There are two things I wish were the takeaways from last night’s debate but won’t be, because neither of them fit into the usual narratives: Buttigieg’s admonition against campaigning based upon what the Republicans will say, and Williamson’s (yes, look, I know, and I’ll get to it) trenchant analysis of race in America.
It’s time to stop worrying about what the Republicans will say. It’s true that we embrace a far left agenda, they’re going to say we’re a bunch of crazy socialists. If we embrace a conservative agenda, you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to say we’re a bunch of crazy socialist. Let’s stand up for the right policy, go up there and defend it.
Buttigieg is dead-on about this. I’ve suggested before that the Democrats could run literally on the verbatim Republican Party platform and they’d still be attacked as socialists. (Hilariously, he’s now using that tweak. That’s not me taking credit; it’s the logical extension of the rhetoric.) I’m glad he’s begun making this a centerpiece argument in his campaign, though I’m skeptical it will break through the thick heads of the gatekeepers of the national conversation.
The problem is that the cable pundit class and the Democratic consultant class refuse to acknowledge the sort of nonsensical rhetorical asymmetry exemplified by the GOP’s cries of “socialism!”, partly because of their continued, and mystifying, belief that Republicans somehow still operate in good faith. It’s also partly because, well, I don’t know—whatever it is that prompted Paul Begala today to think he had some wisdom to impart on the related matter of whether or not some Democrats, and moderators, on stage last night simply were echoing Republican talking points.
Barack Obama opposed Medicare for All. His Affordable Care Act was more moderate, more incremental than anything anyone on that stage said tonight. So, I suppose he was just repeating Republican talking points?
As you can imagine, the early replies to this tweet comprised an endless string of, “Yes!”
It’s commonly understood that Obamacare took substantially the approach that so-called Romneycare did, and the “individual mandate” literally was a proposal by the Heritage Foundation in the 90s as a counter to Hillary Clinton’s healthcare reform push. That’s during the Clinton years, of course. The ones for which Paul Begala was around.
The pundit and consultant classes have a vested interest in certain narratives, and anything that shows those narratives to be, like many other narratives, a construction is anathema to them.
Meanwhile, dangerous space cadet Marianne Williamson somehow managed to be the bluntest and most direct person on stage last night on the subject of race in America.
My response is Flint is the tip of the iceberg. I was in Denmark, S.C., where there is a lot of talk about it being the next Flint. We have an administration that has gutted the Clean Water Act. We have communities, particularly communities of color and disadvantaged communities, all over this country, who are suffering from environmental injustice.
I assure you — I lived in Grosse Pointe, what happened in Flint would not have happened in Grosse Pointe. This is part of the dark underbelly of American society.
Later, as a Democratic debate once again took seriously the notion of reparations, she again managed to lead the pack on how we should talk about this.
Well, first of all, it’s not $500 billion in financial assistance, it’s $200 to $500 billion payment of a debt that is owed. That is what reparations is. We need deep truth-telling when it comes, we don’t need another commission to look at evidence. I appreciate what Congressman O’Rourke has said. It is time for us to simply realize that this country will not heal. All that a country is, is a collection of people. People heal when there’s some deep truth-telling. We need to recognize, when it comes to the economic gap between blacks and whites in America, it does come from a great injustice that has never been dealt with. That great injustice has had to do with the fact that there was 250 years of slavery followed by another hundred years of domestic terrorism.
What’s especially galling about all this racial truth-telling from a white person is that the white person in question is dangerous space cadet Marianne Williamson–who for all intents and purposes is a snake-oil saleswoman and faith healer–and not from any of the other actually viable white candidates with whom she shared the stage.
It’s not even that I don’t think other candidates on the stage don’t see these issues the same way. It’s that for some reason few if any of them bring them up, let alone with this particular degree of passion and social honesty, and we just can’t let dangerous space cadet Marianne Williamson become the passionate-defender-of-racial-justice candidate.