Magazine | July 29, 2019, Issue

The Party of Crazy

From left: entrepreneur Andrew Yang, South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Kamala Harris at the second night of the first Democratic presidential candidates debate in Miami, Fla., June 27, 2019 (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Were the Democratic debates sponsored by Toy Story 4? They might as well have been, except the Donkey party came up with a slight rewrite of Buzz Lightyear’s favorite exhortation: “To insanity, and beyond!”

Like Buzz, the Dems dropped in on an unfamiliar star system peopled with alien life forms called “Americans” and came up with one hilariously impractical scheme after another for vanquishing the strange unknown beasts. Should we abolish the private health insurance that 217 million Americans now carry? Yep! says Sandinista Frankenstein Bill de Blasio. Sure! says Bolshie Bernie Sanders. Certainly! says Stands with a Beer Elizabeth Warren. Of course! Says Kamala “Chameleon” Harris. Harris later admitted she had creatively construed the question, which was “Many people watching at home have health insurance through their employer. Who here would abolish their health insurance in favor of a government-run plan?” By “their,” you see, Senator Harris thought moderator Lester Holt was referring not to the many people watching at home who have insurance through their employer but to the candidates. But then, if Senator Harris was musing only about swapping her own private health insurance for some notional government plan, she doesn’t understand the meaning of the verb “to abolish.” If someone asks you whether you want to “abolish” Verizon, you don’t take him to mean, “Wouldn’t you just like to switch to AT&T?” Nor was this the first time Harris had suggested dropping the Monty Python foot on private insurers. “Let’s eliminate all that, let’s move on,” she said of private health insurance at a CNN town hall in January. She walked back the idea then too. Harris does a lot of back-walking. “Never mind!” could be her campaign slogan. She’s making life pretty dull for the Oppo Research gnomes at the RNC. So far all they need to know is where the “record” button is whenever Harris is on national TV.

But not just Harris! Seriously, who is advising the Dems these days, Steve Bannon? On the first night of the debates, Julián Castro called for “decriminalizing” illegal entry into the U.S., which is just open borders plus a parking ticket. Castro and the media have been screamingly telling us that no Democrat actually supports open borders, and yet everybody on stage the second night of the debates called for providing health care to illegal immigrants, which sounds even worse than open borders to me. It’s easy to have sympathy for people living in the shadows, but not when they leap out of the shadows and present me with the bill for their back surgery. Reparations for black Americans was such a radical idea in 2016 that even Sanders didn’t support it. Now most of the Democrats support race reparations in one way or another, and Warren even called for gay reparations, which marks the first time I can remember that anyone called for reparations for rich people (gay couples have a median household income of $104,000). Somewhere in Michigan a pipe-fitter who voted for Trump is thinking, “This is how these guys are trying to win me back?” 

Going into the debates, Joe Biden’s polling numbers were so strong that all he had to do to cement his front-runner status was avoid looking racist on live TV. He wound up looking racist on live TV. Harris cast him as hurtful and insensitive to people like her because he used to have lunch with segregationist Democrats (this worked beautifully because Democrats hate being reminded of how many of them were so recently segregationists, the guy who might be their next nominee knew several of them). Then she segued to suggesting he was a racist for his 1970s opposition to federally mandated busing — a policy she vigorously supported at the debate and after the debate but dropped a few days later, coming back around to where Biden had been all along. Never mind! The party’s communications wizards emeriti James Carville and David Axelrod must have been observing all of this, thinking, “Well, at least our fellow Democrats didn’t spit on the flag.” Then they spit on the flag. 

They didn’t hawk a loogie directly; they merely commended Colin Kaepernick and Nike for doing so. Nike had hastily withdrawn a new pair of sneakers emblazoned with the Betsy Ross flag on the heel after King Kaep expressed his displeasure, his team having signaled (to the Wall Street Journal) that he didn’t like the flag because it meant slavery and (to the New York Times) that he didn’t like the flag because white-supremacist groups sometimes display it. California governor Gavin Newsom, Castro (our Castro, not the one who speaks Spanish fluently), and former It-boy Beto O’Rourke all rushed to praise Nike and Kaepernick for being so perspicacious about this previously undetected wellspring of race anguish. If the 1777 flag is racist, that must be a head-scratcher to Barack Obama, who gave his second inaugural address under one. Was Obama secretly a white supremacist? Hang on, I have to Google whether he ever flashed the “okay” sign. 

In the Nineties there was a suicide squad called “Heaven’s Gate” that was renowned for a chic uniform of black T-shirts, black sweatpants, and black-and-white Nikes. Yet I don’t recall Nike denouncing itself for being the choice of a crazy death cult. Which leads me to one of those “hey, we’ve come full circle!” ideas columnists love to end on. Nike was once the favorite shoe of a suicide cult. Now it’s the de facto footgear of the Democrats. Next debate, which Dem will be the one to passionately tell the citizens, “Vote for me and I’ll give you this yummy free Kool-Aid”?

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