As both a Republican and an American, I had mixed feelings about the latest Democratic primary debate. On the one hand, the more I listened to the current batch of candidates, the more optimistic I began to feel about President Donald Trump’s reelection chances. On the other hand, though, the reality that many of these candidates and their radical ideas have reached the political mainstream is rather sobering.
One of the strangest, and also one of the most representative, moments of the night was the interaction between Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Senator Kamala Harris toward the beginning of the debate. When questioned about her previous critical remarks about 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton, Gabbard answered the question in a fairly straightforward fashion and explained her reasons for having disapproved of Clinton. Instead of responding to Gabbard with a defense of Clinton, Harris instead lambasted the fact that Gabbard was willing to appear on Fox News, had met with the president following the 2016 election and had attacked the Democratic Party.
Let’s do a quick reality check here. Meeting with people who disagree with you is not a bad thing. Criticizing a party that, by many accounts, unfairly favored one candidate over another in the most recent primary election, is also not a bad thing. The idea that these actions should be used as fodder for such attacks is truly bizarre.
However, this emphasis on loyalty to the party was not only present in this exchange, but throughout the entire night. Candidates like Gabbard and political outsider Andrew Yang were given miniscule amounts of time in comparison to others. And I’m not just comparing them to the supposed “frontrunners,” but candidates like Senator Cory Booker and Senator Amy Klobuchar, who are (on average) polling just about even with Gabbard and Yang.
On the subject of the candidates purported to be the frontrunners, it is becoming clearer now than ever before that voters are not entirely satisfied with them. Take former Vice President Joe Biden, who had an embarrassing night with no shortage of gaffes. There were times when Biden repeatedly urged Washington to keep “punching at” the issue of domestic violence. Mistakes like these have voters increasingly worried about Biden’s age and political capability, especially when the frequency of these moments is taken into account.
If Biden’s not the ideal candidate, then who is? For a while, it looked like that title would go to Senator Elizabeth Warren, who saw a rapid ascent in the polls over the past few months. But since she achieved “frontrunner status," the increased scrutiny that came with it led to a polling downfall that was perhaps even more rapid.
After Biden and Warren’s failures to generate enough momentum as frontrunners, voters have begun looking for other options. Many are coalescing around South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who had a decent performance in the most recent debate by most metrics. Although he is generating a lot of publicity and has begun to take a lead in some Iowa polling, my prediction is that this won’t last. After all, being a less-than-successful mayor of a relatively small city in Indiana doesn’t exactly compare to the political or business acumen that most presidential contenders have.
In summary, Democratic primary voters have failed to coalesce around a promising candidate at this stage in the primary. Granted, it is still early, and voters could theoretically settle on a nominee in the coming months. But there seems to be few signs of the race narrowing down anytime soon. It is for this reason that politicians like former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg and former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick have thrown their hats into the ring this late in the game.
There are currently 15 Democrats running for president, and the fact that no candidate has earned the support of even 30 percent of voters right now should have party leaders concerned. And with the current batch of candidates’ insistence on favoring progressivism and party loyalty over pragmatism, moderate voters will likely be hesitant to support the eventual nominee. All in all, the fifth Democratic debate was a pretty good night for the president.