Whenever a new Democrat debate comes along, I cringe. I nearly forgot about Thursday night’s debate because impeachment was dominating the news so much. But, I remembered just in time to sit and watch and pull what’s left of my hair out.
Though, let’s be honest, for a party that fancies itself to be a bastion of diversity, it was hard not to be amused at just how old and white the debate candidates Thursday night were. Andrew Yang was the only non-white candidate on stage. “It’s both an honor and disappointment to be the lone candidate of color on stage tonight. I miss Kamala, and I miss Cory, though I think Cory will be back,” Yang said. After playing lip service to the minority candidates who couldn’t be there, Yang had to boost his own minority credentials, probably because this was the first debate where he would be given time to speak. “I grew up the son of immigrants, and I had many racial epithets thrown against me.”
Yang’s theory for why he was the “lone candidate of color” on the stage? Money! “Fewer than five percent of Americans donate to political campaigns. You know what you need to donate to political campaigns? Disposable income.” Therefore, Yang’s Universal Basic Income plan would apparently help make the Democrats’ slate of candidates more diverse. “I guarantee, if we had a freedom dividend of $1,000 a month, I would not be the only candidate of color on stage tonight.” Okay, sure.
Yang, to his credit, said Democrats must “stop being obsessed over impeachment.” His policy ideas may be a bit wonky, but of all the Democrats on stage, he seems to be the most genuine.
Listening to Bernie Sanders explain why he’ll vote against the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was like watching a child explain they won’t eat their dinner because it’s not a bowl of ice cream “The word climate change, to the best of my knowledge, is not discussed in this new NAFTA agreement at all, which is an outrage,” he whined, just before acknowledging that the USMCA does indeed make improvements to NAFTA.
But crazy Bernie wasn’t done being crazy. As a Jewish man, he has some bizarre views on Israel that might jive in the Democratic Party, but just come across as anti-Semitic. Sanders acknowledged his Jewish heritage and Israel’s right to exist. “But what U.S. foreign policy must be about is not just being pro-Israel,” Sanders said. “We must be pro-Palestinian as well.”
I’ve been to Israel, too. You know what Palestinians do? They set off bombs in crowded public places. They use women and children as suicide bombers. They fire rockets into Israel, too. But, Bernie says we should be pro-Palestinian? Should be we pro-ISIS? Pro-al-Qaeda?
And then he called Benjamin Netanyahu a racist, because, well, everyone who isn’t a Democrat is a racist.
Joe Biden deserves some credit for not having his eye bleed during this debate, but otherwise, he was his usual pandering self, pretending to be the reasonable candidate while kowtowing to the radical left. When asked if he’d be willing to sacrifice economic growth and jobs in order to transition to a “greener economy,” Biden said, without hesitating, that yes, he would. If there’s anything the Trump years have shown it’s that we can have cleaner air and water without sacrificing economic growth and jobs, but Democrats would put people out of work if they thought some initiative might prevent half a degree difference in global temperatures over 200 years.
But, no candidate seems more obsessed with climate change than Bernie Sanders. Probably because he knows global climate change initiatives are just rebranded socialist policies. When given the opportunity to talk about the lack of diversity on the debate stage, Sanders chose to ignore the question and just start gabbing about climate change. “I wanted to get back to the issue of climate change for a moment because I do believe this is the existential issue,” he said.
PBS NewsHour’s Amna Nawaz was having none of that. “Senator, with all due respect, this question is about race. Can you answer the question as it was asked?” And the audience cheered.
But perhaps my favorite moment of the debate was the bizarre argument over “wine cave” fundraisers. Rich white woman Elizabeth Warren slammed Mayor Pete Buttigieg for having a “wine cave” fundraiser in Napa Valley in order to court big-dollar donors.
“Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States,” Warren said.
Buttigieg’s responded by pointing out that of all the candidates on the stage, he was the only one not a millionaire or a billionaire. “You know, according to Forbes magazine, I’m literally the only person on this stage who is not a millionaire or a billionaire,” Buttigieg said, then went on to address Warren specifically. “This is the problem with issuing purity tests you cannot yourself pass.” It was clear that Buttigieg had caught Warren by surprise with that remark, and her rebuttals simply didn’t have the gravitas that Buttigieg’s attacks did. Warren is a rich white woman trying to appeal to a party that generally believes wealth is evil, and that the people who have it should give their riches to those who don’t. Still, the sad thing about the moment was you had “adults” arguing about how they raise money, which is inconsequential to the American voters watching who want to know how candidates are going to solve problems that affect them.
But Buttigieg’s point is bigger than just fundraisers and wealth. The Democratic Party primary is becoming a purity test of sorts. Seriously, they can’t even go on stage without devoting time to how white the candidates are when Democrat primary voters and donors effectively chose them to be there. They may not have made the debate requirements, but they talked with their money and their support and chose the old and the white over the young and diverse. And when they’re not obsessing over diversity, they obsess over who hates Donald Trump the most. When you look past the talking points and rhetoric, that’s really all that’s left of the Democratic Party.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis