by CHQ Staff
Well, the first rule of last night’s Democratic debate was a first in the history of the Republic: ABC asked Democrats to refrain from swearing during the three-hour event.
The network seemed particularly concerned about former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who has been dropping the F-bomb to express his anger about gun violence, but we think it was Bernie who got off the rails first. When speaking of his Medicare for All bill the old Socialist warhorse said: “I wrote the damn bill.”
Unfortunately for him, he set up Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Medicare for All skeptic to say, “While Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill,” she emphasized the tens of millions of people who would lose their private insurance under the plan. “I don’t think that’s a bold idea; I think that’s a bad idea,” Klobuchar said.
But speaking of Beto, he weirdly continued basing his campaign on white guilt, saying the true founding of our country was the date that the first slave came to America. We say weirdly, because in the FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll* conducted this week, only 3 percent of respondents said racism was their top issue in the Democratic primary.
But that didn’t stop Pete Buttigieg from pandering as well by saying we essentially live in two different countries because of the harm systemic racism does to African Americans.
Of the 3 percent of respondents to the FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll — 110 people — who said racism was the most important issue in the Democratic Primary, the respondents were pretty divided about which candidate they thought was best on the issue — 21 percent said Sanders, 20 percent said Biden, 19 percent said Harris, and 12 percent said Warren.
Meaning the pandering is getting Beto and Mayor Pete exactly nowhere.
But lack of measurable impact didn’t drive the candidates away from talking about issues no one cares about and pushing policies no one wants and that was ultimately the overarching theme of last night’s debate.
A good example of this was the time spent on gun confiscation. A recent Quinnipiac poll found that mandatory buybacks of assault weapons are supported by 46 percent of Americans and opposed by 49 percent.
In the FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll conducted this week, only 4.2 percent of people said gun policy was the most important issue to them in the Democratic primary. Among the 162 respondents who said gun policy was the most important issue to them, Beto was number 4 at 12.9 percent, garnering less than half of Joe Biden’s support on the issue.
Not only that, but gun control is a very weak motivator in the Democratic Primary; over half of Democrats and independents surveyed in the USA Today – Suffolk University poll said they could back a candidate with different views on gun control if they agreed with them on other policies.
Interestingly, immigration, another favorite topic for Democrat candidates, was behind gun control as an issue for Democratic voters.
In the FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll cited above, only 3.3 percent of people said immigration was the most important issue to them in the Democratic primaries.
And Bernie Sanders at 25.2 percent and Joe Biden at 21.4 percent were the only candidates who beat “someone else” on the issue.
Meaning that, standing as he does at 4.2 percent, Julian Castro’s bashing of Biden and demanding open borders is getting him nowhere among Democratic primary voters.
What’s more, in a January 2019 poll done by the Winston Group, a GOP pollster, 49 percent of national registered voters thought that the Democrats were for open borders, meaning Castro is hurting the entire Democratic brand for the general election.
The Democrats also spent an inordinate amount of time on education – a policy area with relatively little (thank goodness) federal responsibility and an issue that was tops for just 2.5 percent of Democratic voters in the FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll we’ve been using as our benchmark.
But the real place where Democrats pushed hard on policies no one wants was on health care.
According to the Gallup Organization’s August survey, health care, at 6 percent, is down in the middle of the pack of what they call “non-economic” issues. What’s more, according to a Kaiser Health news poll, only 39 percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents want Medicare for All, compared to the 55 percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents who prefer to “build” on Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act).
And, according to a 2018 Gallup Organization survey cited by FiveThirtyEight’s Maggie Koerth-Baker, solid majorities of Americans rate the coverage (69 percent) and quality (80 percent) of the healthcare they personally receive as “excellent” or “good.”
Indeed, at least three in four Americans have consistently rated the quality of their healthcare positively, ranging from 76 percent to 83 percent, over the past 18 years. Smaller majorities have described their coverage as excellent or good since 2001, ranging from 63 percent to 72 percent.
What’s more, as Nate Silver pointed out in a July 25, 2019 article, Medicare for All isn’t all that popular, even among Democrats.
“Medicare for all, that is a national health insurance program for all Americans that replaces private health insurance” was seen unfavorably by 54 percent of respondents in a Marist poll conducted July 15 through 17, 2019.
And it was seen as a bad idea by 31 percent of Democrats, and 33 percent of those who identified as liberal or very liberal!
It is also worth noting the same poll found only 39 percent of independents support Medicare for All.
As Mr. Silver pointed out back in July, there’s more to winning elections than just picking whatever policies happen to poll best, but judging by the time Democrats spent last night talking about and pushing issues no one cares about and policies no one likes they are going to have a tough time beating Donald Trump, a President who is in almost symbiotic synchronization with the ideas and attitudes of his base.
*We chose the FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll as our benchmark because it is an unusually detailed look at the attitudes of Democratic Primary voters and the FiveThirtyEight team does an outstanding job of putting it in context.
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Photo “Democratic Debate” by ABC News.