Democratic debates platform for vice president
Handicapping the presidential debates every four years is grand sport. Sometimes we’re spot on, other times we miss the mark completely. The latter usually occurs when we speak too loudly, too soon. We all laughed at him when Donald Trump came down the escalator at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy. Eventually, however, it became apparent that his vile, putrid, name-calling smears were working. Our early handicapping had been wrong.
There are twenty something candidates in the race, twenty of which were in the debates. But make no mistake.
This was not a debate among presidential contenders. It was a debate among vicepresidential contenders. Biden will be the nominee, but he’s only good for one term, so the running mate is an important decision he has to make. With that said, here is how I saw the debates unfold:
Senator Elizabeth Warren. She is an important addition to the array of candidates because her campaign is policydriven. She “has a plan for that,” she says when asked about a particular issue. By the luck of the draw, she was the only top-tier candidate to appear on the first night. No one laid a glove on her. She won’t be on the ticket, but look for this former Harvard Law professor to show up in Biden’s cabinet. Secretary of the Treasury, perhaps.
Joe Biden. With all the yelling and screaming, he remained the statesman. He has a wide and expansive grasp of all of the issues touching on a presi- dential campaign, due in large part to his eight years as President Obama’s Vice President, but also having spent decades in the Senate. He invoked Obama’s name several times. He would not have done so had their polling not shown a favorable approval rating for the former president.
I predicted that his defending his having schmoozed with the likes of Senator Jim Eastland, an unreconstructed racist, would bite him you know where. It did. Kamala Harris pounced. But her characterization of Biden as lukewarm on desegregation and busing was unfair. Biden has been at the forefront of civil rights for decades. In fact, he has been part of the progressive agenda his entire adult life. He will be the nominee, and he will clean Trump’s clock.
Senator Kamala Harris. The pundits love to talk about the debates in terms of a “break-out” moment. It rarely happens, but in Harris’s case it really did. There is no doubt that she was the obvious stand-out on the stage. She held class. I did not like her turning on Biden the way she did, but she was polite. As all of the candidates were screaming at the same time, she said the people don’t want a food fight, they want food on their table. It was one of those planned zingers, but she delivered it with a certain faux-spontaneity that had to be admired.
Harris has a certain bearing about her that is hard to describe. Except for Biden, no one on the stage on either night could match her combination of verve, gravitas, and mastery of the important issues. She will make a great vice president.
Senator Amy Klobuchar. She’s good. She’s no Kamala Harris, but she’s good. Also, she has something else going for her. One of Harris’s drawbacks is the fact that she’s a San Francisco Democrat. She can’t add a lot of geographic balance to the ticket, because the Democrats will carry California big anyway. But Klobuchar is from Minnesota, and Democrats need help in the upper midwest.
Bernie Sanders. It’s over, Bernie. Put a fork in him, he’s done. He has the same old tired arguments. The system is rigged. Wall Street is full of crooks. The insurance industry is full of crooks (he’s right on that one). Oh, and did I mention that he is an unreconstructed socialist? His day has come and gone. It should be mentioned that other than presidential primaries, he has never run on the Democratic ticket in Vermont. Never. Why a good Democrat would support this guy is beyond me.
The others are also-rans. Some, like Beto O’rourke, are finished. Others, most of whom we can’t even name, shouldn’t even be in the race. Stay tuned.
George D. Ellis is a Benton attorney. He can be contacted at gellisinben[email protected] net.