American jobs.
He is one of three candidates who are quite close to qualifying for the September debate. The others are Castro and Klobuchar. The seven who already have qualified are Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Harris, Beto O’Rouke of Texas, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Warren.
But the varied leadership talent that exists in each of the lower ranked candidates was quite evident.
Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He is the author of six books available through Amazon. His latest, Essays from The Golden Throne, also is available at Book Seller in Grass Valley. Contact him at email@example.com.
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