After final debate Dems wrap up their New Hampshire campaigns
In one late poll the top 3 were Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar in that order. | Wikipedia (CC)

MANCHESTER, N.H.—As the primary election campaign in New Hampshire winds down Sen Bernie Sanders is lashing out at the newly unveiled Trump budget, calling it a budget “of, by and for the one percent.”

The final daily tracking poll from 7 News/Emerson College, just a day before the primary elections in New Hampshire, has Bernie Sanders leading comfortably with 30 percent. He is followed by Buttigieg with 23 percent, Klobuchar with 14 percent, Warren with 11 percent and Biden with 10 percent.

Sanders holds the lead in polls despite coming under fire from some of his primary opponents, particularly Buttigieg, for being too far to the left of the American mainstream to beat Trump.

Sanders strongly defended Medicare For All at the most recent debate here.

Biden said Sanders would have trouble at the top of the ticket when Trump, as expected, labels him and everyone else the Democrats put forward as “socialists.”  Polls show, however, that in head to head matchups both Sanders and Biden defeat Trump.

The Klobuchar surge into third place, by a candidate who casts herself as the “can-do” person, spells real trouble for Biden, who has sunk to 10 percent. With those kinds of totals, it is difficult for him to argue that he’s the one best equipped to defeat Trump.

Buttigieg launched a broad appeal to people disgusted by what they perceive as “Washington politics.”

“It’s time to leave the politics of the past in the past,” he said.

While the debate was in the Granite State, the issues were national: Health care, foreign policy, criminal justice and so on.

The debate came as Sanders, the independent Democratic Socialist senator from Vermont and Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Ind., tried to build on their almost-tie in delegates and Sanders’s lead of approximately 6,000 after the first round of the chaotic Iowa caucuses the week before. But the Iowa party now says Buttigieg will win 14 Iowa delegates to the Democratic convention this summer, compared to Sanders’s 12 and Warren’s five.

Meanwhile, Warren, the senator from next-door Massachusetts, looked to improve on her third-place finish in the Hawkeye State, while former Vice President Biden tried to keep his hopes alive after finishing fourth and shaking up his campaign. Nevertheless, his polls in New Hampshire are tanking.

Klobuchar, the Minnesota senator, was a rising fifth in Iowa – pre-caucus polls had her at 7% of the vote and she got 12.5% – and tried to break into the top tier. All that left the other two hopefuls on the stage, Steyer and businessman Andrew Yang, mostly on the outside looking in, rarely getting chances to speak. And Biden had to try to keep his candidacy alive.

Sanders reiterated his championship of his Medicare For All plan, his signature cause. Polls show most Democratic voters support it. Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar criticized it, and him.

Biden said Medicare For All would cost too much. Klobuchar said it would take people’s private health insurance away and claimed most people like their insurance, a proposition that’s never been tested. Buttigieg said Sanders’s “my way or the highway” on Medicare For All and everything else would divide the country. Buttigieg’s alternative: Medicare for all who want it.

None of that stopped Sanders, who has pushed Medicare For All, also known as government-run single-payer health insurance, for more than a decade. Some dozen unions have endorsed it, as have hundreds of thousands of activists, marshaled by National Nurses United and other progressive groups. They’ve gone door-to-door campaigning for it, pointing out the greed, waste, and denial of care in the current health care non-system.

“We’ll be spending some $50 trillion on healthcare over the next 10 years. That’s the status quo, Joe,” Sanders said after Biden criticized Medicare For All. “What we have got to do, Joe, and what we have got to do is understand, simple question, Joe, we are spending twice as much per capita on healthcare as do the people of any other country.

“Maybe it has something to do with the fact the healthcare industry last year made $100 billion in profit. Maybe it has something to do with the fact we are wasting $500 billion a year trying to administer thousands and thousands of different plans. What Medicare For All will do is save the average American substantial sums of money. Substantial, be much less expensive than your plan. And we will expand Medicare to include dental care, eyeglasses, hearing aids and home health care as well.”

“The fact is that it’s going to cost … double, double what the taxpayers are paying for every single program we spend on in the United States of America,” Biden retorted.

“I keep listening to this same debate, and it is not real,” Klobuchar told Sanders and the television audience. “It is not real, Bernie, because two-thirds of the Democrats in the Senate are not on your bill and because it would kick 149 million Americans off their current health insurance in four years. And Elizabeth wants to do it in two years” – a statement that was incorrect, though Warren didn’t call her on it.

“And Pete, while you have a different plan now you sent out a tweet just a few years ago that said, henceforth, forthwith, indubitably, affirmatively, you are for Medicare For All for the ages.”

“And so I would like to point out that what leadership is about is taking a position, looking at things and sticking with them. I have long believed that the way that we expand healthcare to more people and bring down premiums is by building on the Affordable Care Act, with a nonprofit public option. That is the best way to do it,” Klobuchar said.

Left unsaid: The poll with majority Democratic support for Medicare For All also showed larger support for the weaker “public option” alternative to the private insurers Klobuchar pushed. Also unsaid: Biden touted his lobbying for the ACA as Barack Obama’s vice-president, but didn’t mention that Obama dismissed the public option after pressure from the health insurance lobby, whose support he courted.

Warren seized on a Buttigieg answer on criminal justice reform to challenge him for evading that question. The mayor reluctantly conceded arrests of young African-Americans in South Bend for marijuana possession rose while he was mayor because, he claimed, his police department targeted gangs.

“These things are all connected, but that’s the point. So are all of the things that need to change in order for us to prevent violence and remove the effects of systemic racism, not just from criminal justice, but from our economy, from health, from housing, and from our democracy itself,” Buttigieg said.

Asked if Buttigieg substantially answered the question, Warren replied, “No.”

“You have to own up to the fact, and it’s important to own up to the facts about how race has totally permeated our criminal justice system. For the exact same crimes, study after study now shows African-Americans are more likely than whites to be detained, to be arrested, to be taken to trial, to be wrongfully convicted, and receive harsher sentences. We need to rework our criminal justice system, from the very front end on what we make illegal all the way through the system, and how we help people come back into the community.”

Warren then added housing to the mix, declaring “we need to start having race-conscious laws” to remedy past U.S.-government-sponsored housing discrimination, for example. “We need race-conscious laws in education and employment, in entrepreneurship, to make this country a country of opportunity for everyone, no matter the color of their skin.”

Yang jumped in. “Elizabeth, with respect, you can’t regulate away racism with a whole patchwork of laws that are race-specific.” Instead, citing Dr. Martin Luther King, Yang again championed his signature issue of a guaranteed minimum income of $1,000 monthly for everyone. King “said capitalism forgets that life is social.” Yang stated King also advocated that minimum income, without giving a specific reference.

“It would end up reshaping our economy in communities of color, make it so black net worth is not 10% of white net worth in this country, which is the most important number of them all,” Yang continued. “We can’t regulate that away through any other means except by putting money directly into the hands of African-Americans and Latinos and people of color to allow businesses to actually flourish and grow in those communities.”

That prompted Steyer to go even further, declaring he favors reparations to African-Americans as compensation for the centuries of exploitation and repression by slavery. “Anyone who thinks that racism is a thing of the past and not an ongoing problem is not dealing with reality,” Steyer added.

Sanders and Steyer took the lead in warning all the hopefuls – and the audience – that the real foe is not each other, but Trump. Recent public opinion polls buttress the warning. They show 49% public approval of Trump, the highest of his presidency.

By contrast, Klobuchar used the question to take a shot at Sanders, arguing he would further divide an already divided country. She united people in her home state of Minnesota and on the campaign trail, carrying even deep-red areas, she said. Buttigieg used the “how to beat Trump” query to defend taking campaign contributions from business and Wall Street, saying Democrats need everybody for that effort.

“At the end of the day, the way we defeat Donald Trump and everybody up here, by the way, is united,” Sanders said. “No matter who wins this damn thing, we’re all going to stand together to defeat Donald Trump.” And, he added, a bottom-up mass movement is how to do it.

“The way we beat Trump is by having the largest voter turnout in the history of this country. And that is appealing to working-class people, who have given up on the political process because they don’t believe that anybody is hearing their pain, perceiving that pain, feeling their pain. And we got to bring young people into the political process. I am very proud that in Iowa we won the popular vote by 6,000 votes. What was most significant, most significant, is we increased voter turnout for young people under 29 by over 30%. If we do that nationally, we’re going to defeat Donald Trump.”

“I don’t think there’s any question, but that the only way that we’re going to beat him actually is the way that Bernie Sanders said, which is to get turnout across the spectrum of Democratic voters,” Steyer chimed in. “And that means we’re going to have to appeal across the spectrum, moderates, progressives and every group.”

“So unless you can appeal to the diverse parts of the Democratic Party, including specifically the black community, including specifically Latinos…then we can’t beat Donald Trump in November and we can’t choose a candidate who can’t do that. And I am doing that right now with 24% of blacks down in South Carolina, with high numbers in Nevada. That’s what it’s going to take is turnout, but turnout across the spectrum of Democratic voters. Someone who can pull, as Amy said, everything together in every single way we’re divided.”

That was a jab, though Steyer did not say so, at Buttigieg, whose support among people of color is low.

Poverty, and specifically child poverty, became a presidential debate topic for the first time in 20 years. The mounting and continuing New Poor People’s Campaign, which has been traveling nationwide, has been demanding all the hopefuls address the issue since there are 140 million poor or near-poor in the nation, it points out. They finally did.

Sanders was particularly outspoken and tied the continuing high poverty rates to other issues where he says the corporate elite has taken over the country.

“Why we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on earth, disproportionately high for the African-American community, by the way, is the same reason we give massive trillion-dollar tax breaks to the rich and large corporations. Same reason we give tens of billions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks to the fossil fuel industry, while half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck. The same reason we have three people in America owning more wealth than the bottom half of America.

“The same reason we are the only major country on earth not to guarantee healthcare to all people as a human right. Same reason as to why we are paying in some cases 10 times more than other countries for prescription drugs and that reason is that our priorities are determined by the 1% and by wealthy campaign contributors. Our priorities are determined by those who want to see the rich get richer and are turning their backs on the working families of this country.

“What is unique about our campaign, is we say, unashamedly, we are raising our campaign contributions, not from billionaires but from working-class people. That our campaign is about the working families of this country for the working class of this country and that is the administration that we will run. It is time to take on the big money interests. It is time to change our national priorities.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

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