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While Democrats struggle with the question of impeachment, the healthcare debate is getting mired in minutiae and some voters are calling for a working class party. With Kimberly Moffitt, Jacqueline Luqman, and Marc Steiner as host

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MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Marc Steiner. I’m glad you could join us. This is our final segment as we look at last night’s Democratic debate and we’re going to tackle healthcare. We’re going to look at the closing arguments and other issues. Impeachment was a big argument they had last night between themselves which was interesting to have. And we have with this Jackie Luqman. Jacqueline Luqman, of course, is the editor of Luqman Nation and a correspondent and producer here. And Dr. Kimberly Moffitt, Chair of Language, Literacy, and Culture at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, a media critic and an author. So good to have you still with us.



MARC STEINER: Didn’t scare you away yet. So let’s take a look first, let’s jump in the healthcare thing. And well, before I comment, let’s just watch this clip that was prepared on healthcare and then we can tackle it.

SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS: I listened to the American families who said four years is just not enough to transition into this new plan. So I devised a plan where it’s going to be 10 years of a transition. I listened to American families who said, “I want an option that will be under your Medicare system that allows a private plan.” So I designed a plan where, yes, responsive to the needs of American families. There will be a public plan under my plan for Medicare and a private plan.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: Folks I talked to about health insurance say that their health insurance isn’t working for them. There’s tens of millions of Americans who don’t even have health insurance, tens of millions more who have health insurance they can barely make work because of the copays, the deductibles, the premiums, the out of pocket expenses. There’s this mythology that somehow all these folks are in love with their insurance in America. What I hear from union members and from hardworking middle-class people is they wish they had better insurance.

MARC STEINER: So there we have it. And once again, healthcare was a centerpiece of some of these debates, as it was in the first night. One of the things I thought in those conversations was how both… That wasn’t necessarily the segment, but how both Biden and Harris got really lost in the weeds. Everybody was getting lost in the weeds of how much this cost and you’re not covering this, you’re not covering that. And I found myself, and I’m sure America, yawning.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: Yeah. Yeah. It was not an exciting… It wasn’t as exciting a conversation about healthcare as it was the first night.


JACQUELINE LUQMAN: And I think partially part of that is because the… I won’t call him the architect because Medicare for All is not Bernie Sanders’s idea. It’s an old idea. He’s just the new face of it. But because the new champion of Medicare for All wasn’t on that stage last night. So these people are coming up with plans that are not Medicare for All but not quite, but are sort of, because they recognize that people like Medicare for All. They like universal health care. People don’t want to deal with, you know, this, “I have to stay at this job.” And someone brought up this point, which I thought was excellent that I had not heard at other any other time before. People stay at jobs that they hate because they have health insurance, because they have coverage through that job and they’re afraid of losing that coverage. People don’t want to have to live that way anymore.

Medicare for All answers all of that and it allows you to have, if you want private insurance that’s – you can pay for it. That’s not complicated. At least 17 other countries in the world do this. So last night with Biden and Harris getting into the weeds about how long it’s going to take and how much it’s going to cost, for most American people, they’re literally thinking, “If the UK and Canada and Sweden can do this, I don’t understand why we can’t.”

DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT: Why can’t we? Yeah.


DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT: Yeah. And I thought it was a very… I thought it was a low point for the two of them because it did tire very easily as, “this is what we’re going to do for the rest of the night.” And there was so many more important issues to talk about in reference to health care. I mean, I think Inslee was spot on with one of the points that he raised focusing on the role of mental illness and mental health care and that being not considered wholly in many of the plans that some of the candidates are putting forward. And he seemed very committed to addressing and saying, “We’ve got to do some of this work in order to make sure we have a healthy nation.” And only to bring this up because I think it ties very nicely with the previous night in which Marianne Williamson said similar points and talked about there’s a need to work through trauma in order to heal and make sure that you don’t have a nation that is still struggling with so many issues around health and mental illness.

MARC STEINER: Yeah. And Inslee even also talked about how they put the public option in the state of Washington.


MARC STEINER: I mean it was really interesting. Inslee, to me, last time was a really interesting character in this debate.


MARC STEINER: He came out much stronger than I expected.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: I was actually surprised.

MARC STEINER: Yeah. He looked really good and-


MARC STEINER: And then someone said… One of the columnists said, “And he looked dope in those glasses.”

DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT: I kept hearing him referred to as Clark Kent.

MARC STEINER: Right, right, right. He flies off. I think that one of the things that’s clear and it was clear the first night, I think it was clear from last night, and it’s clear from where the American public is around Medicare for All is at the very least, people want to see a very strong public option to give people the chance to have that kind of healthcare.


MARC STEINER: I mean in our own home when we had ended up paying $1,000, $1,500 a month for insurance until another job came in. You know, that’s tough as [inaudible]. Everybody is hit by that and people are really worried.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: Yeah, yeah. This is literally a life and death situation for people. I mean, because we have good insurance, quote unquote good insurance, in our home when I do hate the folksy stories, but I think this just serves to show people that this does affect everyone. When my husband had to be suddenly hospitalized for a couple of days and we got a bill from the hospital for $14,000—


JACQUELINE LUQMAN: If we didn’t have good insurance through my job, then what would we do? So this is not just an issue that a certain segment of American people face. This is everybody’s issue.

MARC STEINER: But whoever the candidate is, they have to get this right and have to get it simple and to the point and not get caught in the weeds like these people did.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN:  Simple is the key.


JACQUELINE LUQMAN:  Simple is absolutely the key.

MARC STEINER: So let’s move on to the next piece that we’re talking about here. And look at this argument they had over impeachment, which I think is really central to both strategically what the Democrats do or don’t do, and to what happens with Trump and where the politics goes. And what people think about this country and what they don’t think about it.

SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS: There are 10 clear incidents of obstruction of justice by this president and he needs to be held accountable. I’ve seen people go to prison for far less.

SENATOR CORY BOOKER: I believe that we in the United States Congress should start impeachment proceedings immediately.

JULIAN CASTRO: I was the first of the candidates to call on Congress to begin impeachment proceedings. I agree with those who say that a president should not direct an attorney general specifically to prosecute or not prosecute. However, I believe that the evidence is plain and clear and that if it gets that far that you’re likely to see a prosecution of Donald Trump.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: But I want to caution my fellow Democrats. While we move, when every way we can for impeachment, we have to remember at the same time the American people are out there looking for us to do something for them in their lives. So yeah, move for impeachment, but don’t forget to do the people’s business and to stand up for working people because that’s how we’re actually going to beat Donald Trump.

SENATOR MICHAEL BENNET: I believe we have a moral obligation to beat Donald Trump. He has to be a single term president and we can’t do anything that plays into his hands.

MARC STEINER: So that was really interesting to me because I think this is a debate people are having about whether or not to impeach Donald Trump and to start impeachment proceedings, I should say, in the House and send it to the Senate. Of course with the – what do they call him? He gets upset with Moscow Mitch-



MARC STEINER: People call the poor boy now. But I think the reality is, and this is a real political question, is this a savvy political move or not? Should they go after Trump? So what’d you think came out of this debate with impeachment and what do you think about all that? And what’s your stance are yourself?

DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT: So I will say that I thought this was one of the good moments de Blasio to say that yes, I understand the need for us to fight and make sure that the American people know that we are taking a stand of what we will and will not tolerate. But he also wanted to make sure we centered on the American people and that we continue to focus on what is it that they desire, what is it that they need. And so heaven forbid if we decide to go down this path and we see our economy tank that then directly impacts the average American, which then means the Democrats could easily pay the price for foreseeing such a move. And so I think he was wise and at least giving us a heads up of what could be. But he also, away from that, we heard other folks interested in making a move to show that Democrats were a strong party and willing to take on a big fight regardless of what the outcome is. So I think it’s a very interesting place that the Democrats are in right now in terms of what they do decide to do. And also gambling at what may be some of the outcomes as a result of it.

MARC STEINER: Because you have to take on Trump, Jacqueline, but you can’t… They have to take on Trump but it can’t just be taking on Trump. It has to be ideas about what you’re going to do and where you’re going to take this country.


JACQUELINE LUQMAN: Well, that’s been the problem with the Democratic Party with this whole impeachment discussion. That’s been the whole issue. When they began the impeachment discussion, it was all about Russiagate, and I have very specific ideas and thoughts about Russiagate, but the reason there was not movement on impeachment because of collusion with Russia because there’s been no evidence of that. So the Democrats put themselves in this really precarious position where they built up this momentum pretty much promising that they’re going to impeach this man because he colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. That is so ridiculous. But okay, there’s another discussion about that. But now they don’t have that evidence. They’re not doing that. And people are starting to look at the Democratic Party kind of suspiciously giving them the side eye like, “You made these promises and now you’re not keeping them.” So now there are other reasons to consider impeachment for Trump, but are they more important reasons than just getting rid of him after his first term, than just beating him in the general election?

Do you deal with that afterward? Regardless of what they do with in regard to the Trump impeachment question or the Trump obstruction of justice question, they’re going to have to face him in 2020. they’re going to have to face him at the polls. And people aren’t going to be voting for whether they’re going to impeach Trump or not. They’re going to be voting for healthcare. They’re going to be voting for criminal justice. They’re going to be voting for jobs. They’re going to be voting for what they’re going to do on climate change. And unless the Democrats are clear on those things, they can talk about impeachment until they’re all blue or various shades of purple in the face and Trump will win.

MARC STEINER: Some of the conversations they had that we talked about in another segment around taking money out, the trillions of dollars out of these endless wars and reinvesting it in the United States, putting people to work. And most of the people up there talked about putting people to work in union jobs that pay decent wages. Those are the kind of conversations people want to hear because people feel stretched financially. They may be feeling good because I got a job and at least we have a house and a job and I may have to work two jobs, but I’m not unemployed.



MARC STEINER: But people want stability and if they can’t explain that and talk about how they’re going to get there, then Trump could very well win again.


DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT: Yeah. And again, impeachment does none of that for them. And so the average American isn’t so fixated in ways that I think the Democrats and Congress have been, which is in my personal opinion, is one of those things that has taken them off track of what they really need to be focused on. And so if the goal is to win the White House in 2020 then the focus should be on working to win the White House in 2020 and not getting bogged down with some of these other issues that I think will take them off of their path and exert their energy in places that won’t be beneficial on the other end.

MARC STEINER: So let’s take a look at this final clip for this segment because it goes to the heart of what may come next. And this is part of the closing statements. If I had this right and don’t blow it. We have both de Blasio and Biden, which is an interesting juxtaposition. Let’s take a look.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: If we’re going to beat Donald Trump, this has to be a party that stands for something. This has to be the party of labor unions. This has to be the party of universal health care. This has to be the party that’s not afraid to say out loud, “We’re going to tax the hell out of the wealthy.” And when we do that, Donald Trump, right on cue will call us socialists. Well, here’s what I’ll say to him, “Donald, you’re the real socialist. The problem is it’s socialism for the rich.”

JOE BIDEN: Four more years of Donald Trump will go down as an aberration. Hard to overcome the damage he’s done, but we can overcome it. Eight more years of Donald Trump will change America in a fundamental way. The America we know will no longer exist. Everybody knows who Donald Trump is. We have to let them know who we are. We choose science over fiction. We choose hope over fear.

MARC STEINER: So we could show a great deal more, but we didn’t have the time, but the closings were interesting. I particularly happen to like de Blasio… This is no endorsement folks, but I particularly like de Blasio’s kind of closing statements just because I thought it really hit home to the reality of what Democrats have to do if they’re serious about winning.


JACQUELINE LUQMAN: Yeah. I mean, absolutely. It’s… de Blasio did well, I think, last night. Except for the, you know, his issue that he’s ultimately going to have to answer for in regard to—




JACQUELINE LUQMAN: Yeah, he’s either… He’s going to have to fire him and if he doesn’t he’s never going to get rid of that stain.


JACQUELINE LUQMAN: But de Blasio was right on point with his closing comments about what the American people want. The Democrats can focus on how terrible Trump is all they want to, we know this. But Biden was wrong in Trump’s administration being an aberration. No, it’s not. Donald Trump’s administration is the natural progression. It’s the natural culmination of this white supremacist system that we have been percolating in this country and have ignored as if it wasn’t there for years and years, decades, centuries really.

So, you know, Biden sort of represents that part of the Democratic Party that honestly just needs to shrivel up and die, just really just needs to go away. And I… That’s so impolitic and impolite. But really I think that we are facing—

MARC STEINER: Hold back there, Jacqueline.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: We are facing an existential crisis on so many levels as a country, as a people, as marginalized groups of people. The kind of a historical… I don’t know what to call it. The fairy tale making that Biden and other candidates do with this idea that, you know, Trump is some odd ball thing that we don’t know where that came from. We do know where it came from and ignoring all of these issues of the many ways that Americans, people in this country, have been taken advantage of and have been forced to suffer at the hands of people with power and money is exactly why if we don’t do, if the Democrats don’t do what de Blasio said, at the very least, there will be another four years of Trump. And if Trump has his way, it might be eight years. Who knows?

DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT: Awesome. I mean, so I think to Jackie’s point that Biden does represent some of the old ideas that have been so much a part of who we are, who we understand ourselves to be as Americans. And so he is a lot more embracing of the American dream and that narrative of meritocracy matters and we are all good people who happened to be and make up this beautiful mosaic of a fabric that makes us successful. And one of the points that he did mention last night in his closing statement that I did connect with was the whole notion of hope versus fear. And he was saying that as the Democratic Party, we are that party. We’re the party of hope and what we have been living in over the last three years is one of fear where we have been told that those brown people at the borders are coming to take our jobs and they are bringing more crime and they are causing harm to us.

And so we have to do something about it. And that level of fear has invoked an opportunity for many of those white supremacists or white nationalist groups to be very vocal and to say, “Yes, finally someone is hearing us and understands what we are feeling.” But we as a Democratic Party, in this instance, what de Blasio was saying is we have to demonstrate what our identity clearly is and not waiver from it to make sure that the American people know that this is who we are and this is what we stand for.

MARC STEINER: And I think that one of the things here as we close, and I was thinking about what we’ve watched over the last two nights, and that the Democrats, especially on the stage last night, representing this broad spectrum of people in terms of race in America, black and Asian and white, Latino all on the stage together, men and women… That if they can’t figure out how to hone that message and talk about it. And even though I know we didn’t get a chance to talk about this, but even with Gillibrand talking about white privilege and that has never come up in a conversation before. Or-

DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT: And doing it pretty well.

MARC STEINER: Well, reparation, huh?

DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT: And did it fairly well.

MARC STEINER: Did a good job. And explaining that from her perspective and reparations the night before and de Blasio and others talking about the working people and unions and the climate issues that Inslee brought up and the others bring up that he’s really pushing that… They have to find a way to bring those together and say, “This is America.” That’s the only way you stop it because you’re right, Jacqueline.

I mean, I think that this is an aberration in one sense, but he’s not an aberration at all. I mean, you know, you go from Jackson to Rutherford B. Hayes at the end of Reconstruction, to Woodrow Wilson and his racist policies, to where we are today. To George Wallace, who wanted to be president, is all part of… It’s as if George Wallace has won the election in a more subtle way.


MARC STEINER: Not so subtle really.

DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT: Not so subtle.

MARC STEINER: And so I think this really is the one thing Biden might have right is that this is a battle for the soul of America and the battle for our future. And that’s what American faces at this moment, you know? This has been a really great conversation. I really appreciate the two of you taking your time.


MARC STEINER: And Jacqueline Luqman is with us here. And Dr. Kimberly Moffitt. And earlier in the episode, Dharna Noor. The three of them are really ably telling us what they saw and what it means to watch these debates and what’s coming ahead. And The Real News here, we’ll be working here for you as well as with other organizations to really bring you coverage of this 2020 and talk about the future of America. We really want to hear from you. So tell us what you think about these conversations and what you want to hear. And thank you both so much again.



MARC STEINER: And I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News Network. Great to have you with us. Take care.

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Dharna Noor is a staff writer at Earther, Gizmodo's climate vertical.

Jacqueline Luqman is a host and producer for TRNN. With more than 20 years as an activist in Washington, DC, Jacqueline focuses on examining the impact of current events and politics on Black, POC, and other marginalized communities in the US and around the world, providing a specific race and class analysis at the root of these issues. She is Editor-In-Chief and a co-host of the social media program Coffee, Current Events & Politics in Luqman Nation with her husband, and is active in the faith-focused progressive/left activist community.