My unsolicited thoughts on the third Democratic Debate

I decided after the 2016 election I would never watch a debate on a work night. I get so worked up, my blood boils, then I’m up way too late either researching candidate’s claims or simply thinking about how annoying and unfair the moderators were. This time around I not only have to deal with these issues, I had to deal with way too many candidates who don’t stand a chance, wasting my time. I said no debate until half these people are gone. On Thursday, September 12th, the DNC hosted their 3rd debate. As much as I wanted to tune in, I knew better and saved it for listening at work. I’m glad I waited.

Julian Castro started off with what I thought was going to be a lame statement about how Democrats were going to get elected and change the world. He actually did offer something of substance that I agree with; “Our problems didn’t start with Donald Trump and we won’t solve them by embracing old ideas.” This is something Democratic voters need to keep mind, which I fear they are not. We cannot simply rely on Democrats to fix the problems in this country. We need to elect candidates who are actually going to implement these important changes, not just offer lip service then turn around and come up with any excuse to stick to the status quo. This was a good start.

Amy Klobuchar spoke second and so I’m just going to get this out of the way now and be done with her. How did she make it to this next round and how long before she drops out? The only person I’ve witnessed speak positively of her is Ann Coulter. That should tell you something and that’s really all I have to say about Klobuchar.

Healthcare

Joe Biden praised the Affordable Care Act then criticized Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for not having a substantial plan for how they would pay for Medicare For All. He brought up adding a public option which I would argue is not good enough. When you have a public option in conjunction with private insurance in a capitalist nation, how invested do you think the government would be in making sure the public option isn’t a complete disaster. I don’t believe that could ever work. I do believe we need one or the other and currently one is not working.

Buttigieg stated Sander’s Medicare For All bill doesn’t trust the American people. He says he trusts people to make “the best choice that works best for you” then went on to also suggest a public option and that “my way or the highway” was not realistic. The choices Americans have been given are not sustainable and causing more harm than good. The average American is paying around $500 a month for healthcare through the ACA — triple that for family plans — with a deductible of around $15,000. That’s insane. This has nothing to do with trust. This is about doing what is right and has worked for other nations. Buttigieg, who back in 2000 won an award for an essay he wrote praising Sanders, went on to state he trusts the American people, why doesn’t Sen Sanders; a bit presumptuous if you ask me.

Kamala Harris began by also praising Barack Obama and the ACA for “bringing us this far”. She then stated that 30 million Americans are still without health care. So, I’m a little confused about what is so praise-worthy of the ACA and why do we keep acting like it was this great thing to happen to Americans, save for that fact that my birth control was free. That was a plus and important. As someone who at one time needed to help my husband figure out insurance through the ACA, I can tell you it is a mess. She did give Sanders credit for bringing Medicare For All this far which I do feel is important to acknowledge regardless of how you currently feel about it.

Harris brings up the public option again and I just don’t understand how so many people would take a private option they pay astronomical prices for, over a public option. Unless of course the government finds a way to screw it up, which I do not doubt would happen.

O’Rourke stated on his plan, everyone who cannot afford the public option would automatically be enrolled in Medicare, however he failed to disclose what would determine who qualifies for this. Would it be Americans living below the poverty line? There are Americans living above the poverty line that still struggle to afford their healthcare.

Castro accused Biden’s plan of requiring recipients to opt in to Medicare then said on his plan you would automatically be enrolled. Biden fought back by stated he never said that. Biden did say that but I do think he simply did a sloppy job of explaining his plan, leaving an opening for Castro to attack it. If I’m not mistaken, Biden’s plan would automatically enroll those who make a certain amount below the poverty level although it would have to be significantly below the federal poverty level.

Buttigieg tried to score points by accusing Castro of trying to score points for arguing with Biden over what he did in fact say about his healthcare plan. Buttigieg literally did the same thing to Bernie Sanders when it was his turn to speak so this was annoying. Not only did he cutoff Yang who was given the floor, he also demonstrated a bit of hypocrisy.

Andrew Yang was the only candidate not supporting Medicare For All who actually said anything about the insurance companies being the problem. He didn’t offer too much of a plan but he did bring up the bureaucracy doctor’s need to deal with that I know is a major problem with our current healthcare crisis. I also was not aware that the Cleveland Clinic operated the way it does by getting paid for outcomes and not how many procedures they prescribe.

I would have appreciated a more in depth response calling out insurance companies for being what they are — scam artists — but I understand time allotted was not long enough for him to do so. The fact he brought up the problem with insurance companies is notable, however, and he is right.

Booker offered literally nothing. He’s in favor of Medicare For All but then said people need a solution now and Medicare For All would need time to be implemented. He also said this is our opportunity to make Trump a one-term president and that we can’t do that by continuing to speak to each other the way we do. Perhaps he was referring to the candidates but I think that can be applied to Democrats as a whole. I couldn’t agree more with that.

Booker closed by stating he would do all he could to ensure universal healthcare but that he would also work with his colleagues to make sure some form of progress would be made. So no real plan was brought forth by Booker; he just offered a bit of a kumbaya moment. This raises a red flag for me because I always felt Booker would be more of a “go with the flow” candidate as opposed to one pushing for legitimate change.

Overall, there was nothing too impressive with this portion of the debate. I didn’t feel anyone’s responses were very convincing. If Sanders and Warren want to sell the American people on Medicare For All, they will have to do a better job explaining how it will be paid for since that is the number one reason people don’t back it. Part of me feels they know one way to pay for it would be through cutting military spending but are taking caution in suggesting that. Realistically we are spending way too much on the military but you would have to deal with Americans complaining it would take jobs away from the troops or that it would make us less safe; two reasons I do not find compelling enough.

Racism

O’Rourke has shown in the past he understands the issue of systemic racism in this country and so I was not surprised with his response to how he would approach the issue. He understands and is not afraid to discuss the fact that slaves built this nation and their decedents have yet to benefit from that forced, horrific reality. He also brought up the racial inequality in education, healthcare, and income. The issue of racism is definitely O’ Rourke’s strong-suit. He at least sounds convincing, anyway.

What was most surprising and set him apart from any other candidate was his confident promise to sign into law a reparations bill. That is incredibly bold and would surely be met with much opposition, but it is something that should have been done decades ago. I could not find anything

Castro said he would put forth a police reform plan, something that absolutely needs to be addressed. I will be reading up on this plan next.

I appreciate Booker addressing the issue of calling someone a racist but failing to do anything about racism. He is right when he says, “We know Donald Trump is a racist but there is no red badge of courage for calling him that.” This is absolutely correct. I agree with his plan of establishing an office to target white supremacy, hate crimes, and correcting the plague that is and has been systemic racism. This is something that is long overdue and I do believe would be beneficial to this country.

Booker was the first to bring up the criminal justice system and also environmental racism within communities of color. The concern over environmental racism would be far more believable if he could provide a convincing plan to tackle the climate crisis.

When asked if his comment suggesting voting to reelect Trump is at best looking the other way on racism, Buttigieg says he was referring to the president’s conduct. He then explained that racism did not begin with Trump which seems to be something forgotten or ignored by liberals.

Buttigieg exhibited a legitimate understanding of systemic racism and shared his Douglass Plan for combating this issue. It is very refreshing not only hear candidates talking about the issue of systemic racism, but also offering real solutions to the problem.

Criminal Justice Reform

Kamala Harris has received much criticism from progressives privy to her record as DA and this did not go ignored by moderator Lindsey Davis who pointed out her contradictory criminal justice plan. Harris defended her past role by explaining she helped individuals find jobs instead of putting them in prison yet fought to keep people in prison even after they were found innocent. She helped implement training programs to address police officer’s racial bias but also refused to have to certain police shootings investigated. Those are just a couple of examples.

In Harris’ defense, not only is she a woman who grew up as someone forced into a racially biased system, her parents were also civil rights activists. Harris is no stranger to the challenges facing the black community. She also began her career at a time when the “tough on crime” approach was in full swing. It does seem as though she attempted to do the right thing but faced the pressure of a system stacked against her.

I can give Harris the benefit of the doubt on this topic although it is a very important topic that needs to be taken seriously. She did say the tides have changed and this is true. We are much more aware of the need to address systemic racism head on thanks to the diligent hard work of so many brave Americans willing to speak out about it. Because of them, the pressure is on and candidates are responding. I just need to know these candidates are not blowing smoke up our tushes for political points and I really hope Kamala means what she says about adapting with the changing tides.

Biden was confronted about his plan to release a number of non-violent drug offenders from prison but that according to Booker, this plan was not ambitious enough. In response to this, Biden did not exactly answer the question and instead offered instances from early on in his political career where he acted in defense of underprivileged communities. He then declared nobody should be jailed for a non-violent crime, nobody should be in jail for a drug problem but rather be sent to a rehabilitation center, marijuana offenders should have their records expunged, and upon being released from prison, those offenders should have their rights fully restored so they can get on with their lives. I agree with this and he is right, but there was no plan presented for implementing any sort of reform although he was cut off for time.

Biden also has his more recent record on criminal justice reform to worry about. Particularly his support for the 1994 crime bill which resulted in mass incarceration of people of color. He did admit back in January that “we haven’t always gotten things right” maybe referring to the 1994 bill, but the crime bill was never mentioned. If he wants to try and right his wrong, it would be best to address his support of the crime bill, what a mistake it was, and what he will do right that wrong. Avoiding the issue does nothing favorable for him.

Cory Booker may have the best record when it comes to criminal justice reform. He introduced the First Step Act back in 2018 that would reduce sentences, expand job training, and expand early release programs. First Step successfully earned bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Trump. He then introduced the Next Step Act which would cut mandatory minimum sentences, reinstate voting rights to former felons, and ban federal employers from asking about past criminal history.

Booker has also stated he would grant clemency to some 17,000 non-violent drug offenders and introduced the Marijuana Justice Act that would legalize marijuana and expunge the records of those who have been charged with a crime for using or possessing it.

Booker insisted during the debate that every candidate should say they would grant clemency to those 17,000 non-violent drug offenders. What Booker has working against him, however, is his time as mayor of Newark and some questionable actions of the Newark police department which resulted in the US Department of Justice intervening.

Gun Control

This is a tough issue. Biden was drilled for not getting things done after Sandy Hook but I question how fair that is since he was the Vice President and Congress was not willing to act. I was thoroughly annoyed during the time of Sandy Hook and then the other mass shootings that occurred after, but I can’t pin the blame on Biden for nothing getting done.

I agree with Harris on how traumatic these active shooter drills must be for our children. I think about this a lot and not only think it is incredibly unfair for our children to have to deal with that, it’s also incredibly unhealthy.

Harris also insisted that yes we can take guns away. I question this and need to research it more but feel without an amendment to the constitution, the government is limited in that regard.

I get the topic of gun violence is important to O’Rourke because of the recent assaults in El Paso, but this topic should be important to everyone on that stage. I agree that no one needs an AR-15. I’m sorry but that gun was designed to kill fast. You don’t need it for hunting no matter what hunters claim. No one needs it. Having said that, I highly doubt O’Rourke will actually take them away simply because I don’t believe he can. I appreciate his passion but I fear it is nothing more than reactionary.

The responses from the candidates were very similar and it’s just the same old “solutions” to a very complex issue. Most of them call for gun control but it’s hard to tell how they will actually accomplish this. And after 7 years since Sandy Hook with nothing being done to fix the issue, it is very hard for me to believe anything would change if a Democrat is elected.

I will say, however, that Warren is correct when she says we have “a gun violence issue and this is an issue they will have to come back to again and again and again.” This is not something that will change overnight and that’s why I don’t buy what O’Rourke said.

She also was the first candidate to bring up corruption in government which is without a doubt a problem on a multitude of issues we face. Without addressing the corruption, there is no point in even beginning to discuss how to curb gun violence.

Sanders also agrees on the level of corruption being the biggest obstacle and proudly announced his ‘F’ rating with the NRA that anyone should be proud of at this point. Where Warren and Sanders differ on this issue, however, is rolling back the filibuster. I don’t think it should be rolled back and I will tell you why. Sure the filibuster is annoying when it comes to an issue that harms Americans. If you have a bill that could protect Americans or help Americans in anyway and a greedy, corrupt Senator comes along to read from a phone book for 10 hours as a means of protecting the corporate lobbyist instead, that is shameful and I don’t blame anyone for wanting to do away with the filibuster. But when you have an issue that could hurt Americans and a Senator gets up to deliver a, say, 8 hour long speech explaining how this bill would hurt Americans and why we should vote against it, then the filibuster comes in handy. I bring up the example of an 8 hour speech because in 2010, Bernie Sanders delivered an 8 hour speech on the Senate floor when the Obama administration wanted to pass a tax bill that would once again place the burden on the average American and increase an already astronomical deficit. He wasn’t reading from a phone book or a cookbook; it was his own words coming from his long history of fighting against special interests and corporate greed. Unfortunately, the bill still passed, but Sanders gained a lot of attention for that speech. So in this instance, a filibuster was done correctly. A senator used this opportunity to speak to the American people to let them know someone hears them.

Now Sanders mentioned Budget Reconciliation as a way to push through legislation met with opposition. I won’t go into detail but you can read about the Act here. Basically it would grant the Vice President to say what is and isn’t an important enough issue to simply be pushed through with a simply majority and avoiding a filibuster. Now, through Sander’s eyes, he’s the good guy. He’s on your side. So any legislation order to be pushed through would be gun reform, climate change, healthcare, etc. If he were to become president this would work but it would also raise the issue of over-reach and that’s why I’m sure Budget Reconciliation has not been used yet. But it does exist, and if used for the right reasons, may prove to be acceptable.

In closing of this issue, I want to say that the gun issue goes deeper than just taking away guns. We have been brainwashed in a way. We are under-educated, over-worked and underpaid, and we have been lead to believe our neighbor is our enemy. We have politicians, religious leaders, mainstream media, and misinformed Facebook memes fanning the flames. There is much to correct before you can even think about taking anyone’s guns away. But I will say this. To the people who claim they have a right to their weapons in order to protect themselves from the government; we spend $750 billion a year on the military. You wouldn’t stand a chance against your own government.

Immigration

I didn’t expect much from this topic simply because I expected the same old nonsense about how “Democrats are going take back the White House and pass immigration reform!” Ok. But what does that mean?

What Americans don’t realize and what candidates wouldn’t dare explain is that the United States helped fuel the immigration crisis through decades of unnecessary intervention: Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, for instance. We created our own crisis.

In conjunction with decades of US intervention, you have capitalist ideals that are literally forcing people to flee in order to survive. One example is Coca-Cola and their bottling plant in Chiapas, Mexico. Coca-Cola, like Nestle here in Michigan and elsewhere, is taking water from Chiapas for free and creating such a water shortage that the people of Chiapas are forced to buy bottled water. Does that sound sustainable? The same companies investing in Coca-Cola in Chiapas also happen to own the majority of convenience stores in the area selling this water and Coca-Cola back to the people. I don’t know about you, but I have a problem with this.

If Americans want to curb immigration, they need to understand we are partially to blame for the crisis and we need to demand our government cease any further intervention that could cause humans to seek refuge. We also need to reconsider the power we grant these corporations to move into vulnerable areas of the world where they steal their resources for profit and force people out of their homes.

But anyway, here’s what the candidates had to say.

Elizabeth Warren KIND OF started to discuss the crisis in Central American but fell short by not including we aid in that crisis. Then she blamed Trump for the crisis. I disagree here. Trump did not create the crisis. He is taking advantage of a broken system Democrats had ample opportunity to fix in the past. What is taking place at the border is disgusting, cruel, and something every American should be ashamed of, but we need to be realistic in how we got to this point in the first place.

Sanders should’ve been asked to comment on this issue. I’m sure his response would have been similar to or more comprehensive than Warren’s.

This is where I have to leave this issue. I understand other candidates have plans whether to streamline the immigration process, increase the amount of immigrants allowed in each year, or making every Dreamer a legal citizen right now, but I really need a candidate to be honest about how we help create the immigration crisis in the first place.

Trade

Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders won me here. Warren rightfully stated that our trade policy has been broken for decades because it only works for the multinational corporations. When she says she wants to negotiate with farmers, unions, environmentalists, and human rights activists at the table, I could not agree more.

NAFTA was not helpful to Americans. It was destructive. I am glad Sanders voted against it because he is right. At this time in our history, we should be making more money than we are and a direct cause of that is the horrible trade policies.

Sanders response was not surprisingly similar to Warren’s and I heard him speak on this issue years ago. It’s important to keep in mind this is an issue Sanders has been preaching about for nearly 30 years.

I don’t doubt whoever gets the nomination, and if they become elected, will reverse the tariff’s on China. Unless Sanders or Warren become president, I don’t see much getting done in the way of trade that hurts American workers. I hope I can be proven wrong.

National Security

Elizabeth Warren: “We cannot bomb our way out of Afghanistan.” Correct. There has been no real strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq was a disastrous mistake. We are literally creating more terrorists with are horrible foreign policy. It is time to end the wars in the Middle East and stop funding countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel in their mission to obliterate other nations.

Buttigieg made some good points about Afghanistan that I myself think about often. One important and disturbing fact is that kids born after 9/11 are now old enough to serve without having any recollection of that day. Think about that. So, I appreciate his claim that he would put a stop to endless war because we must. This is unsustainable.

One thing he didn’t go into to much detail about at all was his plan to repeal and replace the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), allowing the president “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.” This is what allowed Bush to start the conflict in Afghanistan that appears to have no end in sight. Under Buttigieg, Congress would have a say as to whether or not troops should be sent. It’s a start.

I appreciate Biden admitting it was wrong to support the AUMF. Unfortunately what’s done is done. As far as Obama taking troops out of Iraq, I’m not sure would could have been done differently and that’s something I need to research more on. I do believe we need to get troops out of these conflicts, but I understand it is a complex issue. Like Buttigieg said, we should be avoiding getting involved in the first place.

Sanders will always be able to say he never believed Bush and Cheney and so he refused to vote for an invasion. We should all be grateful his had the brains and guts to stand up for the right thing. Regardless of how you feel about him, that is praiseworthy. I will always appreciate his refusal to vote in favor of expanding military budgets. Our investment in the military is one of our biggest mistakes.

Yang is right to say we aren’t good at rebuilding countries. All you have to do is look at how we handled the Afghan/Soviet conflict in the 80’s. We armed Afghan rebels, including Osama Bin-Laden, to help them defeat the Soviet Union. Once the conflict was over, did we help Afghanistan rebuild what we helped destroy? No we did not. This led to some bitterness to say the least which gave rise to terrorist organization such as the Taliban.

Bernie Sanders was once again asked to explain the difference between “his socialism” and the socialism found in Venezuela and Cuba. Once again he explained democratic socialism is what you will find in Canada and Scandinavian countries. If you still don’t understand democratic socialism, if you still don’t understand DS advocates for healthcare, higher wages, affordable living, and education, then I cannot help you.

Climate Crisis/Foreign Policy

Booker had an opportunity to explain the importance of reducing our meat consumption but instead, laughed off his veganism as simply being a personal choice. He did however state that factory farms a major problem in this country. He fell short of explaining they contribute significantly to the climate crisis.

Beto was called out for taking contributions from the fossil fuel industry and asked how he would combat climate change. Beto always has a lot to say but it would be more convincing if he wasn’t taking money from big oil.

What I need candidates to say is they will hold companies accountable for manufacturing single use plastics, introduce a comprehensive plan to encourage reduce and reuse, and establish an effective recycling system. We need stricter regulations for factory farms if we aren’t going to abolish them as well as pesticides and fertilizers. Of course we need to invest in renewable energy and force corporations to significantly reduce their carbon emissions. That’s just naming a few things that need to change if we are serious about combating climate change.

Warren has an ambitious plan to cut 70% of carbon emissions by 2035. I can get on board with that and I don’t really care what it takes to make that happen. It needs to.

Education

If Yang believes charter schools are just as important as public schools, I don’t want him in office.

I appreciate Buttigieg’s view on education. I 100% believe we need to include critical thinking into the curriculum. We also need to pay teachers more. That goes without saying.

Warren’s plan is acceptable. We do need a secretary of education who knows what’s it’s like to be a school teacher. I appreciate her plan to cancel 95% of student debt but I like Sen. Sanders plan to cut it 100% even better.

I cannot get over Biden’s reaction to being asked to respond to the topic of inequality in schools and race. It’s quite telling if you ask me. He botched this question more than any other question he was asked. It literally made no sense.

Booker lost me with praising charter schools.

We are not taking education seriously in the country and it is beginning to really show. Class sizes need to drop. Pay must increase. Curriculum must change to reflect our little awakening in society, meaning, let’s focus more extensively on honest American history — slavery, colonialism, racism, and I would say our foreign relations — and give teachers more power to discipline. By discipline — for instance — I mean if you establish a rule to keep your phone in your backpack and never take it out, suffer the consequences of having that phone taken away without a parent complaining to the principle. If there is an emergency, call the front office. That’s what we did when I was in school.

Conclusion

This wasn’t as terrible as I feared it would be. I was pleasantly surprised by certain responses from some of the candidates. Unfortunately, no one was too consistent except for Warren and Sanders when he was given an opportunity to respond.

I think Klobuchar, Harris, Yang, Castro, Booker, and Biden need to drop out. I don’t see O’Rourke getting the nomination and I feel Buttigieg may have his young age working against him — at least it is for me. I know they are pushing for Biden but I view him more as a liability than the shoo-in so many think he is. We are in trouble as a nation and we need someone who is radical enough to implement the changes that need to happen.

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