A Quick Recap of Two Nights of the New Democratic Party

Beto O’Rourke speaks at the first Democratic presidential debate in Miami, Fla., June 26, 2019. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

While it’s political common sense that candidates are not generally assured of or eliminated from anything after one measly debate, it is certainly true that voter assessments can be quickly re-aligned. The last two nights of Democratic debates actually did a lot to establish some obstacles and advantages in the impressions voters have of these candidates.

The major takeaway I will share before some random musings on individual candidates: Even a movement-conservative political junkie like myself was just stunned at the lack of interest in hiding the new extremism of the new left. No candidate seemed interested in the clear differentiation that this obvious brand would bring: “I am a center-left liberal, and I will fight Donald Trump, but I am not insane, and I am not promising tens of trillions of dollars of nonsense.” Independent, objective Americans could not possibly have watched either night of that debate without saying, “They want to take away our health insurance; instill a government takeover of the entire health-care system; give “free” college to every single person; open the borders and refuse to regulate immigration; give free health care to anyone outside the country who wants it; massively increase taxes; impose economy-destroying extreme environmental measures; “cancel” over a trillion dollars of student debt; confiscate guns illegally; and let us not forget, push forward the agenda of men being able to have abortions.” I am not exaggerating or being coy — there was near consensus in each of these policy objectives, and whether it be the economic, political, or cultural direction they seek to take the country — it is not just unrecognizable to John Kennedy’s America — it is unrecognizable to Barack Obama’s America!

But without further adieu, my take on particular standout performances:

  1. It is pretty much universal consensus that the biggest loser of the two-night woke-fest was Beto O’Rourke.  I really do believe that he was doomed before this debate performance, but at the end of the day, I believe Beto comes across as the most disingenuous candidate that either party has had stand on one of its stages in a generation. I fully appreciate that all politicians are acting to some degree, but this guy takes his little “Buddha in the mountains on a journey” schtick to a whole new level of nonsense, and he was just pitiful on Wednesday night — from the embarrassing Spanish pandering schtick, to Julián Castro clobbering him while he sat there looking like his mom was scolding him for getting a DUI.
  2. I don’t know if Elizabeth Warren helped herself or not Wednesday night — on one hand I realize that she is working hard to trump Bernie Sanders as the front-running socialist candidate, and on the other hand I agree that her “ideas” schtick seemed to really lack any meat on the bone. But what we do know: The media has picked her to be their candidate that they will prop up, and they are on a mission to cuddle her and massage her back into play. I expect shameless propping of the Native-American fraud for months to come. I question her viability in a general election but believe she may very well get in the “lane” that Bernie once occupied.
  3. I am sure it will now be beaten into us that Kamala Harris is the hot candidate, and she surely did help herself Thursday night. The “food fight” line was incredibly lame, which means that it went over great with CNN panelists. Her boldness in picking that fight with Joe Biden was completely lacking in character, accuracy, fairness, or integrity but it did what it needed to do: establish her as a rival to Biden, which implies a “top-tier” status for her and her campaign. Kamala is a talented communicator, and what she lacks in ideological guiding light that she makes up for in, well, something. I can’t say with real conviction what the appeal is, but I do know she will be a top-tier candidate going, and has as good a chance as any to win the nomination.
  4. Speaking of Joe Biden, he has a choice in the weeks ahead that will make or break his candidacy. He needs to get into a street fight with Kamala Harris and Cory Booker and anyone else who dares to call him a racist, or he needs to quit the race. He is not fighting to clarify his non-racist bona fides; he is fighting to demonstrate that he has the toughness to not stand for that kind of nonsense. I never believed Mitt Romney lost the race because people believed he was a Gordon Gekko corporate tycoon villain from the bowels of private-equity dungeons; I believe he lost because people just couldn’t believe he wouldn’t defend himself from being called such!
  5. It will not be good for the Democrats if Julián Castro gets a lift in this race and sticks around for a bit. That line about defending “reproductive justice” was disgusting and weird. And the addendum to his wokey pro-abortion street cred that he even supported abortion rights for men was the worst possible thing for those who do not want to portray the new Democrats as so culturally out of touch with mainstream Americans that they cannot be trusted. And of course, it doesn’t do a lot to boost the Democrats as the “pro-science” party.
  6. I think Amy Klobuchar had moments of showing herself to be reasonable and cerebrally aware of what a president can and cannot do, but her performance lacked gravitas.
  7. Bernie Sanders did two things you can not do as a socialist trying to win this nomination: 1) He waffled around the fact that he is advocating a huge middle-class tax increase to pay for Medicare for All; and 2) He is advocating a huge middle-class tax increase to pay for Medicare for All. I think Bernie will die off soon in this thing, as there are plenty of people now borrowing his Marxian progressivism in their policy plank, and yet they do not have 40 years of actually calling themselves “socialist.”
  8. My free advice to the DNC — Marianne Williamson ought not be on one of your stages again. My free advice to Saturday Night Live — do everything you can to keep Marianne Williamson in this race.
David L. Bahnsen is the managing partner of a wealth-management firm, a trustee of the National Review Institute, and author of the book, Crisis of Responsibility: Our Cultural Addiction to Blame and How You Can Cure It.

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