Back and forths about bussing, segregation, and race and confrontations about socialism and the nuances of Medicare For All had the 10 candidates at times, talking past one another
MARC STEINER Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Marc Steiner. Great to have you all with us. We’re going to have part two of our discussion on the Democratic debate that took place last night. We are still joined by Dr. Kimberly Moffitt, Associate Professor and Chair of the Language, Literacy & Culture Doctoral Program at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. And Jacqueline Luqman, who is a Real News correspondent and Editor-in-chief of Luqman Nation. We will continue here with this conversation and I think let’s jump into the conversation that they had around Medicare, which became, kind of, a flashpoint point for this debate. I think how you define Medicare for All became a real question. It was interesting to me. We saw people in this were debating not against Medicare for All, but how to get there, which is interesting how the debate has completely shifted. Let’s look at the segment that our brilliant folks here at The Real News have put together for us.
LESTOR HOLT Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government-run plan? All right. [crowd applauds]
SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND Anyone who doesn’t have access to insurance they like, they could buy it at a percentage of income they could afford. So that’s what we put into the transition period for our Medicare for All plan. I believe we need to get to universal health care as a right and not a privilege to single payer. The quickest way you get there is you create competition with the insurers. God bless the insurers. If they want to compete, they can certainly try. I would make it an earned benefit just like Social Security so that you buy in your whole life. It is always there for you, and it’s permanent and it’s universal.
LESTOR HOLT Senator, your time is up.
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG That is how I would do it. It’s very similar. I would call it “Medicare for All Who Want It.” You take something like Medicare, a flavor of that, you make it available on the exchanges, people can buy in. And then if people like us are right, that that will be not only a more inclusive plan, but a more efficient plan than any of the corporate answers out there, then it will be a very natural glide path to the single-payer environment.
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN The quickest, fastest way to do it is to build on Obamacare, to build on what we did. [crowd applauds] And, secondly—Secondly, to make sure that everyone does have an option. Everyone, whether they have private insurance, employer insurance, or no insurance, they in fact can buy into the exchange to a Medicare-like plan. And the way to do that— we can do it quickly. Look, urgency matters.
SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS The function of health care today, from the insurance and drug company perspective, is not to provide quality care to all in a cost-effective way. The function of the health care system today is to make billions in profits for the insurance companies. And last year, if you could believe it, while we pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs— and I will lower prescription drug prices in half in this country— top ten companies make $69 billion in profit. Health care is a human right, not something to make huge profits off of.
SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS Any night in America, a parent who’s seeing that their child has a temperature that is out of control, calls 9-1-1, what should I do? And they say, take the child to the Emergency Room. And so, they get in their car and they drive and they’re sitting in the parking lot outside of the Emergency Room looking at those sliding glass doors while they have their hand on the forehead of their child, knowing that if they walk through those sliding glass doors, even though they have insurance, they will be out a $5,000 deductible when they walk through those doors. That’s what insurance companies are doing. [crowd cheers]
MARC STEINER Phew. Okay. We could talk all about how bad Kamala Harris appeared. I mean that in a good sense, as she was. I mean, she was just this very emotional piece. But let me ask you this question about that, so this is interesting. We’ve seen a shift. The shift has gone from the election of Barack Obama in the beginning when he promised a public option in his debate and campaign. Then, he dropped that when he got to Congress and they pushed through Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. And then comes along Bernie Sanders, and this push for Medicare for All becomes this nationwide phenomenon. Now it’s become a centerpiece where people are not arguing against it, but how we should implement it— long-term, short-term, what’s the role of private insurance, and more.
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT Yeah. How to get there.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN Right. Right.
MARC STEINER So, Kimberly, this is will change the whole nature of this discussion.
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT Yeah, but I would say— similar to what Biden offered us— is that the best way in which to do this is to build upon what is already there. And so, even with Bernie Sanders, the position that he’s taken is yeah, we’ve started with something and we’ve got something that’s possibly doable, but there’s more that we need to do. I would say many of the Democratic candidates have shifted in that direction because they saw the backlash to Obamacare. And so yes, there were many people happy to actually finally have an option for taking care of their health. But what was the tremendous backlash in terms of the number of people who felt like their premiums doubled, that it started causing, you know, a major hit to their bottom line? And so this now becomes an opportunity to capitalize off of—Oh, you do like some aspect of this? What can we do to make it better? And the better option is to include this single-payer option, or allowing people to keep their private insurance as well as those that need to buy into an exchange.
MARC STEINER Jacqueline, how do you see this debate?
JACQUELINE LUQMAN Yeah. I mean, I thought it was an interesting dynamic that all of the candidates—Nobody really came out and said, you know, this whole Medicare for All business is ridiculous. Why are we talking about this? There were a couple who—I think it was maybe Hickenlooper who made the case for the insurance company.
MARC STEINER Yes, he did.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN Yeah. That was just ridiculous but that goes back to what I said previously about our love of capitalism in this country, and this allegiance that we have to corporations that we believe that we have to take care of the corporations or else something bad is going to happen to us. And in the case of health care, that literally cost people’s lives. It’s good that this conversation has turned to okay, Obamacare is actually not that bad, but there are problems. What can we do better with it? Because this has been the conversation about the ACA all along and studies had been done where Republican voters were asked, you know, do you like Obamacare? The responses would come back overwhelmingly negative, but then when you ask the same question, well how do you feel about the ACA? They’re like, oh, I love the ACA—
MARC STEINER [laughs] Right. Just don’t put that Obama’s name in it. That’s the problem right there.
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT No, it’s true. It’s rhetoric. It’s rhetoric.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN Americans, who are some of the sickest people on the planet. We work the hardest, we have the longest work hours almost among the developed world, we have the highest productivity among the developed world, we take the least amount of vacation, we are the most stressed. So we are the sickest people on the planet, just about in the developed world. Understand the need for access to affordable quality health care across the board. And this is where I agree with Dr. Moffitt— rhetoric matters. How we frame the discussion matters. So I think this comes down to a discussion of how do we get people who have no money, guaranteed access to quality health care? Like someone last night said, anyone who is sick gets seen. End of story. I think that is where the discussion needs to go from here, not whether Medicare for All is necessary. Most Americans believe it is, most Americans want that, but I think that is the correct discussion. How do we get there?
MARC STEINER So on the way over to Kimberly, before we go back to Kimberly and we conclude this Medicare issue, what you raised a moment ago, Jacqueline, reminded me of what Marianne Williamson said on how we need to change our health for health care, and what she said about the health care industry. What she said about that, I mean, she said some stuff, you know, that people can look at like on the edge and off the wall, but it’s not off the wall.
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT [laughs] No, it wasn’t.
MARC STEINER She really hit it home with this comment and I think people need to wrestle with this, so listen. It’s just a follow up to what Jacqueline said. Let’s watch what Marianne Williamson said about all this.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON We don’t have a health care system in the United States. We have a sickness care system in the United States. We just wait till somebody gets sick, and then we talk about who’s going to pay for the treatment and how they’re going to be treated. What we need to talk about is why so many Americans have unnecessary chronic illnesses, so many more compared to other countries. And that gets back into not just big pharma, not just health insurance companies. It has to do with chemical policies. It has to do with environmental policies. It has to do with food policies. It has to do with drug policies. It even has to do with environmental policies.
LESTOR HOLT All right. Ms. Williamson, your time has expired. Thank you. Senator—
MARC STEINER So, you know, you might look at Marianne Williamson and, kind of, go she’s someone on the edge here and she’s going to—but no. She’s dead-on on this issue about what’s causing our illness in this country and what to do about it and nobody wants to address the, kind of, root causes of what’s causing the problems we face. And that’s why I think she’s so interesting in these debates. What she had to say, I think, was dead-on, Kimberly.
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT It was. It was spot-on and I think what she’s also trying to do is concretize many of the effects of what we are experiencing as Americans in terms of our sickness. But those things seem so nebulous to us and so far out there, that the idea that our food can be making us sick, that it could be the environment that’s making sick, we won’t easily buy into those notions. And so, she does sound like she’s far out on the edges when in fact, so much of what she is singing is true to form and it does explain quite a bit of what we are experiencing in terms of illness in our country.
MARC STEINER Every week something else comes up. You know, Jacqueline, it made me think when was she was talking, made me think of that piece that came out in the news last week that every week, we probably eat a credit cards-worth of plastic. In our system every week. So, you know, this woman was laying something out that I think that we all have to address.
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT Yes.
MARC STEINER Not to get stuck on this issue, but I just thought it was important.
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT What she also did is she took it a step further to talk about some of the actions that we allow to happen in this country, are in some respects a form of state-sponsored violence and crime to us. She even referred to collective child abuse in terms of the other.
MARC STEINER At the border.
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT Yes, at the borders. And what she was doing and centralizing but she got cut off to explain that point, is she talked about the level of trauma that happens to our bodies. And how that then shows up as a form of disease or illness in our bodies, which of course, reinforces some of the major problems we have with our health care system.
MARC STEINER And so, Jacqueline, let me say this. I was just thinking, Jacqueline, her role in this reminds me a bit of Obama in the beginning, changing the conversation in America, how Sanders changed the conversation America. There’s little moments like this that can happen to begin to put things in there that are not usually in the public discourse, but now it can become part of the public discourse.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN And I think—I agree with you. And I think what Williamson’s presence—Who, she knows she’s not going to win. She has no chance. She has nothing to lose, so she’s saying all of this stuff that is thought-provoking and does exactly what you said, Marc, it changes the conversation. Because what she did with that comment in particular last night was to also level an indictment against neoliberalism. She didn’t use the word.
MARC STEINER No, she didn’t use the word. Right.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN Yeah, but she definitely spoke to the way we have deregulated these industries that she mentioned— the food processing industry, the chemical industry. All of these industries with the deregulation, especially in environmental protections in relation to these industries, that has created the toxic environment that we live in. That is an indictment against neoliberalism. And there was no politician on that stage, with the exception of Bernie Sanders, who was ever going to address what she was really talking about. But that’s why we’re here. [panel laughs] So that we can help people realize— okay, she’s not just some crazy lady, you know, some crazy Oprah spiritual adviser all in the corner saying crazy stuff. She’s actually saying some things that we need to give some thought to, and we need to be the ones to push these politicians on these issues.
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT And that’s okay because, in fact, that may be her sole role, is to put it in the sphere for us to then be able to deal with. And I think that’s a good thing.
MARC STEINER Yes, that’s what I was arguing. Exactly, exactly. Let’s move on to another subject here. This is immigration and when they asked a question about is it a criminal or civil offense, and let’s watch the response.
JOSE DIAZ-BALART Raise your hand if you think it should be a civil offense rather than a crime to cross a border without documentation? [crowd applauds] Can we keep the hands up so we could see them?
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG Let’s remember, that’s not just a theoretical exercise. That criminalization, that is the basis for family separation. You do away with that, it’s no longer possible. Of course, it wouldn’t be possible anyway in my presidency, because it is dead wrong.
JOSE DIAZ-BALART The Obama-Biden administration deported more than 3 million Americans. My question to you is if an individual is living in the United States of America without documents and that is his only offense, should that person be deported?
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON No.
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN Depending if they committed a major crime, they should be deported. And the president was left in a—President Obama, I think, did a heck of a job. To compare him to what this guy’s doing is absolutely, I find immoral.
JOSE DIAZ-BALART If someone is here without documents and that is their only offense, is that person to be deported?
CONGRESSMAN ERIC SWALWELL No. That person can be a part of this great American experience.
UNKNOWN SPEAKER Exactly.
MARC STEINER So this is an interesting debate as well because part of what’s going on here, I think, is there’s this debate that I have not seen take before among Democrats about President Obama’s legacy. And it very much was addressed in this, kind of, particular piece and, you know, this is something that hasn’t really, hasn’t been done very much because of his popularity, because of what he represented emotionally for people as president of the United States. What often, kind of, overwhelms any other issues about centrist politics is the nature of what he represented. And now, this is the first time I’ve seen this being pushed this way. How do you all feel about that? Jacqueline, and then we’ll go over to Kimberly.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN I think it was about time. It’s about time. I mean, what this president is doing at the border— putting children in cages, separating children from families, I think now it has been seven children who have died in custody during his administration. Yes, it’s horrible. It’s unconscionable. It’s criminal. Those babies are in concentration camps and that’s just the truth, but let’s not act as if these policies didn’t begin in some form under the previous administration. This is a conversation that we’ve not been honest about with the immigration policies in this country. And I was glad that Obama’s legacy of deportation, his record of deportation, was raised. And I thought Biden responded to that very, very poorly because no one was comparing Obama’s policies to Trump.
But what the question was, was the legitimate question of as, you said Marc, do you criminalize people whose only offense is that they crossed a border without so-called “proper documentation?” And if we can’t answer that question honestly, I think I’d give most of them credit, those who said no, that’s not a crime. Then, if we’re going to make this, you know, this kind of a deflectionary response, “well, you know, Obama can’t be compared to Trump because Obama was so much better”—Putting children in cages, is putting children in cages. I don’t care if those children have cots to sleep on when they’re in a cage separated from their parents, or if they’re sleeping on the concrete floor. It’s the same inhumane policy and we’re never going to stop implementing those policies if we’re not honest about everybody who does it.
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT Right.
MARC STEINER Kimberly?
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT No. I mean, I do think that as a nation and even internationally, we’ve been enamored by President Obama. And so to be as critical as we should be on some of his policies, seems very tough. It creates tremendous cognitive dissonance for individuals, but I do think that Jacqueline is right. In order for us to move forward, we have to understand that this— where we are right now— came from something and it was not all of Trump’s creation. Trump has certainly escalated it and taken it to a level that I think most Americans are still quite offended by and distraught by emotionally, but he is not the one to have started this process. And so when we recognize that piece, then we can move forward to figure out what we need to do to resolve it.
But, you know, just very quickly to go back to the debate from the previous night, when de Blasio— who I thought had the best zinger around this issue— when he talked about that folks and voters in particular are not willing to deal with the fact that they are seeking blame or seeking a place to put blame on what their particular situation, whether it’s financial or socially, on someone else instead of dealing with what we as America are doing as a country. But when he made the comment to say, immigrants didn’t do this to you, but big corporations and the 1% did. That’s where we need to be focused on instead of looking to create policies and legislation that completely distraughts another generation of individuals, another generation of human beings, and inflicts the kind of trauma that Marianne Williamson was talking about on those future generations. What we need to do is focus on what harm have we caused within this country based on the big corporations and that 1%.
MARC STEINER So in the time we have left, and not much time, I want to get to at least one or two other subjects here before we really have to stop and let our listeners, the viewers go about their day. But I think you are right. This issue that we watch how the Democrats have been forced to take on corporations, at least rhetorically, which is something really new. But let’s look at this question of war and the War Powers Act, and the never-ending wars that came up, and watch this interchange.
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN I also think we should not have combat troops in Afghanistan. It’s long overdue. It should end. And thirdly, I believe that you’re not going to find anybody who has pulled together more of our alliances to deal with what is the real stateless threat out there. We cannot go it alone in terms of dealing with terrorism, so I’d eliminate the act that allowed us to go into war, and not the AUMF, and make sure that it could only be used for what its intent was. And that is, to go after terrorists, but never do it alone.
SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS I helped lead the effort for the first time to utilize the War Powers Act to get the United States out of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, which is the most horrific humanitarian disaster on earth. And thirdly, let me be very clear. I will do everything I can to prevent a war with Iran, which would be far worse than the disastrous war with Iraq. [crowd applauds]
RACHEL MADDOW Senator Sanders, thank you.
CHUCK TODD All right, guys.
MARC STEINER So much more was said in that debate, but it was interesting the positions people are taking, that they took on these particular issues. And the Iraq War piece with Biden didn’t come up. Actually, Biden early on wanted to attack Iraq back in the late 90s as well, not just when he voted for the Iraq War. But this showed also a divide among Democrats, and also a generational divide, and so what, very quickly, do you think about this particular piece?
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT Absolutely. So I’m going to pull back a bit and not talk about just where we are right now, and say very emphatically, that sometimes the US acts like it needs a problem in which to function. And so war becomes that problem that it uses to be able to explain its dominance, to explain why it’s still a superpower in our global world. And so there’s always a need for us to find something to engage. You know, we go periods where we don’t engage, but then it’s like there’s something that we need to be doing. And so, we find ourselves involved in a particular war. But I do find it interesting that we started to see this divide among some of the candidates of how we should address these issues. And I think it’s going to be even more interesting to see how we move forth as the president, President Trump, continues to push around issues regarding Iran.
MARC STEINER And Jacqueline, very quickly, because we’re about to run out of time.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN Yeah, I mean, when you see yourself as a hammer, everything is a nail. [panel laughs] The United States has fashioned itself as the hammer of the world. We see ourselves as the enforcers of virtue and whatever we think that is, and injustice, and so-called democracy around the world. So everywhere around the world that we think does not fit into our definition of those paradigms, we feel like we have to hammer it into submission. Democrats are no different. Democrats have been no different in advancing that ideology and in sticking to it and in voting to fund wars and send American citizens into foreign countries to kill and harass people calling them terrorists for the past two, three decades now. And this is where this generational split has shown itself so evidently in the debates, where you have a whole new generation of politically-engaged people who were brought into politics because of Sanders, and then people like Warren and AOC who are tired of war.
They were born into this country being at war, but we’ve never legally declared that we should be at war. So most people didn’t even realize that’s a thing, that there is a War Powers Act, that the last time we were in a war that was actually legally declared a war was in World War II. That was also the last so-called “just” war that we were involved in. So everything we’ve done militarily for the past 20-30 years has been legally questionable, morally questionable, and it’s been economically disastrous for us, as well as disastrous on our psyche as a people. So you’ve got an older generation of politicians who are still very much sticking to the “US is a hammer that needs to nail the world into democratic submission” ideology, but you’ve got this younger generation of people who are simply emphatically saying, we’re tired of war, so we’re not going to vote for it anymore.
MARC STEINER So talking about the younger generation. In conclusion, we’re going to go there. It’s interesting, I think, Pete Buttigieg and Tulsi Gabbard, who are the only two people in this campaign I think in the Democratic side who actually fought in a war, are both really against going to war. I think you always find that often with military people, people who suffered through war go, this is not the way we need to go. But I think that the issue of this generation is one that came up last night. The subtext to, I think, last night was supposed to be a Biden-Bernie evening, but the subtext was about generational shift.
CONGRESSMAN ERIC SWALWELL I was 6-years-old when a presidential candidate came to the California Democratic Convention and said, it’s time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans. That candidate was then Senator Joe Biden. Joe Biden was right when he said it was time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans [crowd murmurs and cheers] 32 years ago. He’s still right today.
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN I’m still holding onto that torch. [crowd cheers]
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG As the youngest guy on the stage, I feel like I probably ought to contribute to the generational conversation. I’m all for generational change.
SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS Part of Joe’s generation. Let me respond. The issue, if I may say, is not generational. The issue—
SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND Before we move on from education—
JOSE DIAZ-BALART Please, please. Senator Sanders—and I’ll let—We will—[crosstalk]
SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS The issue is who has the guts to take on Wall Street, to take on the fossil fuel industry, to take on the big money interests who have unbelievable influence over the economic and political life of this country? [crosstalk]
MARC STEINER So looking at that, I mean, I think there really was a thing here and we really do have to make this very quick. But we’re seeing here, both in the other night and last night, but especially last night with people pushing Bernie and Biden and others on age, and it’s time for a new generation and passing the torch. This is part of what’s going on in America. Even though a lot of young people are the ones who pushed Bernie Sanders’s campaign, I’ll just say this, I think that both Bernie and Biden, kind of, showed their age a little bit last night. At least, it felt like watching it. And I’m saying this is an older man myself. [panel laughs] So your thoughts on that, very quickly?
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT I do think that we are starting to see a generational shift, but I also think it has a lot to do with our openness about identity politics and allowing so many other players to be at the table that have never been at the table before.
MARC STEINER Yup. Yup.
DR. KIMBERLY MOFFITT And now that we have so many of these players at the table, we also have an opportunity to take advantage of—You have to be 35 to run for president? Okay, I’ll be 37 and I’ll decide to put my hat in the ring. And so, I do think—But I think that’s a great thing because I do think it speaks to the diversity of America, and the idea that we don’t need the same old white males who have been in politics for the last 20-30 years in order to guide our country into the future.
MARC STEINER And very quickly, Jacqueline, before we have to roll?
JACQUELINE LUQMAN Yeah. I definitely agree. I think that even with the newly aware, newly involved people who are getting involved in politics now, they’re not as opposed to, you know, an older white male politician if his ideas are not the typical establishment, old white guy ideas. But yeah, there definitely is a shift in wanting a new guard, you know, some new blood, as Sanders himself said about the Supreme Court— getting new blood into our system of governance to really address the needs of people that have changed from our parents, from our grandparents.
MARC STEINER And that’s what we have time for today. That was really a great conversation the two of you. Thank you so much for joining us here. This has been a really, really good analysis.
JACQUELINE LUQMAN Thank you. It’s wonderful.
MARC STEINER Jacqueline Luqman and Dr. Kimberly Moffitt, great to have you both with us. And I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News Network. Good to have you all with us. Take care.