Where We Stand After The Latest Democratic Debate

The day after President Trump got impeached, the Democrats refocused on what will matter the most for 2020: finding a viable presidential nominee to represent the party and beat the Republican incumbent. While the favorites remained the same, the latest debate on December 19 did nonetheless illustrate who the triumvirate of Biden, Warren, and Sanders fear the most.

Frontrunners’ Mission: Slow Down Pete Buttigieg’s Momentum

It has been a reoccurring theme in the Democratic debates. Throughout the year, one could always see who the emerging threat for the frontrunners was. It began with Joe Biden, who had to stand up to the rest of the field, followed by Elizabeth Warren. This time, the candidates seemed to have picked on South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg as their latest target. Not without reason. The former outsider has picked up considerable momentum as of late.

Although Buttigieg has yet to take over the top spots away from favorites Biden, Warren, and Bernie Sanders in the national polls⁠—and still struggles severely with Afro-American voters⁠—he leads in Iowa, where the primaries, or in Iowa’s case the first caucus, will be held in February. Buttigieg’s recent rise to stardom also comes with additional donor money. Plenty of donor money. Significantly more than a mayor of a medium-sized city that was completely unknown until a year ago could have anticipated.

Why Buttigieg’s Rise Makes The Other Candidates Jumpy

Buttigieg’s increased polling and the corresponding fundraising success make his fellow candidates nervous. They don’t want his campaign and finances to pick up enough steam to threaten their runs for President. Therefore, Buttigieg was attacked from all sides, epecially by Warren, with whom he has had a kind of private feud over the past few weeks. Without mentioning Buttigieg’s name, Warren criticized candidates who would rather spend time at fundraisers than talk to real people with real problems. Warren believes such behavior is a Republican gimmick, not the trait of a genuine Democrat.

The latter is hardly a reasonable point of critique, but is typical of someone like Warren, riding on her 10-feet-tall moral high horse. Buttigieg gave the correct answer when he stated he would take money from everyone, whether a student or a millionaire, as in order to beat Donald Trump, any support was needed and appreciated.

Warren’s Self-Righteous Sanctimony

Warren was not too pleased with Buttigieg’s rationale and continued her anti-capitalist tirade, only to make the statement, that “Billionaires in wine cellars should not be allowed to choose the next president.” Why votes of billionaires are not supposed to count or are less important than Billy the bus driver’s vote, no one knows. But it sure sounds sanctimonious.

Most importantly, however, it is a dubious point of view coming from someone who, as Buttigieg rightfully eluded to, has a net worth 100 times of his.

It was not the only attack Mayor Pete had to endure during the evening. Amy Klobuchar, a moderate like Buttigieg, who is losing against him in the polls (4 percent), repeated previous claims about Buttigieg lacking experience compared to the Washington establishment on stage. It’s a fair point. Governing South Bend, a city of 100,000 in the middle of nowhere does not automatically scream, “get me into the Oval Office!” On the other hand, major career politicians should have realized by now that voting is about popularity and not experience in today’s day and age. Otherwise, Hillary Clinton would have beaten Donald Trump in all states in 2016⁠—by a landslide.

What Else Happened In The Debate?

Besides the attacks on Buttigieg, other issues were addressed during the debate, though all without making any breaking news. Questions about the climate, the economy, foreign policy, and health were answered equally generically as during the first five debates, and the differences between the social democratic left as well as between the moderates remains infinitesimal.

Nonetheless, one felt that the tone in this debate was slightly sharper than during the previous rounds. The favorites attempted to solidify their positions, while the remaining outsiders continued to try to make up ground before the first votes will be cast in Iowa and particularly in advance of Super Tuesday in early March, after which 40 percent of all delegate votes will be set for the Democratic Convention in July.

How Long Will The Sanders-Warren Truce Last?

Meanwhile, Sanders and Warren must gradually decide how long they want to maintain their mutual non-aggression pact. Both are representing the same ideology and thus address similar voters. Nonetheless, neither has managed to individually threaten Biden’s frontrunner status, perhaps partly as a result of sharing part of the same base.

What also struck observers in this debate is that the radical left element⁠⁠ that pervaded the first debates has now been shelved by most candidates outside of Warren and Sanders, who continue their pledge to change the current system, claiming climate change was the most significant threat and call for open borders⁠. The other candidates appear to have understood that the center is the direction one has to go to not only obtain the nomination but also to defeat Donald Trump.