We are just days away from Tax-and-Spend Lollapalooza – otherwise known as the Democrat presidential candidate debates. Here’s what to expect from the two-day event:
First, unless you have been under a rock, you know that there are two dozen Democrat presidential candidates, meaning that there will be two full nights of debate with 10 candidates on each night (four didn’t make the cut).
Second, while it is common knowledge that those candidates have been pulling the Democrat party to the left with a variety of large tax and spend programs, we are going to see it front-and-center in both debates. In January of this year, I dubbed this dynamic “The Democrats’ Bidding War to Tax and Spend Your Money.”
Which is an odd circumstance in this significant way: usually large expansions of government are proposed during an economic crisis, but with the economy doing quite well, the Democrat demands to massively expand government are out of step with history and the times.
Third, we are seeing a presidential cycle that is starting earlier than any other in our history – meaning that even though these are early debates, the stakes are high.
Fittingly, it was Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who came out of the gate first. I say fittingly because she appears to be the thought leader for the Democrats. She has a plan for everything and, yes, all of those plans involve spending lots of money and therefore higher taxes. She is not shy talking about this.
Look for Warren to be aggressive on the first night, perhaps roll out yet another new spending plan or two.
According to one study, Warren’s many proposals so far add up to “$129 trillion in spending over the next 10 years.” And that was before she proposed several trillion more for “universal free public college and cancellation of student loan debt.”
For comparison purposes, the current federal budget is $4.76 trillion. Thus, she is pushing to at least triple spending over the next decade with plans for everything from Medicare-for-All, universal child care, cancelling student debt, free public college, spending on the opioid crisis, the Green New Deal and more.
Beyond that, Warren has not only demanded the repeal of the Trump tax cuts, she has proposed a wealth tax – literally a tax on what some people own.
And Warren is the one who is rising in the Democrat polls.
The debate schedule and format may well work to Warren’s benefit. She is the only major candidate on the first night of the debates. Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., are on the second night. By going first, Warren remains in the position of having the other candidates respond to her.
So, look for Warren to be aggressive on the first night, perhaps roll out yet another new spending plan or two. The debates will be a home run for her if a moderator asks the other candidates: “Senator Warren proposes a [fill in the blank] program, do you support that?
Should that happen, we can expect a series of “Yes!” answers to:
- Do you support Medicare-for-All?
- Do you support the student debt relief?
- Do you support reparations?
- Do you support increased spending on child care?
- Are you opposed to the heartbeat abortion laws?
- Do you support repealing the Trump tax bill?
- Do you support impeachment hearings against President Trump?
Keep in mind, peer pressure at this level and in the national spotlight, will be intense. Perhaps the only big name who might say no to more than one of the above is Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a leading candidate for vice president.
All Sanders needs to do is look solid while Joe Biden struggles.
For the candidates who haven’t been mentioned so far, they will need to do one of three things in order to stand out:
- Take on the leader
- Offer their own new program or tax
- Go against the tide
No one who is currently going against the tide is doing well. Remember, primary voters tend towards the edges of the party, not the center. So, expect a couple of the lower-rung candidates to try it, get booed and then go nowhere in the polls among the heavily left primary goers.
As for new programs, look for at least one of the mid-tier candidates, such as Kamala Harris, to offer a shiny new program in an effort to grab next-day headlines.
All of which brings us back to Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden – the two leading candidates.
Expect Bernie to say that he is glad the others finally agree with him on issues such as Medicare-for-All. I’m “the original” on this, he will say in one way or another. Because of his dedicated support, Sanders doesn’t need to make a big splash in the debates.
All he needs to do is look solid while Joe Biden struggles.
And Biden is likely to struggle. He’s been falling, both in the polls and over his own words, and these debates are dangerous grounds for him. He’s never been a good national candidate, and gaffes – like his most recent one talking kindly of segregationists – are exactly what forced him out of his prior two runs for president. And this one coming so soon before the debate likely means his opponents will hit him on it. His chances of getting out of the debate without doing mortal damage to his campaign is a 50/50 proposition at best.
In the end, I expect Biden to continue to slip in the polls and Sanders to remain where he is. And that means someone else has to rise.
That someone may very well be Elizabeth Warren.