Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris at the Democratic presidential candidates’ debate in Detroit, Mich., July 31, 2019. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)Rarely has America seen a more unhinged group of candidates.
Half of the Democratic 20-person primary field in the debates appeared unhappy, shrill, and self-righteous, and determined that no candidate should out-left any other.
So far, they certainly sound clueless about how they sound to those in western Pennsylvania or southern Michigan.
Their timidity also only accentuated rampant hypocrisy. It manifested itself a number of ways, from fear of defending their own past records to cowardice in calling out the rank socialist absurdities of the demagogues on stage.
Does any candidate believe in one’s prior convictions?
In debate one, Joe Biden could have barked back at the attack-dog Kamala Harris that federally mandated school busing was always a bad and unpopular idea. He could have asked her whether the young Harris was aware of the chaos of the 1970s that surrounded forced busing, the dislocations that caused more problems than any problem that busing solved. He might have mentioned that forced busing would find zero support today.
Could not Harris have tried at least in some small way to defend her own work as a prosecutor and, in broken-windows fashion, argued that she had put tried to tamp down on rampant drug use and associated criminality that we now see as endemic on the streets of San Francisco and integral to the decline in the quality of life? How in the world did crime dive in the 21st century if not for strict law enforcement, incarceration, and a new insistence that what had been seen as minor lawbreaking instead created the landscape for greater and more pernicious crime? Why Harris didn’t say that San Francisco today is a less civilized place than when she was a city prosecutor?
Could someone have apprised Spartacus Booker that the Russians did not hand the election to Donald Trump by preventing African Americans from voting in Michigan in 2016 — a yarn that ranks with his “T-Bone” fantasies? When Booker whined that the erstwhile policies of a Senator Joe Biden had helped to ruin his “community,” which community was he referring to? The hometown where he grew up as the child of two IBM executives — tony Harrington Park, N.J., which is less than 1 percent black and one of the most affluent bedroom and commuter communities outside Manhattan?
Joe Biden talked again about Iraq, and again almost everything he said was untrue — and unquestioned by his rivals. Biden wholeheartedly supported the war and voted for it. He bailed only when the polls went south and the violence increased — and he wanted to run for president. He opposed the successful Bush surge yet, thanks to the surge, entered office as vice president with a calm Iraq. So calm was it that Biden himself bragged of our ongoing peacekeeping deployment and claimed ownership: “I am very optimistic about — about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration. You’re going to see 90,000 American troops come marching home by the end of the summer. You’re going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government.” When Obama, bolstering his reelection talking points, pulled out every American peacekeeper, Iraq collapsed, the “jayvee” ISIS was born, Biden went mute and then doubled down as a counterfeit anti-war zealot. And as far as white privilege is concerned, no politician can match Biden’s racialist banter: Ask Barack Obama or the doughnut-shop owners of Delaware.
Could one candidate, other than Joe Biden, have faced down Julian Castro’s open-borders demagoguery? After all, where in the world is there a nation that allows foreign nationals to cross its border illegally and whenever they please? Could someone have asked Castro what exactly would happen should he or any other American citizen enter the United States without a passport, or adopt a false Social Security number? Is everyone who seeks to crash the U.S. southern border inherently a noble person, or at least more noble than an Indian Ph.D. or a Korean M.D., waiting legally and patiently to enter the U.S. after years of paperwork and fees?
Could not one would-be president have a Sister Souljah or a Reaganesque “I am paying for this microphone!” moment? Candidates would have won support if they’d told the adolescent Kirsten Gillibrand what would probably happen to her if she went into a saloon in Indianapolis or a restaurant in Dayton to lecture “suburban women” about their own white privilege. Since when does an affluent Dartmouth graduate and attorney oozing with inherited and acquired privilege talk down to other women without it?
When Andrew Yang pontificated that it was time to head for “higher ground,” could someone have asked Yang whether he would sponsor a program for the middle classes to buy discounted coastal property from the elite, who are now wisely heading toward Fresno and Appalachia?
Does Yang advise his friends to sell their homes in Martha’s Vineyard and the Hamptons? Does he live on high ground? And could anyone have asked the sanctimonious Jay Inslee whether he wished to travel to West Virginia to inform coal miners, in person, à la Hillary Clinton in 2016, that their jobs would be eliminated as soon as possible after his election?
These candidates bashed corporations and white privilege, and yet in their personal lives, they embody the abstractions they trash. From the elite interrogators on the CNN panel to the $100,000-honorarium-earning old Joe Biden, the three-home Bernie Sanders, the house-flipping Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker, the privileged son of two IBM corporate grandees, the well-to-do demonized the well-to-do in a tiresome display of moral virtue. These would-be socialists sounded like apparatchiks of the late Soviet Union talking about “comrades” while relaxing in their Crimean dachas.
Do we really believe — for all the populist pushback against the vast “inequality” sired by the corporate elite — that Tom Steyer, George Soros, and Pierre Omidyar, the great donors of the neo-socialists, are not corporate grandees, and that they did not transgress the ethical guidelines as established by the new Puritans on stage?
Steyer made a great deal of money throughout Asia, trafficking in huge coal mines and plants. (Should he give a few hundred million back to the severely polluted communities of Indonesia as reparations?) Soros cannot travel to France, out of fear that as a felon convicted for insider trading he might be arrested.
Will we see some sort of progressive pledge not to accept money from global corporatists who have either violated laws or profited from fossil fuels? But to imagine such consistency from our new green magnates would mean that Al Gore would never have sold his failed cable network to the anti-Semitic Al-Jazeera, funded by polluting petrodollars.
Instead, the problem is that most leftward on the stage are often not just among our most privileged; they are also the most eager to skirt rules to obtain such privilege.
Remember the ethnic fraud of the careerist Harvard-aspiring Elizabeth Warren. Or note the nature of Mrs. Sanders’s plush retirement package after essentially leading the college that she led into a disastrous land deal and insolvency. Or fathom how Kamala Harris jump-started her political career as the consort of the married and compromised insider pol Willie Brown, the epitome of realist back-scratching she now seems to so vehemently oppose. Examine the Biden family’s lucrative overseas influence-peddling.
After listening to these debates, we can deduce a number of truths so far. Hard-left rhetoric has little to do with how candidates live their lives, which for the most part are bourgeois and suburban to the core. The most vocal are about as poor as were Robespierre or Lenin. Democrats attack wealthy people in the abstract and occasionally “the Koch brothers” but otherwise stay silent about particular wealthy persons in the concrete. Apparently, they accept that the big money in the United Sates in general and in particular of the political donating class — a Bezos Bloomberg, Buffett, Gates, Jobs, Omidyar, Soros, Steyer, or Zuckerberg — is liberal or hard-left and quite useful.
Despite the debate boilerplate about “white privilege,” race seems to have little to do with class on stage. Cory Booker was raised in affluence. Kamala Harris’s parents were far better educated than those she routinely scorns as enjoying privilege. The Andover graduate Andrew Yang is a likely multimillionaire. Julian Castro grew up in a woke, solidly middle-class family. For all the talk of an uncaring, mean-spirited country, Booker, Castro and Harris probably benefited far more from affirmative-action programs than they suffered from the supposed systemic white privilege that they decry from the stage. Cannot one Democrat ask for a pause in racial stereotyping? Most whites lack the privilege of a Booker, Castro, Harris, and Yang, and to lump them into some amorphous blessed class is about as moral and accurate as the old pejorative stereotyping of the non-white.
To serially charge that Trump is more coarse, crude, and cruel than any past high official (rather than attributing his behavior in part to a historically hostile media, the new arena of the Internet and social media, and that fact that he was hounded for 22 months by a special counsel for what was largely a Clinton-purchased hoax) requires sober and judicious critics to contrast Trump’s recklessness with their own professionalism. Lying and spinning yarns does not show Trump up as a rank exaggerator.
So far, rarely has America seen a more animated and, yes, crass group of candidates. “Liar,” “racist,” and “traitor” were voiced often and without detail. The number of Democratic high officials who have threatened or dreamed of beating up Donald Trump or physically assaulting him grows each week. Joe Biden bragged twice about beating up the president. Cory Booker did too, who claimed his testosterone might get the better of him. So how odd that Biden, Booker, and Harris (who once joked about wishing Trump would die in an elevator) are now lecturing us that strong language can influence the unhinged to pick up a gun and kill the innocent.
More recently, Senator Tester (D., Mont.) boasted that one needed to hit the president in the mouth to stop him. At about the same time, Jeff Daniels and Tom Arnold variously tweeted or talked of hitting Trump or enjoying the recent pounding of Rand Paul. It used to be that elected officials did not emulate has-been celebrities. Kirsten Hildebrand, nursed on politics by the less than saintly Bill Clinton, claimed she would have to sanitize the Trump office (“Clorox the Oval Office”), apparently to rid it of his germs and offal.
If Trump is deemed crazy, then his critics are utterly unhinged, given their calls for hundreds of billions in immediate reparations for slavery, which ended nearly 160 years ago at the cost of some 700,000 lives, or the call to abandon the coast immediately for high ground, or to shut down the natural-gas industry, or to de facto green-light partial-birth abortions, or to “tax the hell out of the rich” — this coming from the New York mayor who was willing to delay air passengers at La Guardia to get to his guest spot on The View on time.
Meanwhile, the middle-age, moderate deer-in-the-headlights guys like Bennet, Delany, Hickenlooper, Ryan, and Bullock don’t seem to get it that the more moderate they sound on matters of finance and public policy, the more they are hated as whimpering Girondists on their way to the Jacobin guillotine.
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