The first Democratic debate of the 2020 presidential election cycle is in the books, and the big winner was … President Donald Trump.
He’s not a Democrat and he wasn’t on stage for either night of last week’s debate, but the fact is the event couldn’t have gone much better for the incumbent president.
For starters, the Democrat most capable of blocking a Trump re-election in 2020, former longtime Delaware Sen. and Vice President Joe Biden, took it squarely on the chin in an exchange with California Sen. Kamala Harris.
Harris took Biden to task over the issue of, what else, race (after all, this was a Democratic debate).
Harris criticized comments Biden made about working early in his career with a pair of senators who were known for being against civil rights, pointing to those efforts as an example of his ability to get things done while dealing with individuals with whom he has disagreements. That the former senators in question, James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia, were both Democrats is a reminder that the party’s history on the issue of race isn’t as bright and shiny as some would make it out to be.
Harris also hit Biden for his anti-busing stance in regards to a Wilmington, Delaware, court case from the 1970s. The irony here is that, as USA Today recently pointed out while looking back on the controversy, many consider that instance of court-ordered busing to have been a failure.
“Many leaders in Wilmington’s black community have long said busing never achieved equity for the city’s mostly black students,” the paper reported.
“It was the biggest sham,” longtime Wilmington education activist Bebe Coker told the paper. “It destroyed our community.”
So essentially, Harris was beating Biden over the head for opposing a policy about which time has proven him right.
Nevertheless, her attacks worked. A CNN poll Monday showed Harris is now running second in the large Democratic field, just five points behind leader Biden (22 percent to 17 percent, a 9 percent rise for Harris and a 10 percent drop for Biden since May).
As has been pointed out in this space before, Biden is the Democrat with the best chance to win over blue collar voters in places like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania who flipped from the Democratic Party to Trump in 2020, and thus flipped the election to the New York businessman.
I doubt seriously Trump shed a tear over Biden’s poor showing.
But Biden’s troubles were not the only good news coming out of the debate for Trump. In a move that was completely predictable, the Democratic candidates firmly established that the race for their party’s 2020 nomination is going to be about who can be the most liberal.
If Democrats are serious about running on ideas such as government-funded health care for people who are in the country illegally or decriminalizing the act of crossing the U.S. border illegally, two ideas that drew positive responses from the candidates in last week’s debate, Trump is going to have a field day on the campaign trail next fall.
Of course, it’s worth cautioning that he who underestimates his opponent is often setting himself or herself up for failure. A prime example was 1988. Going into that year, Democrats were sure they could field a candidate who could take down Vice President George H.W. Bush, who was battling the “wimp” label, in the fall campaign. Instead, Bush took Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis to the woodshed on election night.
Trump is going to have to fight and fight hard to win a second term, but if last week was any indication, the president’s chances are looking up.
Lew Gilliland is assistant editor of The Daily Home. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.