As part of his Structural Model of the Human Psyche, legendary psychologist Sigmund Freud outlined three distinct instruments of the mind: the id, ego, and superego. Freud explained that the id acts a primitive and instinctual aspect of the mind, the super-ego functions as a moral agent and conscience, and the ego behaves as the mediator between the two previous aspects. Suffice it to say, if psychologists were to have viewed the second round of the Democratic debate, they would have witnessed real-time case studies of Freud’s theory as the stage was apparently divided into these three categories.
The Co-Main Event
Pragmatism, reality, and thought are no longer favored among Democrats. This was apparent on the CNN debate stage, in the audience, and across social media. Instead, the party and its base have shifted their electoral strategy to, as Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) uttered a handful of times, “wish list economics.” Whether this is a winning strategy or not remains to be seen, but it is obvious that certain candidates who have made realism a centerpiece of their campaigns are no longer accepted in the fold.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and former Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) repeatedly exchanged blows, prompting the first-ever Native American presidential candidate to go as far asking: “Why even run for president?” This question was posed after Delaney continually used reason to muse on subjects like health care and the environment and dismissed grandiose, distracting, and undoable ideas, such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.
Immediately following the debate, the media declared Warren as the winner because she ostensibly “roasted” Delaney, who was described by The Washington Examiner as a candidate who desires “to be Republicans’ favorite Democrat.”
After possibly Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), GOP voters might also want to witness Delaney rise to the top. Throughout the evening, his moderate blitzkrieg slammed the anti-private sector rhetoric and touted market innovation. It was too bad that he endorsed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), demanded tax hikes, and called for mandatory national service.
The semi-main event also consisted of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) going to battle over the same topics, flinging their arms in the air like inflatable tube men – or former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX). A vocal critic of socialism and militant progressivism, Hickenlooper believed that taking away private insurance from 180 million Americans and offering a guaranteed government job would “FedEx the election” to President Donald Trump.
Hickenlooper appeared to have knocked it out of the ballpark, on a political philosophy level, when he lamented on big government acolytes foisting their exorbitant and expensive programs on state and local governments:
“Us governors and mayors are the ones, we have to pick up all the pieces when suddenly the government’s supposed to take over all these responsibilities, and there’s no preparation, the details aren’t worked out. You can’t just spring a plan on the world and expect it to succeed.”
He also sounded like a libertarian, arguing that nobody wins a trade war and proposing to treat the American people like adults: “You know, it comes down to that question of Americans being used to being able to make choices, to have the right to make a decision.”
Gov. Bullock attempted to be the voice of reason, but spectators were more likely wondering: Where the heck did this guy come from?
A Reagan Democrat Renaissance?
In the 1980s, a new political term was formed: The Reagan Democrat.
These were folks who were moderate or conservative Democrats, abandoning the party in 1980 and 1984 to support President Ronald Reagan after being immensely disappointed with the presidency of Jimmy Carter. While leaning left on social issues, they sympathized with the conservative cause on fiscal management, economics, national security, and immigration. You could mirror this to the 2016 election, when a huge swath of middle American voters was displeased by the eight years of President Barack Obama, did not appreciate the direction of the party, and sought refuge in a Republican candidate.
Hickenlooper and Delaney are the personifications of a Reagan Democrat, a rare breed of centrism over socialism, a sin in today’s toxic political climate.
Delaney, who even referenced the Gipper’s 2% hike in the capital gains tax to 28% in 1986, urged the party to “run on real solutions” and not on “fairy tale economics.”
Hickenlooper has repeatedly made statements that are antithetical to the far-left wing of the Democratic Party. Recently, he told the press that he is not raising a lot of money because he is not promising free stuff. Then, during the debate, he quipped about “the fundamental nonsense of government” and stated that the Democrats who flipped the 40 GOP seats in the House did not support policies that Sanders and Warren advocate.
Are these winning strategies? Perhaps their performances might change upcoming polling data, but Hickenlooper and Delaney are not even registering any support. Maybe this is the “dark psychic force” that Marianne Williamson informed everyone of in one of her soliloquies on love.
Reason is so Passé
The consensus on the right after the June debate was that Gabbard was the sanest Democrat among the field of 20. It was unclear about Andrew Yang because he only spoke for two minutes.
Following the recent showing, the conclusion that many conservatives and libertarians might make is that Hickenlooper and Delaney can also add their names to that list. In a race where most contenders are promising trillions in goodies and unconstitutionally expanding the size of the Leviathan, it can be refreshing to hear someone talk about the national debt and the Constitution.
The debate was an illustration of the internal conflict that every human eternally faces, attempting to balance desire and responsibility. Hickenlooper and Delaney acted as that mythical creature on your shoulder that encourages you to be responsible, while Warren and Sanders behaved as a being on the other shoulder that persuades you to satisfy every whim with reckless abandon. This might be the theme of the Democratic primary in 2020: The ancient Herculean struggle of sacrificing the primrose path for appropriate utility.