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After Wednesday’s edition of the two-night 20-person Democratic presidential debates, MSNBC pundits wanted to know: Why did none of the first-round candidates invoke the memory of former President Barack Obama? Democrats, they reasoned, should have reminded Americans of their party’s most recent and wildly popular president.

We wonder what debate they watched. Relative to the candidates on stage both nights, Obama looks like a moderately conservative Republican.

Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who won the only major ovation of Wednesday night for predicting “adios to Trump,” admonished former U.S. Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke for never trying to decriminalize illegal border crossings.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she would be happy to consider Castro’s proposal for full-on open borders.

The open-borders rhetoric only ratcheted up among Thursday’s 10 candidates, most of whom raised their hands when asked whether they support decriminalizing illegal border crossings.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper accused Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers of “kidnapping” children at the border, and others agreed. Hickenlooper advocated ICE be “completely reformed,” in the interest of children. He emphasized doing more to provide shelter, food, clothing and medical care for people who attempt illegal crossings.

California Sen. Kamala Harris blasted President Donald Trump for telling migrants to turn around and go back home.

Contrast Harris, Hickenlooper and company with Obama. Exactly five years ago to the day of Thursday’s debate, he told Central American immigrants to keep their children at home.

“Do not send your children to the border,” Obama implored. “If they do make it, they’ll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it.”

Obama’s 2014 warning came after his ICE agents apprehended 52,000 unaccompanied children and 39,000 adults with small children in six months. As a moderator explained Thursday, Obama deported more than 3 million illegal immigrants, including immigrants convicted of no crimes.

Harris, the former California attorney general, used Obama’s hawkish deportation record to attack Democratic front-runner Joe Biden — Obama’s vice president.

Sparks flew when Harris attacked Biden for taking pride in working with segregationists. She smacked him for opposing the proposed federal mandate of busing programs to desegregate schools, explaining how she benefited from busing as a black child in a formerly segregated school district. She probably caused him permanent damage.

Though name recognition had Biden leading in polls before Thursday, he appeared too moderate for a party that showed itself drifting far to the left in back-to-back debates.

“...there was a palpable sense that the 10 contenders on stage were reflecting the sentiments of the most liberal corners of the party,” explained Time magazine, after Wednesday’s debate.

Clearly straining to move to the left, Biden resorted to a gleeful vision of putting “insurance executives in jail” for encouraging opioid sales and influencing physicians to prescribe their products.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet distinguished himself for not raising his hand in favor of decriminalizing the border. TV viewers could not see Hickenlooper’s answer, as the camera panned from him too soon. At least eight others raised their hands.

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Bennet and Hickenlooper did themselves no favors Thursday.

Each squandered the opportunity to force themselves boorishly into the limelight. That’s how the game was played Thursday, as displayed by Harris and socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Coloradans, each with about 1% support, had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Sanders and Harris owned the night only because they took it. As the erudite war veteran “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg gingerly tried to make a point from his perspective as a millennial, Sanders forced his way in and moderators could not stop him.

“The issue if I may say is not generational,” said Sanders, 77. “The issue is who has the guts to take on Wall Street, to take on the fossil fuel industry, to take on the big money interests who have unbelievable influence over the economic and political life of this country. That’s the issue.”

Sanders and Harris drew other candidates into running against the hottest economy in the country’s history. Never mind historically low unemployment rates and rising salaries, Americans apparently work too hard and the rich have too much.

Hickenlooper stood as the lone voice against the party’s drift into socialist apologetics, twice warning against the trend. In his closing, the small-business entrepreneur talked about expansions in Colorado’s “reproductive health care” that he said reduced the teen abortion rate by 64%. He boasted of Colorado legalizing pot before any other state. He fought climate change. He did it all as a capitalist.

“If we turn toward socialism, we run the risk of helping reelect the worst president in American history,” he said during his closing.

OK. Not exactly an inspiring defense of free-market wealth and jobs creation, and the taxed prosperity that funds social programs.

But at least he gave political rationale for opposing the destruction of capitalism posed by Sanders and Harris.

The crowded debates fed Americans four hours of wonky insider political talk, with bits in broken Spanish, comprising a grand vision for massive expansions of government.

The wannabe presidents offer free health care, unearned income, health care for illegal immigrants, reparations for slavery, free college, student loan forgiveness, gun control and more. If you want it they got it and will give it away.

New York Times bestselling author and Democratic candidate Marianne Williamson understood the problem, telling her fellow Democrats how Trump won with a simple message: Make America Great Again. Her message to defeat him: Love.

“Donald Trump will not be beaten by insider political talk,” she said.

That is probably true. No one emerged with a memorable theme or the dynamic presence of Obama or Trump.

After two nights of mostly boring socialistic prattle, Democrats remain unclear how they plan to win back the White House next year.

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REPRINTED FROM THE COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE

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