It was front-runner Bernie Sanders and a slashing, clashing Elizabeth Warren who starred at Wednesday’s Nevada Democratic Debate.
I was actually hoping someone would have mentioned the coronavirus, a/k/a COVID-19 problem, as it spreads around the world and to America. Asian Americans would have been leaning in to hear assurances that a Sanders/Warren/Biden/Buttigieg/Klobuchar/Bloomberg administration would know how to handle a crisis with compassion and sensitivity.
Would they know how to protect the country from the virus of ignorance as well?
Considering how many Asian American businesses and individuals claim they are being hurt by irrational fear of the disease, it would have been a valuable insight drawn from the Nevada debate, the first one in a state where AAPI eligible voters are at nearly 210,000, 11 percent of the state’s electorate.
But we didn’t get that.
We did, however, get a debate that was the most contentious to date, and one that had plenty of what all good debates showcase: clash. Oh, yes, style and substance, and an on-your-feet deftness. But the clash and clang of debate, the verbal swordplay, cutting and exposing your opponents, that’s what counts in these battles.
On Wednesday, it’s as if they all were inspired by the elephant in the room, the billionaire newcomer Michael Bloomberg–the Republican turned Democrat, turned political rich white knight to save the day for the oligarchy.
He was cut up so badly, it was like he wasn’t ready for prime time. And his nemesis was none other than Elizabeth Warren, who realized she would be toast if she didn’t assert herself this time around.
I would have bet heavy on Bloomberg. He was set up like baseball’s 2017 Houston Astros against the Yankees. He should have known every pitch coming. Like an inevitable question on the racist “stop and frisk” policy that he used to curb the murder rate in New York City.
Said Bloomberg: “It got out of control.”
He still justified the policy, claiming that murders had dropped dramatically. Then he meekly admitted he had apologized. But he tried to regain face, saying if they took everyone on the debate stage who had ever been wrong on criminal justice, “there’d be nobody else up here.”
For a few seconds, the silence was deafening.
But Warren broke through and practically shoved Bloomberg up against proverbial wall on the debate stage, holding him accountable for the policy that wrecked the lives of black and brown men in the city. She pointed out Bloomberg had apologized for how it turned out. But she said, “This is about what it was designed to do to begin with, it targeted communities of color.”
It won Warren genuine applause.
“If you want to issue a real apology then the apology has to start with the intent of the plan as it was put together,” she said. “You need a different apology.”
Bloomberg was bloodied, but that was just the first slash.
There were also the stories of women who have claimed harassment in the Bloomberg workplace and who were paid in exchange for signing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
Warren again was there holding Bloomberg accountable. Astro Bloomberg should have seen the pitch coming. But he wasn’t prepared for the high hard one.
Said Warren of the NDA holders: “If they wish now to speak out and tell their side of the story about what it is they alleged, that’s now ok with you, you’re releasing them on television tonight?”
Huge applause, as Bloomberg dodged implying he was bound by the signed agreements. But Warren came back. “Are the women bound by being muzzled by you? And you can release them from that immediately, because understand, this is not just about the mayor’s character, this is also a question about electability. We are not going to beat Donald Trump with a man who knows how many non-disclosure agreements and the drip-drip-drip of stories of women saying they have been harassed and discriminated against.”
Warren put Bloomberg, the exposed oligarch, on the spot.
Biden joined in. but Warren in the lead overshadowed him. Pete Buttigieg sounded smart going after everyone. But he and Amy Klobuchar seemed to have it out for each other, especially on the Klobuchar gaffe of not knowing the name of Mexico’s president.
Still, the steadiest debater of the night was the front-runner Bernie Sanders.
Sanders started strong with the diversity litany, mentioning in the first two minutes Asian Americans as part of his coalition.
We were seen.
Sanders also went after Bloomberg, saying both of them had gotten their two stents worth out of life, and how he, Sanders, was in good campaign shape.
Stil, I’d feel better if Sanders declared himself vegan.
It would be better for his heart and for the planet. All the candidates were strong on climate change, but Bernie would be stronger still if he came out for a whole-food, plant-based diet. That would not only reduce the U.S. carbon footprint by 50 percent, but also cut down on the nitrogen pollution runoff from farmlands that’s destroying our rivers and coastlines.
At least it would throw off the concern about his health, although he is still clarifying that he is a red-blooded American and not, as Bloomberg implied, a “communist.”
It was yet another ignorant Bloomberg comment. The savior of the Democratic party is a red-baiter?
On Saturday, I expect Sanders to win Nevada. And then it’s on to South Carolina, followed by all the Asian Americans in California on March 3, Super Tuesday.
I think Sanders stays strong throughout. He has a gruff leadership charm. The bigger question is whether Warren took the pop out of Bloomberg. Will black voters support him in the South? Will a coalition of voters find Bloomberg attractive on Super Tuesday?
The man has money to burn, but I think Warren did a number on him this week. Maybe she won his doubters.
That’s how strong her moments were on Wednesday night–enough to make people realize that an oligarch by any other name is not the answer in November.