I watched about half of the Democratic debate last night after going out Christmas shopping. I managed to tune in right as the stage of (mostly white) multi-millionaires devolved into bitter chaos over accusations of who was taking money from other (mostly white) multi-millionaires and billionaires. They were so caught up in their gotcha game that the irony didn’t occur to a single one of them.
Now the pseudo-socialist governor of California, who is himself wealthy enough to own several vineyards, is trying to repair the damage done to [looks at notes] “wine caves.” Though, honestly, a political sell-out hosting Napa fundraisers is far less of a threat to the wine industry than California’s utility regulator.
Buttigieg has moved into the gadfly role on the stage previously occupied by Tulsi: He has approximately zero chance of becoming president, like, ever, but he’s going to nuke the campaigns of more popular candidates with inconvenient facts. Watching Elizabeth Warren after the debate – after Buttigieg quite effectively pointed out her hypocrisy when it comes to hosting high-dollar fundraisers and accepting money from lobbyists and corporate interests – she looked like someone who fully understood her run for the White House is over.
It’s really not difficult to see the weakness of each and every one of these candidates going into a general election: They talk about spending enormous amounts of money and have absolutely no idea where that money is going to come from. When the moderators ask what their plan for dealing with [insert problem here] is, every candidate says, oh, well, we obviously need to spend an epic amount of money on that.
Or, we need to take that policy responsibility away from the states and make it a federal responsibility, so the federal government can regulate the heck out of it and then spend a ton of money on it. That fixes everything, you know. People thought health care was unaffordable at $1,000 a month, but thanks to Obamacare, you can now buy it for $2,300 a month! And we helped you out by making sure you have high deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums that will bankrupt a normal household, and any quality medical practice won’t accept it! Your pre-existing condition is “covered,” but you have to go see a doctor in a van down by the river. We must build on the fantastic successes of this program! Wait until you see what we can do with the cost of education!
In reality, most of these proposals are never going to happen. It probably does not occur to Democratic voters that the federal government is responsible for precious little spending on infrastructure or education, and that substantially all of this responsibility falls on the states because the states WANT those responsibilities. When folks like Warren say they are going to seize control of education from the states, it probably does not occur to Democratic voters that not a single state would allow that to happen without a Supreme Court challenge, even the blue states. It’s a ludicrous policy suggestion on its face.
All of their “solutions” to problems (spend, spend, spend) sound great to a fawning audience of core Democratic voters to whom the idea that the federal government might have limited financial resources and limited legal authority under the Constitution is an irrelevant concern.
Once they get to the general election, however, these people with their “we’re going to tax you until you are financially comfortable” policy ideas are going to seem absolutely insane. At one point in the debate, someone asked Joe Biden if he would be willing to sacrifice thousands of blue collar jobs in the pursuit of making the United States a “greener” economy. He quickly answered yes. Trump doesn’t even need to run ads attacking these people. He can simply run videos of them talking. Having progressive moderators asking about their fantasy governments is not doing the party any favors. All they are doing is creating opposition research super-cuts. And all of these people – the candidates, the media, their loyal base – are so far down this road that you can’t stop them from continuing down it to see where exactly it goes.
Overall, I was struck by the powerful difference in messaging among people on the debate stage versus a passionate capitalist like Trump. Trump’s main message is and always has been “I have been very prosperous in life. I will build an economy that will make you and your family prosperous too.” Whether you love him, hate him, or like him but wish someone would take his phone away from him, he’s presiding over the most robust economy in the history of the United States right now. Blue collar workers are seeing the first real wage increases in decades. He said he would make the country more prosperous and he has.
It’s like the Democratic candidates decided they aren’t going to beat Trump in talking about economic prosperity, so they are going to attack the idea of prosperity itself. You have a stage full of wealthy people, and a guy whose first job was as a groveling consultant to wealthy people, on stage talking non-stop about the corrupting influence of money and how people who make money do not deserve to keep it. Every single one of them is ridiculous.
It’s like it never occurs to them that maybe when people complain about their wages, it’s not because they want a higher government-mandated minimum wage, but they want a bona fide path to prosperity themselves. They want a country where people do not talk about working in a trade with contempt. They don’t want radically socialized medicine and education, but a country where the expenses for these things go back to normal.
The thing that is missing in every word they speak is dignity. Their solution to everything is “I am going take money from someone else to give it to you.” You want to make more money? I am going to force someone to give it to you. You want better insurance? I am going to force someone else to pay for it for you. Most Americans aren’t so filled with economic resentment and Schadenfreude (a term that pretty much defines the Democratic Party and media right now) that this sounds appealing to them. They want to succeed in their own right, not pull others down to their level in the name of “equality.” This is the single trait that has distinguished our country for centuries now.
A bigger and bigger welfare system is not the American Dream, and it’s not a mystery why listening to a bunch of rich people talking about all the handouts they are going to give people so their life will finally be worth living comes across as , well, asshole-ish. You’ve got a bunch of people with the highest level of financial security trying to win over the votes of millennials by talking the way they think millennials like to talk.
You’ve got the people who have been responsible for driving up the costs of everything – representative of a political class that have deprived younger generations of genuine paths to prosperity – talking about how they are going to save the world by driving up social costs even more. These are the people who built the higher education tuition bubble. These are the people responsible for legislation that ballooned health care premiums. All they do is nuke prosperity and then tell you how wealth makes people evil.
It’s really not a good look at all.
You look at the people who have been in Washington DC across decades, through the financial crisis and two nasty recessions, architects of so much unnecessary misery who want to cling to power literally until they are in their 80s, and it’s hard not to think, “oh my God, just go away already.” These are their front-runners. Good times.