I usually catch only the highlights of so-called debates among presidential candidates, the stuff of news cycle-friendly sound bytes. Devoid of real discussion or dialog, the prime-time televised contests are far too heavy on theatrics and way too thin on substance to take seriously; they’re surely not “debates” in any meaningful sense of the term.
But tonight’s event – #7 in the orchestrated, carefully controlled Democratic party series – could be different. No, it’s not likely, unfortunately, to feature extended discussion of substantive issues. But it should afford the most progressive of the candidates – Sanders #1 by far, and Warren #2 – to hammer home the issues most likely to get traction with the American people. Especially those people not just infuriated by Trump and the obsequious Trumpublicans, but the very many people who have long felt ignored by our elite-dominated duopolistic political system (and who may well have voted Trump in 2016 for that very reason).
What are the issues likely to resonate? I believe there are two:
1. Anti-war. Americans are sick of war, sick of being lied to about war, sick of spending obscene amounts of money on war, sick of being told they’re unpatriotic or don’t “support the troops” if they raise a note of protest about U.S. drones assassinating political leaders the President deems dangerous “bad guys” (with or without evidence), and often killing untold numbers of innocent people in our name.
2. Pro-social welfare. Polls show that Americans want investment in America. They want health care, clean air, water, and food, more teachers and better schools, safe and reliable infrastructure. They want to live in communities free of violence. They want to tax the super-rich, control the big banks, put curbs on exploitative corporations, and punish corporate criminals. They support unions and wage hikes for working people. They want their national government to take meaningful action to address the climate crisis. It’s not for nothing that Bernie is surging in the polls, and collecting an extraordinary number of contributions from small donors.
The anti-war, pro-social welfare issues are closely connected. The U.S. has squandered its wealth on endless and wasteful wars premised on lies and fear-mongering propaganda (doubt it? Check out the Afghanistan Papers brought out recently by the Washington Post). It’s time for a 180-degree turn: We need a peace-making offensive abroad and a massive social investment program at home.
I hope Sanders and Warren hit these issues hard tonight, at every opportunity, in response to every question in one way or another. C’mon, Liz and Bernie, show us what you got; tell us what we need to hear from you to earn our support.