Democrats onstage in Houston aspire not so much to govern America as to punish it.
Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke called racism not only “endemic” to America but “foundational.” He explained, “We can mark the creation of this country not at the Fourth of July, 1776, but August 20, 1619, when the first kidnapped African was brought to this country against his will and in bondage and as a slave built the greatness, and the success, and the wealth that neither he nor his descendants would ever be able to participate in or enjoy.”
The villains in the Democratic Party story of America do not remain hundreds of years beyond our reach. Cops, gun owners, factory farmers, employees of insurance and pharmaceutical companies, Wall Street speculators, the oil industry, Republicans, and so many others who, together, constitute the majority of the nation: our Houston Dems do not look to them as fellow countrymen but as impediments, evil impediments in some cases, to realizing their ideological vision. And if that message did not come across in English, several candidates speaking Spanish not comprehended by most viewers nevertheless did not get lost in translation.
That ideological vision includes a doubly unconstitutional confiscation of weapons through executive fiat endorsed by Sen. Kamala Harris and O’Rourke (“Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47”), abolition of private health insurance in a bill sponsored by Sens. Sanders and Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden’s insistence that “nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime,” reparations for slavery supported by O’Rourke, a wealth tax proposed by Warren, Sen. Cory Booker’s call to “create an office in the White House to deal with the problem of white supremacy and hate crimes,” Harris demanding that government “de-incarcerate women and children” (even ones who murder?), Andrew Yang wanting to “give every American 100 democracy dollars that you only give to candidates and causes you like,” and the entire stage endorsing open borders, if in muted terms during this debate, and amnesty for illegal immigrants.
A telling moment, displaying the rudeness and indecency of the activist wing of the party, came when protesters shouted over Joe Biden as he began to tell the story of his greatest setbacks, which involved the deaths of his wife and daughter in a car crash and later of his son from cancer. “Losing him was like losing part of my soul,” Biden confessed in the strongest, most emotionally compelling moment of the night. He talked of faith lost and regained and how “finding purpose” helped him to rise from life’s knockdowns. He came across as a human being.
Other strong moments came from Booker, perhaps the most eloquent speaker in the race, in counseling, “We cannot sacrifice progress on the altar of purity”; Mayor Pete Buttigieg when he countered Sanders’ “Medicare for All” prohibition of private insurance by explaining, “I trust the American people to make the right choice for them. Why don’t you?”; Sen. Amy Klobuchar in reaching across the aisle by announcing, “I don’t want to be the president of half of America, I want to be the president of all of America”; and Biden by lecturing Harris about gun confiscation by executive order, “Let’s be constitutional.”
A too-strong moment came from Julián Castro, who not-so-subtly invoked the former vice president’s age when he repeatedly asked, “Are you forgetting already what you said two minutes ago?” Andrew Yang provided the Marianne Williamson moment of the night. He strangely offered a $1,000-a-month “freedom dividend” to 10 lucky Americans who go to his website, effectively taking the Santa Claus politics exhibited by his competitors in Houston to its reductio ad absurdum in overtly bribing primary and caucus participants in a tacky cash-for-votes scheme.
Lost in what the candidates said was what the candidates left out. They said little about the economy and nothing about the $23 trillion debt. The moderators, to their discredit, made political points masked as questions, ones that almost uniformly bought into the ideological premises of the candidates. The crowd, at least that portion of it prone to outbursts, embarrassed itself in its incivility.
And for conservatives who remain puzzled about the forces that pushed the Democratic Party so far left in so short a time, they look in the wrong direction when they look at that stage in Houston for answers. The candidates, facing shiny-eyed hecklers in the audience and aggressive activists portraying journalists at the press table, possess a better perspective.