Ten of the remaining Democratic Party presidential contenders faced off July 30 on the first night of the second primary debate. A definite split in ideology has emerged between those candidates who believe government should take a greater role in American life and those who believe government should take complete control of American life.
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are defining themselves as candidates who oppose any policy that would result in a single cent of profit for the private sector. They believe that government – and only the government – should provide solutions to every problem. Health care dominated the evening’s discussion, and Sanders, in particular, became clearly irate when others on the stage spoke about solutions which involved private insurance companies.
Health Care Issue Reveals a Deep Divide
Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Ohio Representative Tim Ryan, Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota all acknowledged that the private sector has a role to play in providing coverage for health care. Each of these candidates recognized the numerous and significant negative consequences of doing away with private insurance.
It was John Delaney – the former Maryland representative – who really went after Sen. Sanders on the latter’s wildly idealistic proposals for universal health care. Like every other Democrat in the race, Delaney claims to support the idea that health care is a right but disputed the idea that the government should simply deprive 180 million Americans of their private insurance – most of those policies subsidized by employers.
As usual, Sanders came over as angry, strident, and completely intolerant of any idea that involved private citizens and corporations making money without government approval. His entire platform appears based on the idea that the government should provide everything and that any private enterprise generating a profit is, by definition, greedy and evil.
To the senator’s credit, he was the only Democrat on the stage advocating single-payer health care who admits that Americans will pay more in taxes to finance the system. Warren, Robert O’Rourke, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg all dodged the question, despite the moderators’ best efforts to get a straight answer.
The most hilarious moment of the debate, possibly, was the claim by Sanders that, under his universal health care system, hospitals would save money by not having to deal with the bureaucracy of the insurance companies. While it is certainly true that insurance companies put their policyholders through the wringer when it comes time to settle a claim, the notion that handing over the nation’s entire health care system to the federal government would reduce paperwork is not only laughable, it is patently untrue. If there is one thing governments excel at, it is creating pointless bureaucratic nightmares.
Who Goes Big, Who Goes Home?
As is par for the course in any primary debate – Democrat or Republican – there was a lot of rhetoric and little substance. On immigration, gun violence, and foreign policy, this was particularly true. It is certainly clear that, as a whole, the Democratic Party has decided health care is the one issue upon which it can effectively campaign. Every other issue seems to be nothing more than dressing.
The split between moderates (relatively speaking) and the hardcore progressive/socialist wing is becoming ever more apparent. Of the former group, Delaney and Ryan obviously tried to make their mark – possibly because they saw this debate as their last chance to stake their claim to the nomination on a national stage. Of the latter faction, Sanders and Warren commanded the spotlight.
Sen. Klobuchar may have done just enough to keep her nomination run afloat for a while longer, as did Hickenlooper, but O’Rourke, Buttigieg, and the author Marianne Williamson did little to move the needle on their respective campaigns.
For the first time, the Democratic Party’s extreme left came under fire from some of its own, but the question is whether any of those more moderate candidates – who tried to present alternative, more realistic policy options – will even survive long enough to take the stage for the next round of primary debates.