What's Tony Thinking

Democrats Third Round, My Take


The best thing you can say about Julian Castro’s taunting of Joe Biden about “forgetting what he had just said” (which he hadn’t) is that it is good preparation for dealing with Donald Trump. Trump will be taunting whoever the nominee is with everything in his pathetic arsenal. So good practice for Biden, should he be the nominee.

Otherwise, it seemed to me a pretty cheap shot by Castro (especially since he was wrong about what Biden said). It sounded like age-ism to me. “Did Uncle Joe forget his keys again?”

Otherwise, it seems like the field of ten all came across pretty well. Each one is beginning to have a clearer persona. When responding to the final question on “resilience” (which I suppose could be considered a softball), I found most all of the candidates convincing and admirable.

I have been more impressed with Elizabeth Warren than I expected to be. She is strong and focused. But I’m with those who want to take a more reformist approach here and build on Obamacare. The Democrats have not had good luck going for the biggest and best on health care.

Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker are looking to me like good VP candidates on a Biden ticket. Probably Klobuchar would have the edge there as she brings with her a midwest base and possibly more midwest states than her own Minnesota.

I liked Beto’s, “Yes, I will take your AR-15’s and AK-47’s.” But until he had the El Paso shooting to build on, as he did in each of his moments last night, it was unclear what he was bringing to the race. I still think he’s in over his handsome head here, but do wish he had defeated Ted Cruz and landed in the Senate.

While everyone was watching Biden to see if he would show signs of being too old I would say that it was Bernie who probably aroused more suspicions of being out of gas. He seems to have only one modulation to his hoarse voice. That gets tiresome.

A week or two ago I surveyed Republican Never-Trumper advice for the Democrats. Peggy Noonan had suggested that since Trump is dedicated to grim and dark, maybe the Democrats could be a little sunnier and take a more positive outlook on the nation.

Problem is that most of the liberals and progressives have bought into a narrative that tells us that racism is at the core of America and explains everything about us. There’s no doubt that racism is real and that our history is stained with racist laws and terrorism.

But if you make that the central narrative, as many on the left now have, it makes it difficult to say much positive about the country. I agree with Noonan that the Democrats would do well to remind us of our better angels and capacities, as Klobuchar and Buttigieg attempted to do last night. But if the narrative is that racism is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about America being hopeful and seeing positives in the country is hard to pull off.

My general experience as a leader is that you’re more likely to get people to tackle hard stuff by reminding them of their strengths and capacity for goodness than by telling them how awful they are.

On Tuesday I quoted Jonathan Franzen at length on climate change. His argument is that we’ve passed the tipping point already. Though we should not quit working, argues Franzen, we should quit pretending.

I did note that all of the candidates who addressed climate change last night were illustrative of Franzen’s point. That is, they all spoke as if we still have time and can fix this thing. Of course, I don’t expect anything different, certainly not Franzen’s “this war is no longer winnable.” But it was interesting to see Franzen’s contention that we are kidding ourselves made clearly visible.


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