Democrats finally had a debate worth watching! After approximately a billion debates and town halls for what feels like the last 50 years, Democrats finally took the gloves off and had a good old-fashioned street brawl in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Bernie Sanders left the debate as the frontrunner and went mostly unscathed from the attacks flying around on stage. If Democrats want to win in November, though, they might want to focus more assaults on the Sanders wing of the party.
Dave Wasserman, an election analyst and House Editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, made an astute observation on Twitter during the debate:
Relevant fact: in 2016, Hillary Clinton won more votes in western [Pennsylvania] outside the city of Pittsburgh (631,120) than she won in the entire city of Philadelphia (584,025).
Yes, Dems still have plenty of room to fall in western PA…and good luck running on a fracking ban there.
He made this point while Democrats jumped into the issue of climate change, focusing on whether or not they should ban things like fracking. Specifically, Democrats were asked what they’d do to help people who would lose their jobs as a result of bans on entire industries in the energy sector.
Moderator and NBC News political analyst Chuck Todd directed a pointed question to Sanders on the topic, asking: “One union official…told The New York Times, quote, ‘If we end up with a Democratic candidate that supports a fracking ban, I’m going to tell my members that either you don’t vote or you vote for the other guy. What do you tell these workers — it’s supporting a big industry right now, sir?”
In effect, the real question was this: if your plan goes through, and all these people are suddenly without a job, what are you going to tell them?
Sanders dodged the question and gave a non-answer at first:
What I tell these workers is that the scientists are telling us that if we don’t act incredibly boldly within the next six, seven years, there will be irreparable damage done not just in Nevada, not just to Vermont or Massachusetts, but to the entire world. Joe said it right: This is an existential threat.
You can agree or disagree with Democrats on that point. But I want to focus on what Sanders is really saying: it’s a moral imperative for these people to lose their jobs. Your job, if you work in the fracking industry or anything like it, is a moral evil, they say, and they’re going to kick you out of it.
This isn’t that much different than what Sanders and his supporters would say about billionaires, who they routinely call a moral outrage and assert shouldn’t exist. The logic behind ridding the world of blue-collar workers in a fracking job is the same as getting rid of billionaires for Democrats; they simply change their language to make one seem kinder than the other.
Sanders later said in the same answer that his version of the “Green New Deal” would create “20 million good-paying jobs.” Like most things with Sanders and democratic-socialists, however, the specifics are always in vagaries and platitudes, and little in the way of hard reality. And if you’re a person in Western Pennsylvania in the energy sector, getting told your career is a moral evil, why would you ever vote for Bernie Sanders?
I don’t pose this as a hypothetical, because we’ve seen a version of this script in Australia. The liberal party in Australia’s election had things running in their favor headed into the 2019 general election, and so they decided to use a theme: 2019 was to be the year of Australia’s climate election. They ran on the issue of climate change long and hard, and everyone thought that the vote would turn on that issue alone.
But it didn’t turn that way at all. The liberal party lost, and conservatives maintained power in Australia with relative ease, leaving the Australian media in utter disbelief.
The New York Times, among those in disbelief that conservatives won in Australia, suggested that conservatives poisoned the election by pointing out the costs of all the climate-fixing programs: “One economic model estimated that the 45 percent reduction in carbon emissions proposed by the opposition Labor Party would cost the economy 167,000 jobs and 264 billion Australian dollars, or $181 billion.”
Indeed, cost means more than just dollars and cents. That also includes lost jobs. Americans’ feelings toward the economy have only just recently recovered from the Great Recession over a decade ago, yet now, Democrats want to run on a platform of killing jobs in places like Western Pennsylvania.
Telling rural voters that you’re going to eliminate their jobs because those jobs are immoral and wrong isn’t a great strategy. If you doubt me, ask Australia’s liberals. Or ask the Labour Party in Britain, who often tried to connect remaining in the European Union to better climate change policies.
American Democrats would be wise to look around at these international races, where their very arguments are going down in flames. People care about their livelihoods and careers. You cannot destroy those things and expect to win while lecturing everyone on moral imperatives.
Democrats often talk about how Donald Trump has harmed some of his coalition with tariffs and the trade war with China. But the same is true of Dems and private-sector union employees. President Trump may expand on his union backers, taking even more of the Democratic coalition, just because Democrats don’t seem to understand that telling people you’re going to kill their careers and work industry is a monumentally stupid idea.
Australia and Europe learned these lessons the hard way. American Democrats seem determined to join them. And Donald Trump will happily hand them the GPS unit to get there.