Were you hoping Bloomberg would be the Democrats’ savior?
As the Nevada Caucus draws near, it was front-runner Bernie Sanders and a slashing, clashing Elizabeth Warren who starred at Wednesday’s Democratic Debate in Las Vegas.
I was sort of hoping someone would mention the coronavirus, a/k/a Covid-19 problem, as it spreads around the world and into America. That would have had Filipinos and other Asian Americans around the country leaning in, ready to hear assurances thata Sanders/Warren/Biden/Buttigieg/Klobuchar/Bloomberg administration would know how to handle a crisis with compassion and sensitivity.
Would they know how to protect the country from the virus of ignorance as well?
Considering how some Asian American businesses, mostly restaurants, are claiming they are being hurt by irrational fear of the disease, it would have been a valuable insight drawn from the Nevada debate, the first one in a state where AAPI eligible voters are at nearly 210,000, 11 percent of the state’s electorate.
But we didn’t get that.
We did, however, get a debate that was probably the most contentious to date, and one that had plenty of what all good debates must showcase: clash. Oh, yes, style and substance, and an on-your-feet deftness. But the clash and clang of debate, the verbal sword play, cutting and exposing your opponents, that’s what counts in these battles.
On Wednesday, it’s as if they all were inspired by the elephant in the room, the newcomer billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the Republican turned Democrat, turned mega-wealthy white knight ready to save the day for the oligarchy.
He was cut up so badly, it was like he wasn’t ready for prime time. And his nemesis was none other than Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the woman who tried to curb the greed of the banks and financial institutions. She must have realized she had to assert herself if she were to be, as they say in Iowa, viable.
Still, I would have bet heavy on Bloomberg. He was set up like baseball’s 2017 Houston Astros against the Yankees. He knew every pitch coming. He had to know he would get a question on that racist, disgusting “Stop and Frisk” policy that Bloomberg turned to in New York to curb the murder rate in the city.
But instead of hitting it out of the park, of S&F, Bloomberg simply admitted, “It got out of control.” I’ll say.
He still justified the policy, saying murders dropped to 350. Then he meekly spoke of having apologized. But he tried to regain face, saying if they took everyone on the debate stage who had ever been wrong on criminal justice “there’d be nobody else up here.”
For a few seconds the silence was deafening. But Warren broke through and practically shoved Bloomberg up against a proverbial wall on the debate stage, holding him accountable for the policy that wrecked the lives of black and brown men in the city. She pointed out Bloomberg had apologized only for how it turned out. But she said, “This is about what it was designed to do to begin with–it targeted communities of color.”
That distinction earned Warren a roar from the crowd.
“If you want to issue a real apology then the apology has to start with the intent of the plan as it was put together,” she said. “You need a different apology.”
Bloomberg was bloodied, but that was just the first slash.
There was also the matter of the stories of women who have claimed harassment in the Bloomberg workplace who were paid money in exchange to sign an NDA, a non-disclosure agreement.
Warren again was there holding Bloomberg accountable. The Astro in Bloomberg should have seen the pitch coming. But he wasn’t prepared for the high hard one.
Said Warren of the NDA holders: “If they wish now to speak out and tell their side of the story about what it is they alleged, that’s now OK with you, you’re releasing them on television tonight?”
Huge applause, as Bloomberg dodged implying he was bound by the signed agreements.
But Warren came back. “Are the women bound by being muzzled by you? And you can release them from that immediately, because understand this is not just about the mayor’s character, this is also a question about electability. We are not going to beat Donald Trump with a man who knows how many non-disclosure agreements and the drip-drip-drip of stories of women saying they have been harassed and discriminated against.”
Warren had put Bloomberg, no the exposed oligarch, on the spot.
Biden, sensing blood, tried to jump in as well. But Warren overshadowed him. As for the others, Pete Buttigieg sounded smart going after everyone. But he and Amy Klobuchar seemed to have it out for each other, especially on the Klobuchar gaffe of not knowing the name of Mexico’s president.
Still, the steadiest debater of the night was the Democratic front runner Bernie Sanders. Sanders started strong with the diversity litany, mentioning in the first two minutes Asian Americans as part of his coalition.
We were seen. Sanders also went after Bloomberg, saying both of them had gotten their two stents worth out of life, and how he, Sanders, was in good campaign shape.
Not bad, but I think Sanders should have declared himself vegan by now.
It would be better for his heart and for the planet. All the candidates were strong on climate change, what should be a unifying existential issue. But Bernie would be even stronger if he came out for a whole-food, plant-based diet. Not only would that reduce the U.S. carbon footprint by 50 percent, it also cuts down the nitrogen pollution runoff from farmlands that’s destroying our streams, rivers and coastlines.
At least it would throw off the concern about his health, though he is still clarifying that he is a red-blooded American and not as Bloomberg implied a “communist.”
It was yet another ignorant Bloomberg comment on the night. The savior of the Democratic party is a red-baiter?
On Saturday, I expect Sanders to win Nevada. And then it’s on to South Carolina, followed by all the Asian Americans in California on March 3 and Super Tuesday.
I think Sanders stays strong throughout. He has a gruff charm. The bigger question is if Warren took the pop out of Bloomberg’s threat? Will black voters support him in the South? Will a coalition of voters find him attractive on Super Tuesday?
The man has money to burn, but I think Warren did a number on him this week. Maybe she’ll begin her rise.
That’s how strong her moments were on Wednesday night–enough to make people realize that an oligarch by any other name is not the answer in November.
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He writes a column for the Inquirer.net’s North America bureau. Twitter @emilamok Listen for him on Apple Podcasts.