Dems struggle to out-liberal each other at CNN town halls

I spent part of the morning going through the highlight reels of CNN’s five-hour marathon of town halls last night. It’s too soon to see if they’ve solved their problem with low ratings for these dog and pony shows, but they’ve at least managed to generate some clickable headlines. While we don’t seem to have heard any truly new or unique policy proposals, the ones already on the table were being taken to even more extreme limits as some (but not all) of the contenders fought to stake out territory on the far left. (Associated Press)

The fight for the direction of the Democratic Party played out in prime time on Monday as some of the party’s leading presidential contenders debated health care, college debt and whether President Donald Trump should be impeached.

Five 2020 hopefuls were set to address young voters in first-in-the-nation primary state New Hampshire by night’s end. The first, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, refused to embrace “Medicare for All” and free college in sharp contrast with many of her competitors.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, scheduled to take the stage later in the night, has outlined a detailed plan to offer debt-free college.

“I wish I could staple a free college diploma to every one of your chairs,” Klobuchar said. “I have to be straight with you and tell you the truth.”

Elizabeth Warren seemed to be leading the charge to the left. Most of her presentation had to do with free stuff, but now those plans have been put on steroids. She’s proposing to not only make college free for everyone but to forgive all student loan debt in the country. And she’ll pay for it with an ever-expanding tax on the wealthy. Of course, to pull that trick off she would have to come up with literally trillions in new revenue from a very small percentage of the general population. She was also pushing Medicare for All and allowing prisoners to vote.

While Bernie Sanders was making his usual socialist pitch, one of the more surprising performances came from Senator Amy Klobuchar. Since she first announced I’ve wondered whether she might be one of the more dangerous Democrats in the race by virtue of taking relatively moderate, sane positions on many issues. (At least by 2019 Democratic standards, anyway.) She passed on Medicare for All, as well as free tuition, telling the audience that she’d love to just give everything away, but we simply can’t afford it. She may still wind up being one of Joe Biden’s biggest opponents in the moderate lane.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg was the other candidate joining Klobuchar in taking a more reserved tone. They were the two that weren’t pushing for impeaching Donald Trump immediately, and Buttigieg was also willing to push back on Bernie Sanders’ idea about letting all felons vote from prison, including terrorists and murderers. That doesn’t mean that he wasn’t serving up his own brand of liberal extremism on other points, but he was demonstrating that there were some lines he wasn’t willing to cross… at least not yet.

Since the felon voting question is obviously going to keep coming up throughout the primary, let’s just take a moment to examine what such plans might mean for many communities around the country. For a prime example, consider the village of Attica, New York. That’s the location of the Attica supermax prison. The village itself has a population of 2,547 as of the last census. (The entire township only has a bit more than 7,000.) While we normally focus on national, state and congressional races, it’s worth remembering that places like that have local elections for mayor and the village council.

The Attica prison has a population of up to 2,250 inmates. If you allow them all to vote (and honestly, what else do they have to keep themselves occupied?), they would vastly outnumber the votes of the village residents in either party. Is that who you want to decide who the next mayor will be if you live there? This is an insane idea, and yet it’s becoming wildly popular among Democrats this season. Just something to ponder as we move forward.