Justin Ackerman: We’re trying something new tonight and providing a live blog for the Democratic Debate.
Justin Ackerman 5:07: Bernie Sanders is well poised to take the nomination. He’s got a good opportunity to make his case tonight. Starting with questions about socialism is actually good terrain in my opinion. The word energizes his supporters and is increasingly means less and less in American politics. Obama was after all a communist Muslim according to the right wing media machine. So Bernie Sanders democratic socialist views or social democratic views are hardly an impediment.
Justin Ackerman 5:11 PM: Andrew Yang’s “human centered version of capitalism” is something we’ve discussed before on the podcast. There is one perspective out there that a UBI is simply a stop measure gap that actually helps capitalism and the status quo stand strong. Andrew Yang seems to embrace that sort of view. Which goes hand and hand with his Friedman version of the UBI that he pushes, I.E. a UBI that replaces welfare spending. Those are just some problems with Andrew Yang, and if we need a UBI we need it on top of a robust welfare state.
Justin Ackerman 5:14 PM: Pete Buttigieg asked about his earlier defense of socialism. He didn’t take the opportunity to take a shot at Bernie, but instead eschews “labels”. It’s a reminder that there was a more radical version of Mayor Pete earlier in the campaign. A Mayor Pete that wouldn’t go directly after Bernie Sanders for practicing politics that “beats people over the head if we don’t agree 100% of the time.” Mayor Pete is clearly going for Bernie. And I don’t think it’s going to work for Bernie Sanders, he already turned it on Pete and tied it to his support from “the billionaire class.”
Justin Ackerman 5:22 PM: Medicare for All is always good ground for Bernie Sanders. Even when they hit him for costs. His line has consistently been Medicare for All will save people money overall and it will. Taxes will go up but the cost overall will go down. Bernie Sanders needs to drill down on the fact that overall healthcare costs on a per capita basis will go down. Additionally he needs to hammer home that over 10 years healthcare expenditure as a whole will go down by trillions of dollars. That’s something he rarely talks about but it’s important because it’s the best counter to the spooky spooky Medicare for All is going to cost too much talk.
Justin Ackerman 5:22 PM: Amy Klobuchar is jumping on the pile now. Back again to tell us we can’t have anything nice. That’s not what people want to hear, especially when Medicare for All is an incredibly popular policy plank.
Justin Ackerman 5:25 PM: Respect where it’s due. Amy Klobuchar is unabashedly goofy at every opportunity. It’s probably the most endearing thing about her. Made less endearing by the fact that she allegedly throws staplers at people, but the #MidwesternMom brand has its endearing qualities. Especially when she’s going after Mayor Pete for claiming he’s not a Washington insider. Which is laughable considering he’s a product of every elite American institution from Harvard to McKinsey. Keep going after him Amy and everyone else.
Justin Ackerman 5:32 PM: I’m not really sure what Tom Steyer’s strategy is. Sometimes he seems to be going for a Washington outsider campaign in the same generic way Mayor Pete is. Other times he seems to be going to the right of the crowd and calls for term limits and other things. Leveling a broad side on Mayor Pete for being inexperienced is always welcome though.
Justin Ackerman 5:35 PM: Andrew Yang’s “Donald Trump is a disease not the cause of all our problems” line is really compelling to a lot of people in my opinion. Obviously there is a huge contingent of the Democratic Party who doesn’t really care and just wants to defeat Donald Trump, but Donald Trump won by speaking to real material precarity millions of people experienced. He touted himself as a new kind of Republican and a new kind of politician who can solve those problems. Wedding economic populism with nativism worked really effectively, I think more so because of the economic populism than the nativism. Even if that’s ended up hollowed out and favors billionaires just as much as Republican orthodoxy.
Justin Ackerman 5:37 PM: Elizabeth Warren would be a whole lot cooler if she wanted to cancel all student loan debt and not just for “43 million Americans.”
Justin Ackerman 5:40 PM: Impeachment never mattered, quit talking about it. Andrew Yang is 100% right about this. Average voters don’t care about it. You can’t remove Donald Trump so it’s ultimately pointless. Bashing Senate Republicans is easy low hanging fruit, so even Bernie Sanders has to go there, but it’s definitely a political issue who’s time has passed.
Justin Ackerman 5:45 PM: Bernie Sanders is a master legislator. He was the amendment king and has always been good at forging bipartisan compromise to pass his bills. Would it work on Medicare for All? Probably not. But it has historically worked on issues like the war in Yemen where he came together with Mike Lee to make significant foreign policy progress. Plus outside the realm of congress Bernie Sanders would have a lot of executive authority he would probably wield incredibly effectively.
Justin Ackerman 5:45 PM: Foreign policy is one of Bernie’s strong suits this time around. Thanks in large part to the previously mentioned work he did with people like Mike Lee to boost his foreign policy cred. Which really stands out compared to the rest of the field that is basically the same Democratic establishment foreign policy. AKA fairly unmitigated support for American empire. There is a reason Bernie Sanders is the only senator on stage who voted against Trump’s military budgets. He’s the only candidate who spoke out against the coup in Bolivia. He’s the only candidate who called to free Lula. Bernie Sanders is the non-intervention candidate. He’s the closest thing to the anti-empire candidate. And the rest will be as disappointing as Barack Obama.
Justin Ackerman 5:54 PM: I’m really interested to see how Bernie’s foreign policy would unfold if elected president. Obviously he’s taken a hard position of cutting spending and reducing American military presence. That’s a must to pass any domestic agenda and that’s Bernie’s bread and butter. Frankly, just given his record in the senate, he’s the only candidate I would trust to actually cut military spending at all. Everyone else would simply implicitly sign on to the slow increase of the budget by billions of dollars each year.
Justin Ackerman 5:58 PM: Joe Biden is directly speaking to the dynamic I was talking to. In his opinion nobody should support pulling all the troops out of the Middle East. Which inherently requires military budgets to increase without some significant decrease in military presence. Frankly “we shouldn’t remove all troops” is probably not nearly enough force to overcome the institutional inertia that the military has in regards to the budget. Military spending going up is the status quo and Joe Biden clearly supports the status quo.
Justin Ackerman 6:01 PM: I really can’t imagine Mayor Pete doing very well against Donald Trump. The polling seems to show that Mayor Pete would do worse than basically everybody else against Trump. And maybe I’m just salty after the debate but his sort of lofty platitude style of speaking and his vague nonsense wouldn’t stand up to Trump’s onslaught.
Justin Ackerman 6:04 PM: Tom Steyer going after Joe Biden for supporting increased military presence. Love to see it. Even if Tom Steyer’s entire candidacy is a joke and speaks to the corrosive effect of billionaires on our candidates.
Justin Ackerman 6:06 PM: The war in Iraq is another one of those issues that Bernie Sanders consistently walks away looking better than his opponents on. He has anti-intervention credibility nobody else has. I don’t think it’s the issue it was in 2008, but it definitely is still an incredibly unpopular position that can be hung around someone like Joe Biden’s neck. By Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, and obviously Donald Trump in the general.
Justin Ackerman 6:07 PM: Articulating climate change as a foreign policy issue is key. We need a “Green Marshall Plan” and a level of international cooperation we’ve not seen since World War II. It’s the only way to have a shot at reducing the impact of climate change.
Justin Ackerman 6:14 PM: The fact that Mayor Pete calls for the decriminalization of all drugs on his website is actually kind of surprising. Compare that to Joe Biden who opposes marijuana legalization, there’s a meaningful gap there. I don’t like Mayor Pete but he says the right things when it comes to addiction and those issues. That said, Medicare for All is the ultimate addiction fighting policy and he obviously comes up way short in that regard.
Justin Ackerman 6:17 PM: I can see why so many people like Andrew Yang. When it comes to niche issues like addiction policy, it’s pretty clear he has a technocratic vision to solve those issues. It makes his approach to the UBI even more frustrating. There’s no reason to build a Friedman UBI (that replaces current welfare spending) and call it something that Martin Luther King Jr. would have supported. It might seem like a silly critique but it’s one I just can’t get over when it comes to Andrew Yang.
Justin Ackerman 6:19 PM: Bernie Sanders stance on gun policy really does speak to his rural roots in Vermont. Gun culture is huge in the United States, for better or worse. And he’s since made up for it by emphatically calling for an assault weapons ban and other like policies. Actually he’s been fighting for that since 1988. That’s not even to mention his D- record from the NRA, as he’ll tout whenever given the chance. There doesn’t seem to be a big difference between the Democrats on gun policy. Nobody is enthusiastic as Beto, but they would all probably get the same changes through the legislature.
Justin Ackerman 6:22 PM: Joe Biden basically putting the deaths of thousands of people to gun crime on Bernie. Absolutely bananas.
Justin Ackerman 6:33 PM: Mayor Pete used to emphatically call for packing the court. That’s another thing that was lost in his turn to the center. I think we need to understand that the court is a political institution. It’s already been shifted by our politics and that will never change. We’ve changed the number of judges in the past and I think the procedural moves made by McConnell to effectively steal two seats on the court, it’s totally justified. We should pack the court.
Justin Ackerman 6:36 PM: Going after Mayor Pete on the systemic racism of South Bend’s policing practices is long overdue. Hopefully he gets a similar question heading into South Carolina as well. Mayor Pete has very little experience to scrutinize but there are some glaring flaws in his time as mayor that need to be called out forcefully. The increase in black arrests under his leadership needs to be answered for. And Mayor Pete clearly can’t answer for it. His record on gentrification is similarly difficult to justify and deserves its own line of questioning.
Justin Ackerman 6:41 PM: Andrew Yang really sells his UBI as though it’s a solution to systemic inequality. And ties it to Martin Luther King Jr. which is exactly the sort of disingenuous move we’ve been criticizing for over a year now. Martin Luther King Jr. would see replacing current welfare spending with $1000 a month check as a laughable measure that wouldn’t go nearly far enough. We need to change the structures of society, of the economy, and redistribute wealth to those who have been historically disenfranchised. Unfortunately for Andrew Yang $1000 a month won’t be nearly enough.
Justin Ackerman 6:44 PM: Bernie Sanders has the most compelling criminal justice plan of all the candidates. Definitely give it a look.
Justin Ackerman 6:46 PM: “I got involved with the Civil Rights Movement.” Joe Biden keeps saying that on the campaign trail, but it’s simply not true. Bernie Sanders genuinely participated in the Civil Rights movement, but Joe Biden did not. If anything he tried to stop the progress made by activists pushing for Civil Rights. Most notably when he pushed to end busing that was effectively the only mechanism ensuring Brown v. Board was respected. Joe Biden did the hard work of reaching across the ideological spectrum to stand with segregationists and now he tries to alter history and claim he was a champion of civil rights.
Justin Ackerman 6:51 PM: The wealth tax is one of the most underrated policy proposals that has come in vogue this cycle. When we talk about actually restructuring the economy a wealth tax is one of the most important proposals to taht end. Even though Andrew Yang has attacked it as ineffective and easy to dodge, the disproportionate wealth of millionaires and billionaires needs to be remedied somehow. Directly taxing their fortunes is the most obvious way. The higher the tax the better, and Bernie’s wealth tax goes a lot further than Elizabeth Warren’s.
Justin Ackerman 6:56 PM: Elizabeth Warren insinuated that Bernie Sanders is benefitting from PACs which drops the distinction between PACs and Super PACs. PACs being far more regulated than Super PACs. I think this is somewhat an allusion to ‘Our Revolution’ Bernie Sanders grassroots group which has come under some scrutiny recently. However it’s significantly limited in scope and what actions it takes compared to some of the groups helping Biden and Buttigieg.
Justin Ackerman 6:59 PM: “I don’t have 40 billionaires, Pete, funding my campaign.”
Justin Ackerman 7:03 PM: Bernie Sanders was right to stand against the USMCA for lack of climate change protections. Last debate he was dismissed for claiming trade and climate change are the same thing, but they really are. And if we’re going to tackle climate change we need to make sure we have the closest thing to a green trade regime that we possibly can. Amy Klobuchar’s defenses of the policy aren’t totally out of line, but at some point there needs to be recognition that climate change is something we need to fight now, not later. You can’t pass trade agreements without climate protections in 2020. That’s ludicrous.
Justin Ackerman 7:08 PM: For those following along at home, Tom Steyer was the first candidate to speak out against American empire. Nothing to add, simply respect the gesture.
Justin Ackerman 7:20: There really should be a bigger push for universal childcare. That is one great thing that Elizabeth Warren has injected into the policy debate. To my knowledge Bernie Sanders didn’t have a proposal for that issue in 2016. In 2020 he’s pushing universal childcare. Given that people spend 10%+ of their income on childcare, that’s a huge need.
Justin Ackerman 7:30 PM: The debate is over. Overall I think Bernie Sanders had a good night. He stood his ground on Medicare for All and handled those attacks well. His foreign policy section was great. The rest was just Bernie being Bernie and very familiar to anyone who saw the other debates. Bernie played the hits. That said, I don’t think much changed with this debate either. The “spin room” seems to be giving the debate to Amy Klobuchar and the consensus is that Mayor Pete was attacked pretty effectively by Klobuchar and others. That seems fair to me and a night where Bernie was able to be Bernie and Mayor Pete took some big hits is a good night for Bernie.
Thanks to everyone who followed along tonight and this is the end of the first Millennial Review debate live blog.