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Thoughts on the First Democratic Presidential Debate

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

I anticipated the first 2016 Democratic presidential debate. I ribbed my Rhode Island friends and asked: “Aren’t you excited to see your former governor running for president.” Their answer: Awful-Awful. When I asked the former Rhode Island GOP Chairman to comment on Chafee’s affirmation: “I have no scandals,” he shrugged: “Then perhaps we should start electing children.”


Indeed, the childlike faith that former Democratic contenders exuded in big brother government can make anyone feel warm and fuzzy inside. When matching their rhetoric and records with reality, however, there is much to be desired. Liberalism is snake oil salesmanship at its finest. “I promise free stuff,” Sen. Sanders can claim, and yet nothing is free. Someone pays for it. The scam is not telling everyone who pays.

What exactly were the candidates going to talk about? I wondered, since President Obama has crossed off so many items on the progressive to-do list. Gay marriage has been imposed by judicial fiat. Climate alarmism is the new state religion. The regulatory state has expanded like nothing before. Immigration enforcement is nil, with illegal aliens thumbing their noses at the rule of law.

The ideological idiosyncrasies of marginalized left-wing professors have become mainstream government policy. President Obama has uttered the word “transgender,” a first for State of the Union address. And of course, Obamacare: the Democratic Dream of Government infusion into the health care industry has happened. It is here – and so many people have lost their coverage, their plans, their doctors, and their time and resources.

The country is stepping in a lot of doo-doo since Obama finished so much on the to-do list. The federal government has gotten oppressive yet unresponsive. Military entanglements have become bungling failures, even if Osama Bin Laden is dead. Russia is powerful, Israel is paranoid (yet with a real leader who is the only adult in the room), and the Iranians and North Koreans are as nuke happy as ever.


Heckuva a job, there, Barry! The Democratic successors seem bent on continuing this legacy.

Or are they?

Listening to the candidates, I found that all of them tripped on themselves with a lot of “ums” and “uhs,” plus a plethora of pauses along the way. Sanders hovered over his description of Russia and Vladimir Putin: “He is going to be sorry. . .” Really? Gov. Chafee took deep gulps and breaths. O’Malley was nervous. As for Sen. Webb: he just loved raising his hand with his stilted karate chop for emphasis.

Who is pulling these politicians’ strings? Do they have any life or intensity or independence? Another stand out in the debate? The lack of diversity.

All Northeasterners, all old and white, the five Democratic contenders (including the potential Warren and Biden tickets), the liberal game of identity politics is failing the Democratic Party now. The greatest dearth of diversity, however, rested in the lack of reforms, innovations, ideas.

Raising the minimum wage? Yawn (and it does not work).

Illegal aliens? Make them all legal. (Wow, how offensive is that?!)

Paid maternity leave? We have it in California, in the legal code, but not among many businesses, which are closing up and moving to other states. Doing business is hard enough, but with special interest legislators out to benefit their donors at the expense of the makers and shakers, the man keeping up show has nothing left to keep. Not that these candidates really care: they have wealth coming out their pores (including “socialist” Sanders and his own condo).


End Citizens United. Get money out of politics. Right, sure – but labor unions are free to spend as much as they want.

Punish Wall Street greed. Sure, sure, but with more government, and the attending cronyism that follows? You know who are big fans of Hillary? Wall Street brokers, who know that she would approve another bailout when the financial industry overextends its capital again.

Gun control. On this topic, the candidates brandished some firepower. Vermont Sanders had to justify his stronger pro-gun record against Gun Grabbing Governor O’Malley. Webb gave the best response – if he were a Republican. Chafee’s answer reminded the audience that the Second Amendment resonates with everyone, even in the most Democratic state in the union. No one, I mean no one wants to lose their guns, and his supermajority legislature routinely killed gun control expansion in the Ocean State.

Hillary’s lying and sloppy handling of classified information? “Who cares about those damn emails?!” Sanders blared. A lot of Republicans, and a growing number of Americans do!

Now, God forbid I should admit this, but here it is: the Democrats did talk about issues which Republicans have not talked about, but which I care about.

Criminal Justice Reform: This is not “the sexy issue” for conservatives. Republicans bear with pride (as they should) a tough-on-crime agenda. But do we really need to lock up more people than China? We don’t. Libertarians have a good argument on this issue: we lock up too many people in this country.


Decriminalization: Chafee had suggested “Pot for potholes”. Conan O’Brien’s audience approved that message. Like “Weekend at Bernie” Sanders, I would vote to permit recreational use of marijuana. Not because I smoked – or even inhaled – but it’s time for Americans to take a deep breath and get the state out of punishing non-violent crimes like use or possession of controlled substances.

Hands off my guns, and my joints.

Student Loan Debt: Indeed, Millennials are crushed by high college costs and rising student loan debt. Democrats are great at pointing out these problems. Another problem arises, however, when they refuse to take responsibility for creating those problems, and again when their proposals only exacerbate those conflicts.

Final points: The Democrats did debate issues, since there were only five candidates. They were wrong on almost everything. Anderson Cooper landed some really good questions, too.

All in all, I’m glad I watched.


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