Thursday, August 01, 2019


I should be ready this morning with trenchant observations about last night's debate, but I thought everyone, even Michael Bennet and Tulsi Gabbard, had some good moments, and no one faceplanted. I think the entire exercise was a wash. Instead, I'd prefer to beat up on Bret Stephens for a few minutes.

Stephens has written a debate post-mortem titled "Democrats Are Not Up To Their Historic Responsibility." It does not begin auspiciously.
To adapt a line from Huey Lewis, I want a new party — one that won’t make me sick.
Thank you, Patrick Bateman.

Stephens continues:
I have written so often (and so recently) about the ways Donald Trump’s G.O.P. makes me sick that I won’t repeat myself here. It’s enough to say that when the president calls for four elected members of Congress to “go back” to their supposed countries of origin and neither the Senate majority leader nor the House minority leader can bring themselves to condemn it, you know you are dealing with a party that lacks brain, heart, spine, and vital parts further south.
So you're pledging to vote for whoever wins the Democratic presidential nomination, knowing that no Democrat could possibly damage the country a tenth as much as Trump and the congressional GOP are damaging it now?

No, of course not:
Then I come to the Democrats.

I liked some of what I heard this week from the Democratic debates. I liked hearing a candidate call attention to the fact that if we simply withdraw our forces from Afghanistan, we will invite a humanitarian catastrophe “that will startle and frighten every man, woman and child in this country.” I liked hearing another candidate acknowledge that the only realistic way to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is to “innovate our way out of this problem.” I liked the candidate who scolded Trump for meeting with Kim Jong-un and giving the dictator “a huge win.”

The only problem: The three candidates I just mentioned — Colorado’s John Hickenlooper, Maryland’s John Delaney and Ohio’s Tim Ryan — are polling at 2.0 percent, collectively. Their chances of winning the Democratic nomination are about as great as mine are of becoming executive director of Greenpeace.
This is ridiculous. I'll ignore what Stephens says about Afghanistan, which is essentially a call for permanent occupation. On the need to “innovate our way out of [the] problem” of carbon emissions, every Democrat in the race would agree. And they'd all agree that those meetings with Trump were “a huge win” for Kim.
... Democrats did well in last year’s midterms thanks to vote switchers electing moderate candidates like Utah’s Ben McAdams. They did considerably less well with turnout campaigns that failed to elect progressives like Florida’s Andrew Gillum.
Gillum lost by four tenths of a percentage point. McAdams won by two tenths of a percentage point. The difference between these outcomes was infinitesimal.
... experienced Republican hands never imagined in the summer of 2015 that someone as extreme as Donald Trump could win the G.O.P. nomination, much less the election, by mobilizing hidden G.O.P. voters. And here we are. The only solid electoral lesson from 2016 is that nobody knows nuttin’ about nuttin’.

So it’s hardly out of the question that Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris could beat Trump. The problem is that too many of them advocate terrible policies, ruinous schemes, discredited notions and crackpot ideas.
In other words: Nobody knows nuttin', but I know that a progressive Democrat would probably lose.

There's handwringing about Medicare for All decriminalization of unauthorized border crossing (which, as several candidates pointed out, does not mean legalization), and court-packing. Then:
... I do not admire anyone embracing the bad idea of free college. The surest way to strip nearly anything of its value is to make it free.
What's Facebook's net worth again?
I do not admire the Democrats relentless demonization of American corporations, which as of 2017 employ a plurality of the U.S. work force. When Warren accuses U.S. multinationals of having “no patriotism” and “no loyalty to America,” does it not occur to her that she’s taking a cheap shot at millions of potential Democratic voters, who might not enjoy hearing that they, too, are deplorable?
According to Gallup, 60% of Americans are dissatisfied with the size and influence of major corporations, and only 37% are satisfied. Only 25% of Americans have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in big business. Warren's words reflect what a lot of ordinary Americans (correctly) believe.
... All of this is worse than farcical. It’s tragic. It will make the Trump campaign’s job of selling the president as the non-insane option in next year’s election shamefully easy.
Pete Buttigieg was right: Trump will say the Democratic ticket is "socialist" (and "insane") even if that ticket is Biden/Delaney.
... I realize some readers will discount this column as unwanted advice from a non-Democrat. But I want Trump to lose next year as much as anyone. The party on view in Detroit was not close to being up to its historic responsibility of defeating him and governing responsibly in his place.
Either you think Trump is an existential threat to America or you don't. If you do, you'll vote for the one person who can defeat in 2020, no matter what: his Democratic opponent. If you have any hesitation, you're a Trump enabler, no matter how much you tell us you loathe him.

But we know you're going to write in Colin Powell next year, Bret, so just admit it -- to us and to yourself -- now.

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