It seemed only fitting that in a city known for producing cars, that the Democrats would, in front of a national audience, produce a twenty car pile-up. In two nights of debates, each of the candidates took turns going after, not so much the current occupant of the Oval Office, but their fellow Democrats.
Night one saw progressives Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren practically accuse the moderates on the stage of being sellouts because they didn’t subscribe to their grand vision of the country. In one exchange that made the rounds on social media, Warren turned to former Congressman John Delaney and said, “Why would anybody run for president just to talk about what we can’t do?” While progressives lauded Warren for standing her ground, the point Delaney was trying to make was that much of what Warren is proposing is unpopular with a majority of voters and could cost Democrats the election.
Night two saw former Vice President Joe Biden become a human piñata as one Democrat after another dredged up everything the man had ever done or said in his entire political career. The last time I saw that many references to the ’70s, I was watching a CNN documentary.
Look, I get it. This is politics and, as the old saying goes, if you can’t take the heat stay out of the kitchen. Like it or not, there are serious divisions within the party that will have to be sorted out before we get to the convention.
While Medicare-for-All may be popular with the base, it does not enjoy majority support even among Democrats. Not talking about it, especially at a debate, is like going to a restaurant and only ordering a glass of water. And with regards to Biden, while it may rile his supporters, his past positions are fair game. Better to have them come out now than next fall, assuming, that is, he becomes the nominee.
But the most troubling thing that took place, especially on night two, was how so many of the candidates, in an attempt to go after Biden, wound up going after Barack Obama by extension. It’s no secret that during his eight years in office, Obama deported more illegal immigrants than any president in U.S. history, and this still doesn’t sit well with many progressives. But the simple fact is that even with all the deportations his administration carried out, he is polling at 97 percent among Democrats. No one else in the party comes even remotely close.
Michael Tomasky addresses this madness brilliantly in The Daily Beast:
I kept listening to all those attacks on Obama’s record on immigration and criminal justice and all the rest thinking about these people watching and probably wondering what was going on here. The Constitution is being torched. The house is burning to the ground. And the villain Wednesday night was Obama?
But lest you think the attacks on Biden / Obama were simply about past positions or policies, they weren’t. The party appears to be going through something of a metamorphosis. We’ve already seen glimpses of this in the House where Nancy Pelosi has had her hands full trying to keep her caucus from spinning out of control. The old guard is being purged. And like the proverbial baby with the bathwater, accomplishments and blemishes are being treated as one in the same.
Again Tomasky writes,
Democrats have three living ex-presidents, two of whom were incredibly successful. One of those two, Bill Clinton, is the most economically successful post-war president out of all 13 of them. He’s already persona non grata. I get why. But he has been all but banished. I’d be surprised if he even shows up at the convention.
I have written about Clinton and his love / hate relationship with the base several times over the years. Despite winning two terms in office, progressives never warmed to him. He wasn’t one of them, and what drove them crazy was that he didn’t seem to care. I still maintain that Al Gore’s defeat in 2000 was owed as much to progressives staying home as it was with Ralph Nader being such a colossal dick.
But what transpired on that debate stage Wednesday night didn’t look like the circular firing squad that Obama warned against; it resembled more a bloodletting. I make it a point to try not to read Trump’s Twitter page as much as possible, but I can only imagine some of the comments he posted about the exchanges that took place. I can assure you the RNC already has the footage loaded and ready to go.
There’s no way this ends well for Democrats. They either come to some kind of peace about their past or they will lose badly next year. Consider that between 1964 and 1992, the party won the White House exactly once. That’s one presidential election out of six. Prior to that it had won seven of the previous nine. In politics, it’s not that hard to go from the oasis to the desert.
The single greatest threat to Western Democracy is fifteen months away from possibly winning a second term as president and Democrats are focusing their laser beams on old op-ed pieces and whether their last president might’ve enforced the law a little too harshly for their delicate sensibilities.
As I’ve said far too many times, these people could fuck up a sunset.