Democrats are not ready to make reparations payments now

It’s Friday afternoon so let’s close the day with a laugh. Rob Smith describes himself as a “America’s Favorite Black Gay Republican! Iraq War Veteran.” He works at Turning Point USA which put together the clip below. The concept is simple: Smith asks Democratic candidates campaigning for president at the Iowa state fair, several of whom support a plan to study the issue of reparations, if he can have his money now.

Since Smith is black, the only candidate who dares to tell him off for asking this impertinent question is Cory Booker, who immediately suggests Smith doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Congressman Tim Ryan, to his credit, seems to get the joke and laughs. Sen. Elizabeth Warren laughs but then looks eager to find an escape route. Marianne Williamson smiles but then goes into a lecture about her proposal. To her credit, at least she doesn’t try to run away from the question.

Andrew Yang replies “I’m working on it” as his people usher him away from Smith. Sen. Gillibrand laughs but her minders are immediately trying to derail Smith by asking him who he’s with. John Delaney replies that he does not support cash reparations and doesn’t try to hedge his answer, which is nice but won’t win him any fans on the far left.

Julian Castro’s response may be my favorite of the bunch. He immediately smiles but it’s not a happy smile. He’s not laughing like Tim Ryan or Sen. Gillibrand. His smile is more the look of someone who knows he’s standing in a trap. “Thank you for your question,” Castro says as he keeps smiling and walking.

“Can I have my money now?” is a great question because it cuts to the heart of the matter. Forget the talking points about forming a commission or having a study to look at the issue. That’s just a way to avoid saying what you believe. It’s a dodge that puts the responsibility for the ultimate outcome in someone else’s hands.

The question does another thing too. It shows how an idea discussed in very serious and dramatic tones from Democratic debate stages can quickly become something crass or venal on the sidewalk. That’s where some on both sides of the aisle think this national conversation is headed, not with high minded discussions of historical injustice but with present-day cash transfers to individuals. If that’s not the sort of reparations these candidates would support, they should just say so now.