My Impressions from the First Democratic Debates
There were 20 well-spoken and thoughtful candidates – any of whom would be a huge step forward from President Trump. The debates were thoughtful, informed and respectful – a far cry from the name-calling and school yard ridicule that characterized President Trump and his Republican challengers in 2016.
Harris, Warren, Buttigieg and Booker stood out for me. Harris is clear, tough, humorous, passionate and has real charm in her delivery and a capacity for joy and laughter that was missing in too many of her colleagues. I’m not sure that attacking Joe Biden on civil rights will look as good in retrospect as he has been a strong, long-standing defender and advocate for civil rights. Warren knows the profound issues facing the nation and articulates them brilliantly, but she also has an incredible back-story that she needs to weave into her narrative to counterbalance her distinguished Harvard Law professor demeanor. Buttigieg has impressive over-all command of the nation’s challenges and necessary solutions combined with preternatural equanimity and persuasiveness; I wish he were 10 years older with all the wisdom and experience that brings. To me, he is the most Obama-esque of the candidates. Booker was passionate, persuasive, balanced and made an important observation that stuck with me to the effect that we have over-criminalized far too many aspects of our society – examples such as mental illness, substance abuse, immigration, etc. – that are better dealt with through civil courts, treatment and simple humanity. He seemed to have a better sense of how to deal with the cantankerous McConnell’s of the Senate than any of the other candidates, but Biden.
Biden had wonderful war stories of all the triumphs that he participated in negotiating during the Obama Administration. However I heard no vision for the country’s future. Sanders still sounds to me like an angry Old Testament prophet; he seems quite stuck on his tone and message. Quite unlike Biden, it seems like the only Congresspersons he could work with are Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and her allies.
I liked the concise crisp answers of Tulsi Gabbard and the impassioned pleas of Tim Ryan for new Green Energy manufacturing jobs in the Nation’s old manufacturing communities in the Midwest. I was disappointed not to hear more from Amy Klobuchar, and I found the shouted interruptions from many of the candidates rude and disrespectful towards their colleagues and those of us trying to listen to the debate.
Unlike most everyone else, I thought Julian Castro was off the wall harping on an obscure section of the Immigration Code and his differences with Beto O’Rourke about whether or not it should be repealed. This was way too much inside baseball on a difference that may or may not be consequential when we should be addressing a broad vision on how to fix our nation’s immigration laws and enforcement. He is a compelling and well informed speaker who too often focused on small resonant details to the distraction from the big picture message.
The debate messages that stuck with me afterwards were: 1) universal coverage for every American, 2) redressing the growth in income inequality, stagnant middle class incomes and the imbalanced Trump tax cuts, 3) repairing our standing in the world with our allies, 4) climate change and the new economic opportunities in Green manufacturing to address it, and 5) a need to return to traditional American values of respect, civility and common humanity for each other. Missing for me were an understanding of, empathy for and solutions appropriate for the very real and severe economic challenges facing Americans living in rural areas and Appalachia not benefiting from the nation’s prosperity, for the Main St. small businesses like hardware and sporting goods stores and others disappearing daily from our streets, victims of e-commerce and of large corporate conglomerates.
I would hope that the next round of debates allows time for the candidates to introduce themselves and an opportunity for more civil and thoughtful back and forth with each other (or the moderators), rather than the far too truncated 10 seconds or 30 seconds to respond during this debate.
Prepared by: Lucien Wulsin