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  • Writer's picturejeffmcm

The Democrat Debate January 17, 2016

1/17/16 What I heard and felt from the Demo debate tonight:

Flashback to my youth, when debates were less about grandstanding and more about clarifying vital differences. Last night, I felt very something approaching pride listening to the three Democrat candidates. They were, for the most part, direct and yet respectful, both advancing their own cause while moving the larger arguments forward. The much maligned “system” might actually be working in this party; Clinton is being pulled to a more activist, less corporate stance, and her maturity and assurance with this development shows she has been paying acute attention to a spectrum of thought and experience, here and internationally. I am very suspicious of the Clintons, but Hilary is not Bill, especially when she speaks about poverty. Bill Clinton destroyed welfare and gleefully threw his lot in with the banks, delighted to be a player.

The Democrats, and I think Obama deserves some credit for this, appear able to evolve and learn from experience, an educational awareness the other party entirely lacks. As one of the candidates said last night, all three of them agree on the scientific reality of global climate change. The Repubs, not a one. And credit to Martin O’Malley for calling Donald Trump out for what he so clearly is; a fascist.

While all three, especially Sanders and O’Malley, targeted Wall Street, the debate itself exemplified the grandiosity and political power of big media. NBC ruled this a debate between Clinton and Sanders, with O’Malley as occasional commentator. There was no discussion of the cultural/political power of big media, of networks. These candidates are not going to bite that hand. And while Wall Street is a favored, and abstract, target, sneering at the Street avoids a subject closer to the street most of us live on. Glib talk about renewable energy does not acknowledge that the corporate structure of energy creation and distribution is locked-up. No word from either of the candidates about the increasing suppression of rooftop solar, and the enthusiasm from enormous public and private utilities for renewable/alternative energy when only they can control and profit from it. Regaining control of the four elements; air, water, earth, fire (light) is a major task of our democracy.

So they went after the rich, as many of us love to do, yet seldom is it acknowledged (except by Sanders) that politicians, like artists, depend on the wealthy. Even the most noble of us may disdain direct handouts, yet depend on the institutions and structures funded substantially, in this capitalist/privatized country, by enormous wealth in individual or corporate form. O’Malley clarified that simply going after the rich isn’t the best strategy. The goal, and the rhetoric, has to be about giving everyone access to wealth. Bill Clinton appeared to do this, brilliantly and disingenuously, and the Democrat party has to craft a much more sophisticated (not Bill Clinton sophistic and short-term) plan to return wealth to all of us. Yet as Thomas Piketty and other economists remind us, much of the contemporary disparity in wealth is between people in the middle and the top of the employed; it’s no longer the idle rich sitting on their stocks and bonds.

There is a scene in THE BIG SHORT when the S&P underwriter, supposed to be carefully examining the underlying soundness of the banks, reveals she is doing nothing of the sort. The system, as Sanders keeps emphasizing with perhaps not enough nuance, is rigged. The political parties eagerly participate in that elaborate rigging, it helps them raise their flags.

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