The Universal Notebook: Deconstructing the Democratic debate

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Based on what I saw in the first Democratic presidential primary debate, Hillary Clinton is likely to be the nominee in 2016 and, if so, I believe she will become the first woman president of the United States.

That said, after the debate I sent another small contribution to Bernie Sanders. Sanders is probably too liberal to win a general election, but I agree with virtually everything he says. In the truest sense, he speaks truth to power.

A self-described democratic socialist, Sanders was pressed, for instance, on whether he considered himself a capitalist.

“Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little, by which Wall Street’s greed and recklessness wrecked this economy?” replied the senator from Vermont. “No, I don’t. I believe in a society where all people do well. Not just a handful of billionaires.”

Here! Here!

Sanders would tax Wall Street speculators and use the money to provide free public education and expand Medicare. His closing speech was spot on.

“This is a great country, but we have many, many serious problems. We should not be the country that has the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country, and more wealth and income inequality than any other country. We should not be the only major country on Earth that does not guarantee health care to all of our people as a right of citizenship, and we should not be the only major country that does not provide medical and – and parental leave – family and parental leave to all of our families.”

You tell ’em!

Sanders even bailed out Clinton when she was questioned about her controversial use of a private email server as secretary of state.

“Let me say something that may not be great politics,” Sanders said. “But I think the secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”


Clinton was cool, commanding and well-prepared, and she got one of the biggest hands from the partisan audience when she attacked the hypocrisy of Republicans who constantly complain about big government interference in our lives.

“Well, look, you know, when people say that – it’s always the Republicans or their sympathizers who say, ‘You can’t have paid leave, you can’t provide health care.’ They don’t mind having big government to interfere with a woman’s right to choose and to try to take down Planned Parenthood. They’re fine with big government when it comes to that. I’m sick of it.”

Compared to the Republican debate free-for-all, which has everywhere been compared to a food fight, the Democratic debate was a thoughtful discussion of substantive issues from climate change and international diplomacy to economic justice, campaign finance reform and lowering the cost of higher education. No name calling. No finger pointing.

As candidate Martin O’Malley observed, “On this stage, you didn’t hear anyone denigrate women, you didn’t hear anyone make racist comments about new American immigrants, you didn’t hear anyone speak ill of another American because of their religious belief.”

O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb all struck me as good men who just need someone to explain to them that they can’t win. And Joe Biden, biding his time in the wings, should probably stay out of the way, too. He’s a sweet man, but life has taken a terrible toll on him.

So who will I vote for in the presidential primary?

That’s a trick question, of course, since Maine does not hold presidential primary elections. We hold primaries for statewide offices, but we are one of those confused states that hold presidential caucuses. So unless you are prepared to spend either Saturday, March 5, 2016, at a Republican caucus or Sunday, March 6, 2016, at a Democratic caucus, you are not going to have any say in who your party’s candidate will be.

Maine has gone back and forth on the primary v. caucus question, holding caucuses forever, then switching to primaries in the late 1990s and returning to caucuses more recently. I guess the argument is that caucuses somehow give candidates more reason to visit a marginal state like Maine, but as a Maine citizen and a voter I would much prefer the chance to step into the voting booth and vote for either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, depending on whether I was feeling idealistic (Sanders) or pragmatic (Clinton).

It was Clinton who had the best line of the evening, the bottom line.

“The economy does better when you have a Democrat in the White House,” Clinton said, “and that’s why we need to have a Democrat in the White House in January 2017.”

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

  • Buff

    I am not surprised that you thoroughly liked the democrat debate. It was all about free stuff with no way to pay for it. They were all pandering for the vote of the staunch democrats like yourself and all the takers in our society. Our system of government will fail when there are not enough givers to satisfy the takers, and we are not far from there now. Contrary to what Hillary stated, I believe the only way to right this ship is to put a republican in the White House in 2016.

    • pjkslk

      Buff, I know people hear what they want to hear, and today more than ever seek out confirmation of preconceived ideas. That being said, I will say this anyway…
      There is only only candidate, Dem or GOP, that actually has a plan that is paid for and will eliminate the deficit and begin paying down the debt. Sen. Sanders. The WSJ headline $17 Trillion single-payer healthcare plan is the start. The plan will indeed cost $17 trillion over 10 years! What is not said in the headline is that under the current program we will spend north of $20 trillion in the same time frame. So we have a $3T savings right there. Add a modest financial transaction tax, a modest bump in tax rates (on highest earners, capital gains, and carried interest), raise the SS payroll tax cap, REDUCE the corporate tax rates, and we will have a real budget surplus – read: PAID FOR.

    • Queenie42

      Go sell your crazy somewhere else.

  • truther

    The biggest problem facing our nation is this cancerous mentality that paints everyone you don’t like as a “taker,” while everyone on your side is a “giver.”

  • SierraTango

    Maine never should’ve switched back to caucuses. Caucuses make it impossible for many people to vote, such as parents who can’t find childcare, people with disabilities or health problems that prevent them from leaving home, military service men and women who are abroad, people who work the night shift and sleep during the day, people who work weekends and can’t take time off, and surely man others. All of those people have just as much right to participate in the process, and they’d be able to, via absentee ballot, if we had primaries instead of caucuses.

  • Christopher White

    I have NEVER belonged to ANY political party. It is likely that I will end my nearly fifty year history of being an ‘un-enrolled’ or ‘independent’ voter in order to register (however briefly0 as a Democrat in order to caucus for Bernie Sanders. I am beyond tired of election after election in which the only thing I can ‘pragmatically’ do is vote for the lesser of evils between the two Duopoly party candidates.

    That said, while none of the GOP candidates thus far has offered anything remotely like a ‘vision for change’ that makes sense to anyone NOT in the top few percentage points of wealth &/or income, ANY of the Dems would be the lesser Evil in 2016.

    • Kafir911

      We’ve heard that mantra before from NerO. Look what electing that Marxist and Muslim, twice no less, has gotten us.

    • beachmom H

      I guess you prefer socialism over the Constitution.
      Ever notice socialists never are willing to move to socialist nations in order to live the dream?

      • EABeem

        The founding principles of this country are not individual liberties, they are social values that conservatives no longer support — “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

        • beachmom H

          None of that says that the people of this country will be forced to pay for other people’s homes and food and living.
          None of it.
          If you read even a few of the letters and papers written by the founders you will see their original intent.

          • EABeem

            If we listened to conservatives, we’d still be a colony. Thanks anyway.

          • EABeem

            Hardline Republicans have rendered the United States all but ungovernable, Amy, because they refuse to raise taxes to pay their bills and they refuse to compromise. Therefore, the GOP has been declared an enemy of the state.

      • Christopher White

        To begin with, there is no fundamental, intrinsic, opposition between the Constitution and socialism. Next, many socialists are quite happy to move to socialist nations if possible. Depending on your definition of what constitutes a ‘socialist nation’ the places people can move to includes Canada, Sweden, Germany, Norway, England, Scotland, etc. etc.

        In fact, if one looks at the founding of the American colonies, especially in the region known now as New England, many of the ‘illegal immigrants’ from the British Isles who came here set up communities that were far more ‘socialistic’ than the US is today. Does your town have a Town Common? They’re found in towns all over New England and are a legacy of those early ‘socialist’ communities we revere as the birthplace of the American Revolution.

        • beachmom H

          Wow. You have you have your America is evil, liberal talking points down pat. Nice job.
          When are you moving?

          • Christopher White

            Rather than offer any cogent argument as to why you think socialism
            and the Constitution are in opposition, you engage in petty and nasty
            insinuations. Absolutely NOTHING I’ve said even suggests I think ‘America is evil’, nor have I denigrated or dismissed the Constitution. Your accusations are merely cheap deflection.
            I have no intention of moving. Both sides of my family have been on this side of the Atlantic since before the American Revolution. I intend to stay put and keep being the sort of involved citizen the Founders intended We the People to be.

  • Kafir911

    Yes, “the economy does better when you have a Democrat in the White House” particularly for Democrats who play the re-distribution of wealth game the best.

    Ever wonder why billionaire Donald Sussman’s money is good money while Bruce Poliquin’s Wall Street income was bad money? Or, that Mitt Romney is called an evil capitalist but that it’s perfectly fine for Hillary (“What difference does it make?”) Clinton to have a net worth $21.5m, Bill (“Read my lips”) Clinton approximately $80m, Al (“An Inconvenient Truth”) Gore $300m and Nancy (“We first have to pass this bill to see what’s in it”) Pelosi $196m?

    None top the master of re-distribution, Putin, worth an estimated $40b. But, here in America, whether one is perceived to be a good guy or bad guy depends on one’s political persuasion and who can play the disinformation and deception game aided and abetted by the mainstream media.

    • Christopher White

      Please note: the greatest ‘redistribution of wealth’ to occur in the US over the past 40+ years has been from the many to the very, very few. Can you explain why such ‘redistribution of wealth’ is a good thing, while ‘redistribution of wealth’ from the very, very few to the many is a bad thing?

      • EABeem

        Seriously, Chris, don’t bother. You are not talking to a reasonable individual.

  • Kafir911

    “Socialism will meet the needs of the great majority of our people and lay the basis for solving our social, economic and environmental problems.” -from the website of the Communist Party USA

    There was a time before the drip, drip, drip of incremental socialism into our institutions since the days of Woodrow Wilson that being a communist, Marxist or socialist was unthinkable. Now, we have a candidate for PRESIDENT who makes no bones about his being a socialist. And, of course, the Forecaster’s own resident socialist, Ed Beem, has always been one and is now not afraid to admit it. And, the public yawns and goes back to watching “reality” TV shows. What a country!!!

    • Christopher White

      Historically inaccurate tripe.

      • poppypapa

        You’ve learned well at the feet of Eddie.

  • poppypapa

    Hey, Eddie, sorry to be so late checking in on this item. Somehow, I forgot to read your always ‘compelling’ thoughts.

    This time, I want to congratulate you on your deft touch, in which you apply the expert rhetorical distractions of a devoted re-distributionist. I refer to these carefully crafted words of yours, which are ripe with subtle deception:

    “…a thoughtful discussion of substantive issues from climate change and
    international diplomacy to economic justice, campaign finance reform and
    lowering the cost of higher education.”

    In particular, that last phrase…..”lowering the cost of higher education.” Plain and simple, that’s a crock. No candidate is going to address the costs of higher education. That would require a confrontation with the greatest concentration of leftists this country has: academics. It would require challenging the halls of ivy that give us so many ‘champions of the people,’ like Elizabeth Warren, who was reportedly paid more than $300,000 a year to teach a law class or two at Harvard, and loves to remind us that ‘the middle class is getting hammered.’

    No, your friends are not going to lower the cost of said education; they are just going to change who pays for it for you, so you can continue to go to $60,000 a year plus ideological bubble chambers to major in ‘gender studies,’ and not have to worry about paying for your foolish extravagance. Let ‘someone else’ do it.

    Of course, if there is any justice in this system, it will be when the day comes that said graduates, if they actually find gainful employment, begin to ask why they’re paying such high taxes, only to discover that one reason is they’re now paying for someone else’s college expenses in place of their own, which they ‘escaped’ through government benevolence and national debt.

    It will be even more amusing if any loans that are ‘forgiven’ show up as imputed income the next time the beneficiary files with the IRS!

    There’s some justice for you!

    It’s good to be a ‘giver,’ isn’t it, Eddie?

    • EABeem

      Yes, we feel fortunate to be able to contribute tens of thousands of dollars a year to the maintenance of a civil society.

      • poppypapa

        Wow; you shouldn’t have drank the water when you were down in the cistern.

        While you’re at it, let’s here your wise guidance on ‘campaign finance reform.’ You know, giving people stuff so they’ll vote for you so they can keep getting the stuff.

        Babies, candy, and all that. Spoiling the child.

        • EABeem

          Always a mistake.

    • poppypapa

      You did drink it, didn’t you.