Democratic Debate



The Democratic debate last Tuesday (October 15, 2019) was fun.

1. Joe Biden was resurrected. His closing statement was good enough to be used in his advertising. He found the right balance. Tom Steyer gave a stilted performance. It sounded like he was giving formal speeches to a crowd. The rest of the candidates used a more informal delivery: it sounded like each was talking to one person. Biden carried it one step further. While keeping his informal style, he added some passion at the end of his closing statement.

The substance of his closing statement was pretty good as well. The candidates were asked to name a surprising friendship, one with someone they disagreed with politically. Three of them (including Biden) named John McCain. But Biden topped them all by quoting McCain on his deathbed asking Biden to give his eulogy.

2. The arguments raised in the discussion of Syria sounded familiar. They talked about America's credibility: whether allies could count on us, whether enemies would fear us. They talked about America's importance in maintaining global stability. The most interesting was Biden's comment that we had to fight ISIS over there to avoid fighting them here.

This sounded a lot like the Vietnam war debates.

3. Tulsi Gabbard carved out a niche of her own on abortion. The other candidates stressed how they would defend Roe v. Wade by writing it into law. Gabbard said she wouldn't allow abortions in the third trimester unless necessary for the life or extreme health of the mother. This could be a savvy move. The median voter agrees with her.

4. Elizabeth Warren blamed the loss of jobs on trade agreements: "So the data show that we have had a lot of problems with losing jobs, but the principal reason has been bad trade policy." Andrew Yang disagreed. He attributed it to automation. This suggests a simple experiment: interview the economics faculty of the most eminent universities and see what they have to say. I predict the majority will agree with Yang over Warren.

5. Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg suggested adding justices to the Supreme Court. Joe Biden disagreed. He pointed out the if the Democrats expanded the Court to 12, then when the Republicans got in they could expand it to 15 and so on. This raises some interesting possibilities. If the Democrats double the size of the Court to be sure of getting a majority, and then the Republicans to the same, after a few iterations we could end up with hundreds on the Court. What would be even more interesting is what the Court might decide. After the Democrats make the Court reaffirm and extend Roe v. Wade, the Republicans could reverse it and extend the Fourteenth Amendment to protect fetuses. The Democrats could undo Citizens United to limit corporate speech and then rule that hate speech is not protected. Then the Republicans could rule that Communist and Socialist speech is not protected. The Democrats could rule that health care and education are protected rights. Then the Republicans could rule that the progressive income tax violates equal protection. The Democrats could rule that non-citizen aliens must be allowed to vote. Then the Republicans could rule that tax payers must be allowed votes for every dollar they pay. We could have all sorts of fun!

Posted 2019/October/17