Democrats Clash Over Ideology And Policy In Third Presidential Debate

The top ten candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination clashed last night in a debate that made clear the different ideological directions that this race is pulling their party.

With 145 days left until the first votes of the 2020 election cycle are cast in the Iowa Caucuses, ten of the Democratic candidates for President clashed in the third debate of the election cycle. As a preliminary matter, my first observation is that the debate itself was quite simply too damn long at three hours and the format was unhelpful. While an earlier start time of 8:00 p.m. Eastern was far more reasonable than the 9:00 p.m. time of the first debate that doesn’t make up for the fact that the format was, once again, atrocious and seemingly designed to make sure there were as few details discussed as possible, As with the previous debates, there are still simply too many candidates on the state for anything that approaches a useful exchange of ideas and positions, or for any candidate to get off anything more than short statements that are hardly useful in making any rational judgment about whether or not that candidate would make a good President or a good nominee capable of beating Donald Trump.

What set this debate apart from all the others to date, of course, is the fact that all of the candidates who can be classified as either frontrunners or potentially viable were on the stage together for the first time. This was significant both because it is the first time that voters have had the ability to see all of these candidates, and especially former Vice-President Biden and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, interact with each other. One of the most significant things about this, of course, is that it laid bare the policy differences between the candidates and the extent to which the current campaign is as much about the future of the Democratic Party as it is about beating Donald Trump in 2020:

HOUSTON — Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. clung tightly to the legacy of the Obama administration in a Democratic primary debate on Thursday, asking voters to view him as a stand-in for the former president as an array of progressive challengers, led by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, brandished more daring policy promises and questioned Mr. Biden’s political strength.

Facing all of his closest competitors for the first time in a debate, Mr. Biden, the Democratic front-runner, repeatedly invoked President Barack Obama’s name and policy record as a shield against rivals who suggested his own record was flawed, or implied his agenda lacked ambition. On health care, immigration, foreign wars and more, Mr. Biden’s central theme was his tenure serving under Mr. Obama.

By constantly invoking Mr. Obama, a popular figure among Democrats,Mr. Biden sought to mute the ideological and generational divisions that have left him vulnerable in the primary race. To voters who might see him as a candidate of the past, Mr. Biden seemed to counter that the past was not so bad.

In an early exchange over health care, Mr. Biden referred to Ms. Warren’s support for Mr. Sanders’s “Medicare for all” plan. “The senator says she’s for Bernie,” Mr. Biden said. “Well, I’m for Barack — I think the Obamacare worked.”

Explaining his preference for more incremental health care improvements, like the creation of an optional government-backed plan, Mr. Biden challenged Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders to defend the cost of their plans, warning that they would require tax increases on middle-income Americans.

Mr. Biden was steadier in what was his third debate of the primary contest, rattling off statistics and parrying attacks with good cheer, though he still rambled at other moments. And despite their criticism, none of the nine other candidates onstage appeared to significantly damage his candidacy.

But Mr. Biden’s challengers were undeterred by his embrace of Mr. Obama, and the progressive candidates made clear the choice before primary voters.

Several of them argued — some subtly, some stridently — that the party needed to move well beyond the policies of the last Democratic president. And if Mr. Biden appealed to voters’ sense of nostalgia, his rivals pressed the case for broader change.

Ms. Warren, of Massachusetts, argued that her and Mr. Sanders’s approach would build upon Mr. Obama’s legacy rather than unraveling it. She credited Mr. Obama with having “fundamentally transformed health care,” but said the next president had to go further.

“The question is, how best can we improve on it?” Ms. Warren said, promising: “Costs are going to go up for giant corporations, but for hard-working families across this country, costs are going to go down.”

Mr. Sanders sidestepped the mention of Mr. Obama altogether, asserting to Mr. Biden that a single-payer system would save consumers money by breaking the influence of insurers seeking to “protect their profits.”

“Americans don’t want to pay twice as much as other countries,” Mr. Sanders, of Vermont, said.

Other challengers in the 10-candidate field were less diplomatic in demanding a break from the center-left policy framework that guided the Obama administration. Julián Castro, who served as Mr. Obama’s housing secretary, echoed the news anchor Jorge Ramos in questioning the Obama administration’s record of deporting millions of illegal immigrants. When Mr. Ramos pressed Mr. Biden to say whether he had made any mistakes on immigration as vice president, Mr. Biden pleaded personal loyalty.

“We didn’t lock people up in cages, we didn’t separate families,” Mr. Biden said, adding, “The president did the best thing that was able to be done.”


Ms. Harris used her opening statement to speak directly to, and criticize, President Trump. During the health care contretemps she lamented that “not once have we talked about Donald Trump.” And when she made the case for using executive action to overcome legislative gridlock, she turned to Mr. Biden, let out a laugh and borrowed Mr. Obama’s signature line. “Hey, Joe, let’s say, ‘Yes we can,'” she said.

Ms. Harris’s attempt at a strategic makeover was hard to miss, but other candidates also tried to show voters a fuller version of themselves. Ms. Warren stayed true to her vision for sweeping policy proposals, but she also used the debate, held in the city where she went to college, to talk more about her personal story, which many voters are only dimly aware of. She recalled her Oklahoma youth, repeatedly cited her brothers’ military service and talked about being a public school teacher.

If Ms. Warren seemed determined to unfurl her biography, Mr. Sanders came prepared to take on Mr. Biden. The Vermont senator was assertive about drawing contrasts between his progressive credentials and Mr. Biden’s far more varied record. Where Mr. Sanders shied away from direct conflict when he shared a debate stage with Mr. Biden in June, this time he sought out areas of sharp disagreement, including over the NAFTA trade deal and the war in Iraq. Mr. Biden supported both; Mr. Sanders opposed them.

The Democratic Party’s lively, sometimes heated internal disagreements were on vivid display throughout the night, on subjects as diverse as gun control, trade with China, the war in Afghanistan and the Senate filibuster. And if the clearest philosophical gulf separated Mr. Biden from the prominent populists who flanked him — Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren — the debate made plain that the party was in the midst of a far more complex process of defining its identity.

The remaining field of candidates arrayed themselves around the same philosophical dividing line, most of them aligning more closely with Mr. Biden. And for the first time in this primary race, a few of the trailing contenders sharpened their attacks.

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota derided Mr. Sanders’s single-payer health care bill as a “bad idea,” while Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., accused Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren of seeking to take away choice from consumers.

“I trust the American people to make the right choice for them,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “Why don’t you?”

The Washington Post has more:

There were brief calls for unity, and then a free-for-all. In heated exchanges at a presidential debate here Thursday night, 10 Democratic contenders laid bare the party’s deep divisions on major issues including health care, immigration and foreign policy during a debate that also featured personal swipes over honesty, mental acuity and the legacy of former president Barack Obama.

Former vice president Joe Biden began Thursday’s presidential debate with an aggressive defense of his health-care proposal, attacking the more expensive and ambitious Medicare-for-all program backed by his top rivals in the Democratic race.

Biden, flanked by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), went on offense early against the two liberal candidates, casting their universal health-care program as unworkable, too costly and a betrayal of Obama’s signature legislative achievement.

“I know that the senator says she’s for Bernie,” Biden said, turning toward Warren. “Well, I’m for Barack.” 

Biden stressed that he wants to expand on the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, rather than replace it with Medicare-for-all, which is estimated to cost more than $30 trillion over 10 years. 

Sanders and Warren largely joined forces to spar with Biden early in the debate, casting their plans as more properly suited to the major problems of the day. 

In what served as a virtual battle over the soul of the Democratic Party, Thursday’s debate highlighted key questions of whether the party should pursue policies of sweeping change or a more incremental return to normalcy in the wake of President Trump. 

Several candidates also tried to balance offering praise of Obama with giving themselves space to criticize Biden, who served as Obama’s vice president for eight years.

The third Democratic debate came at an inflection point in the race, with a narrowing of the field that has started to clarify the campaign as it heads into the fall. The trio at the center of the stage — Biden, Sanders and Warren — have consistently held the top places in the polls, with the rest of the candidates trailing far behind and growing increasingly desperate.

But the lengthy discussion appeared to do little to change the overall contours of the Democratic primary, with few standout moments or major missteps during the course of the nearly three-hour event. 

Warren, who has been ascendant in the polls in recent months, spent long stretches without speaking Thursday, and did not end up challenging Biden directly during her first face-to-face debate with the former vice president, who sits atop most polls. 

Several other candidates were more than willing to take on their fellow Democratic contenders directly, despite beginning the debate saying they wanted to unify the country and highlight the party’s broad unanimity on public policy.

“I don’t think it’s a bold idea, I think it’s a bad idea,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) said of Sanders’s health-care bill.

“For a socialist, you’ve got a lot more confidence in corporate America than I have,” Biden said to Sanders, scoffing at the idea that companies would pay workers more if they had fewer health-care costs4.

As I noted, the most anticipated thing about last night’s debate was the fact that we would be seeing all of the top tier candidates on the stage at the same time for the first time since this campaign began. Among other things, that seemed like it would have meant a clash between former Vice-President Biden, who clearly represents the center-left portion of the Democratic Party, and candidates such as Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders who represent the so-called “progressive” wing of the party. This is especially significant given the fact that it is these three candidates who have been dominating the polls at both the national and state levels, with no other candidate even getting into the double-digit area except perhaps in a handful of polls here and there. Much of the anticipation, of course, was that this clash could have a significant impact on the direction of the race as we head into the fall and the final countdown to the opening month of the election cycle in February.

To a large degree, though, those clashes were far more muted than many people likely anticipated. There were some clashes between the three candidates when it comes to the issue of health care reform, which is clearly the issue that divides the candidates the most. Senator Warren, and most especially Senator Sanders, gave strong defenses to their “Medicare for All” proposal, but the former Vice-President was just as aggressive in pushing back both on the issue of cost and as a means to contrast his own proposal, which basically includes leaving in place the bulk of the Affordable Care Act while adding to it a public option similar to, or perhaps a part of the Medicare/Medicaid system. The Warren and Sanders plan also came under fire from candidates further down in the polls, such as Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who criticized the extent to which both Warren and Sanders would take choices away from the American public and make private health insurance essentially illegal regardless of whether or not Americans were happy with their current coverage or not.

One of the most bitter health care clashes of the night, though, came between Biden and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. After Biden had described his plan, which includes a provision under which people who can’t afford coverage would be automatically enrolled in the public option while other Americans would have the choice of whether or not to do so, Castro claimed that Biden’s plan would potentially leave millions of poor Americans without coverage since it didn’t provide for automatic coverage. When Biden pointed out, correctly, that Castro was incorrect, Castro tried to turn it around by asking if Biden had forgotten something he said just ten minutes earlier, something that clearly seemed like a planned attack on Biden’s age and fitness for office and, as CNN pointed out in a post-debate fact-check, Castro was clearly wrong in restating what Biden had said:

All things considered, the former Vice-President did far better in this third debate than he had in either of the previous two. The first debate, of course, was most notable for Kamala Harris’s attack on Biden over the issue of busing in the 1970s. While that attack, and Biden’s muted response, did have an impact on the race, the impact was fairly momentary and had largely disappeared by the second debate, during which Biden delivered a better but still muted performance. This time around Biden was far better on the attack where he needed to be and far stronger in defending himself, two things that are going to be valuable to whatever candidate ultimately ends up facing Donald Trump in the General Election, Last night, the former Vice-President did a lot to alleviate many of the doubts about him that may have developed over the summer. As Dan Balz put it in this morning’s Washington Post, Biden delivered the strong performance he needed to, and that should help him going forward.

Like the former Vice-President, Senators Warren and Sanders also did fairly well in their own respects. While we did not see the kind of clashes between them and the Vice-President that we might have anticipated or hoped for, both candidates did fairly well in getting across their own ideas and neither one of them made any egregious error that would seem likely to derail their campaigns or hurt them in the polls. Indeed, I suspect that the post-debate polling that we see over the coming days will show that this debate did little to change the overall direction that the race has been taking. If anything, we are likely to see that the race will have winnowed down to a battle of these top three to an even greater extent, much to the chagrin of candidates hoping to make a breakthrough.

As for those other candidates, it’s unclear that any of them did anything that would cause their fortunes to improve. Kamala Harris was fairly laid back compared to previous debates. To the extent she may have been hoping that this debate would turn around what appears to be a sinking campaign I’m afraid she didn’t do enough to stop the bleeding. Similarly, candidates such as Pete Buttigieg and the others closer to the bottom of the pack, with the obvious exception of Julian Castro for the reasons noted above, came across quite well but I’m not sure it will be enough to pump any energy into their fledgling campaigns. The most notable thing to come out of these candidates all night may have been Andrew Yang, who is apparently intending to use campaign money to give $1,000 per month to ten American families, a campaign stunt that puts one of the central ideas of his campaign in the headlines. All of them will qualify for the fourth debate, of course, but that will likely be their last chance to turn their campaigns around. Most likely, they will not be able to do so.

Here’s the video of last night’s debate. The full video includes several hours of pre and post-debate commentary from ABC News but the video should start when the debate itself started. If it doesn’t, you can fast forward to the three-hour mark. Alternatively, you can read the transcript.

FILED UNDER: Bernie Sanders, Campaign 2020, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Politicians, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Bill says:

    I still remember the 1984 Democratic Primary campaign and all the candidates trying to be loudest in support of a Nuclear Freeze. Is Climate Change today what NF was in 84?

  2. Kit says:


    Is Climate Change today what NF was in 84?

    Yeah, I guess it is if by that you mean an existential threat that is not being taken nearly seriously enough, and where policy is actively making the problem worse. Time will tell if the solution requires the overthrow of one or more of the parties constituting the problem.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    I agree with Matt Yglesias tweet on the subject:

    My unpopular opinion is there are almost no differences between them, the differences that do exist are extremely unimportant, and one of many terrible things about the extremely long presidential nomination process is it inspires us to dwell too much on tiny gaps.

  4. Gromitt Gunn says:

    1. I did not even realize that the photo was missing one of the candidates until I saw the first quote from Klobuchar in the linked article. I’m not sure whether that says more about Klobuchar or something about the sheer volume of people on the stage.

    2. Whoever decided on a red blazer for Warren deserves all the kudos. She immediately stands out from the pack in that photo and looks like she’s comfortable, open, relaxed, and confident. She’s dressed like the lead singer among a group of backup singers and session musicians.

  5. Paul L. says:

    Good to see the Democrats honest about supporting Gun registration and confiscation.

    Beto O’Rourke: ‘Hell yes, we’re gonna take your AR-15’

  6. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Paul L.:

    Did you have a point you were trying to make?

  7. Paul L. says:

    @Neil Hudelson:
    The 2020 election is going to be a repeat of the 2008 blue wave election if the Democrats campaign on Gun Safety/Reform/Control/Registration /Confiscation.

    Thus, upon the instant, did two decades’ worth of Democratic rhetoric go up in a puff of smoke.

  8. Teve says:

    Jess Dweck

    Every conservative headline is like Your Poor Retiree Mom Will Lose Everything Under Warren then you read the actual article and it’s like “ultrabillionaires might have to give up their eighth yacht and human chess board where the pieces are their servants”

  9. Fortunato says:

    Two things I took away from last nights debate:

    1) Moderators of Democratic debates unfailingly focus on very questions that illicit the D squabbles that superbly play into the R’s false, yet most desired and opportune characterization of our party.

    2) Joe Biden has clearly missed his moment, he is not a man of our times, he should not be our nominee.

  10. Gustopher says:

    Candidates were given longer to answer each question, which made it a lot better than the previous events. But it would have been better with a few less candidates, or one more so it split into two nights.

    I don’t think we need to be winnowing down the field yet, except for Yang. There’s still plenty of time for prospective voters to consider various candidates, except for Yang.

    Booker continued to quietly impress me, but he needs to do more. Also, his lazy eye seemed lazier than usual, and I was wondering if that’s why he hasn’t caught on — people want a president they can look in the eye, and he is always looking away with one eye.

    Also, Yang has almost no range of motion in his neck — but this isn’t really a problem because he shouldn’t be on that stage. He has done nothing to reduce my visceral dislike of him.

  11. mattbernius says:

    I honestly think that @Paul L., or rather Charlie Cooke writing at the National Review, has a point. Its probably not popular to say, but Beto is doing far more harm than good in taking his maximalist position (especially given the political unreality of accomplishing what he’s doing).

    First it makes any compromise on gun control* harder.

    But more importantly, if (like myself) you buy into the idea that winning this election will be based on turn out rather than conversion, you shouldn’t be picking an issue that activates people from the opposition party who live in rural areas (given their disproportionate representation in the electoral college).

    Put a different way, he’s pushing Democrats to run on the liberal equivalent of “repeal Obamacare” and we saw how well that worked for Republicans in 2018.

    * – To be clear, I’m a supporter of gun control (including regulation of so-called “assault rifles”). However, I don’t see banning assault rifles as a realistic option in any way, shape or form.

    Additionally, I should note that until there’s a change in leadership in the Senate (or the NRA collapses under corruption), I don’t think there’s any possibility of any form of pragmatic gun control.

  12. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Paul L.: And here I thought that the point was just that you’re a gun nut. Boy, do I ever have egg on my face.

  13. DrDaveT says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    And here I thought that the point was just that you’re a gun nut.

    No, you missed two levels of indirection. He’s not a gun nut himself, but he’s an anti-anti-gun-nut nut — he’s violently opposed to being opposed to gun nuts.

  14. mattbernius says:

    That’s some next level science.

    Or wait, is it n(th) dimensional Candyland?

  15. Teve says:
  16. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    After some thought…I have decided that I want to see Warren on the debate stage with Trump, and Buttigieg on the debate stage with Pence.
    Frankly, I think that Trump doesn’t have the balls to actually participate in debates this round, but; Warren would mop the floor with him, if he did show up, and seeing Buttigieg, the gay actual-christian, on stage with Pence, the homophobic faux-christian, would be worth the price of admission.
    So that’s it…
    Warren/Buttigieg 2020

  17. Fortunato says:

    In the Rolling Stone article you’ve linked, Jamil Smith’s tries to argue:

    “Democrats need an antiracist nominee to run against a racist like Donald Trump.”

    Couldn’t disagree more.
    I’m of the belief that this is the exact type of pontification that has lead to the recent decline in Democrats favorability.
    Who exactly is it that suspects any of the 10 candidates on the stage last night aren’t in fact, antiracist?
    The only hints at racism that I’ve ever heard even floated about any of them is when Joe rubbed elbows with some of the Klan friendly congressfolk back in the day (as did all congressmen, back in the day).
    Despite that necessary dalliance, it remains Joe who polls tell us is the most beloved by the very minorities Trump disparages.

    And I don’t think Joe needs to drop out. I’m betting we’re at Peak Joe right now. The race will eventually weed him out, a decline precipitating after losing IA and NH.
    What the Democrats NEED is not an antiracist. What we need is an intelligent, considerate, and capable leader. One who easily grasps and incorporates new data, who seeks expert advise from today’s top thought leaders, then makes highly informed decisions. A leader who can then couple those decision with the energy, the team (Nancy Pelosi) and the tenacity required to drive that legislation into law (crushing a few GOPers in the process).

    Sorry, but for me, the names that fit that bill continue to be Pete and Amy.

  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @DrDaveT: As I noted, egg on my face. I’m soooooooo embarrassed, even more so now.

  19. Michael Cain says:

    I find it somewhat interesting that there’s a reasonable chance more people in California will fill out their primary ballot and drop it in the mail on Feb 3, 2020 than will take part in the Iowa caucuses. I am glad that I am not a campaign strategist deciding when I have to start pouring money into California in order to be competitive there.

  20. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


    Beto is doing far more harm than good

    He is…because it gives license to every MAGA jerk to say Democrats want to take our guns.
    This is not the way to get Trump out of the White House.

  21. Teve says:

    “I want to get AK-47s out of rando hands because Joe Incel shouldn’t be able to shoot up a school and kill two dozen kids.” doesn’t do anything to get rid of Trump. But if you need to push the overton window towards gun control that’s exactly what you want on TV every now and then.

  22. Teve says:

    There are a weird number of trolls on Social Media pushing Tulsi Gabbard. Wonder what Vlad is up to.

  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Cain: Yeah, but isn’t that true of most states that have primaries rather than caucuses? Iowa’s population is about that of Metropolitan Seattle, maybe less, so it’s likely that the 13th largest city in the nation will have more people cast a ballot than participate in the Iowa Caucus.

  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: Forgive me for being a bore about this but if 20 or so dead WHITE suburban 6 and 7 year olds–everyone of which was the child of one of the famous “soccer moms” who decide everything in America–didn’t move the needle, look for signs that it’s soldered in place.

  25. Teve says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: that event and others like it made me realize how much resistance there would be to serious gun control in the US. But that’s not going to be the last word on gun control.

    Do you know what the worst blimp disaster in history was? It wasn’t the Hindenburg. It was the USS Akron. It killed 70 something people in 1933, 4 years before the Hindenburg. Lots of people died in blimp fires. Then one day there was a tipping point.

  26. Scott F. says:

    I’m curious about what you are seeing about the political moment that suggests that what Democrats need is a capable candidate. A general electorate that would elect Trump as president doesn’t give a fig about capable and therefore the Democrats need to run a candidate that will fire up the left (to drive high turnout) and find cause with the wishy-washy middle.

    Granted Democrats have historically preferred capable over incapable, but this cycle I sense what they really want is to fight back against Trumpism. IMHO, Beto’s immediate appeal is not so much about his assault weapons hardline as his righteous anger about the inaction. In a similar vein, Warren’s rise is due to her strong message that the system is rigged and the fact she has a plan to address the inequities. Persuadable independents are of the “pox on both their houses” camp, so I’m of the mind that a candidate looking to fight against the status quo dysfunction would play well regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum. How else do you explain Obama voters who then voted for Trump? It certainly wasn’t because these voters thought both men were centrists.

  27. Tyrell says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: There seems to be a pattern. The candidates who make sense get the least amount of coverage. This is predictable, scripted. Some already had t shirts printed with their “sound bites” on them.

  28. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Scott F.: Because capable is the Democrat brand. Republicans have never ran as capable or even knowledgable. They run as disrupters who want to decrease the positive span of control of the federal government, cut taxes, and stop immigrants. Trump is basically true to their brand even if they dont like the way he goes about it.

    The left is going to get Donald Trump reelected. They are shaping up to be the Democrat equivalent to the Tea Party. Most people would rather an inept Donald Trump who cant really accomplish anything of substance…than a capable white liberal who will follow through on “massive structural change”.

    Abolishing private insurance is next door neighbors with abolishing the IRS or Dept of Education. Frankly, the day both parties shove their clubbed foot wings back in the basement is the day we can actually start down the road of governance.

  29. Monala says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    In 2016 in Washington State, only 230,000 Democrats in the state showed up [to caucus], compared to more than 800,000 who voted in the completely meaningless primary. Clearly, one of these systems needs to be drowned in the bathtub, and the one worth saving is the one where more people vote.

  30. Monala says:

    @Monala: a comment to this article was excellent:

    seems like the arguments from both Katie and Eli (as well as the comments) break down into two categories: Which is the better experience? (caucuses) And which produces the more legitimately representative outcome? (primaries) Do we really need to debate which is the more important priority? If you participated in the caucus, of course it was the better experience most of the time… but does that really trump out the exclusion of others from even having any say? C’mon, folks. That’s quite obviously a privileged position.

    So here are two alternatives:

    Option 1: We flip it. We keep the caucus first but have it be advisory and have the primary be the one that picks delegates. You get your better experience that is good for engaging the citizenry and you get an actual vote that isn’t so exclusive. I loved my 2016 caucus but the outcome was not at all reflective of what most voters wanted, as demonstrated in the very different primary result.

    Option 2: How about having Washington state innovate? We combine the two processes. The votes are cast the same way as a primary – so anyone can participate – but on the election day, we still have a process where those that can and want to participate, show up by precinct and try to engage and persuade their neighbors before they vote? It’s optional but it maintains that in-person engagement that keeps the process from becoming a remote, rote experience. Best of both worlds.

  31. Matt says:


    But more importantly, if (like myself) you buy into the idea that winning this election will be based on turn out rather than conversion, you shouldn’t be picking an issue that activates people from the opposition party who live in rural areas (given their disproportionate representation in the electoral college).

    Not only that but there are a LOT of gun owning Democratic party members out there. I know several who vote Democratic because the GOP has been utterly ridiculous for some time now. Telling them they are bad people and that their hunting AR-15 or AK platform gun is going to be confiscated is a great way to make them stay home and not vote. You won’t be turning Texas blue with that stuff…

    * – To be clear, I’m a supporter of gun control (including regulation of so-called “assault rifles”). However, I don’t see banning assault rifles as a realistic option in any way, shape or form.

    Assault rifles are already heavily regulated requiring either the proper FFLs/SOT or a pre-ban weapon (aka pre-1986). You’re probably thinking of the term “assault weapon” which was made up in the 90s by some anti-gun movements with the intent of causing exactly what you just did. Conflating assault rifles with semiautomatic weapons. Still “assault weapons” account for fewer than 1% of all murders in the USA according to the FBI crime database.

    Additionally, I should note that until there’s a change in leadership in the Senate (or the NRA collapses under corruption), I don’t think there’s any possibility of any form of pragmatic gun control.

    Well the problem is you have people like Beto screaming for confiscation while people like Micheal R call gun owners paranoid crazies for even thinking confiscation might occur. Pragmatic gun control exists. You see this in the number of laws broken prior/during one of the events. Starting with straw purchases all the way to the trigger is pulled. Laws are broken…

    Personally I would prefer something like with car ownership where I register myself and the guns I own (although it won’t stop events from occurring). At least something like the FOID system in Illinois where mandatory training and such are involved. I already have insurance for them so that wouldn’t even be a change for me. The problem is Beto MR and crew will work on confiscating my guns as soon as they get enough power to do so A LA California. I am not alone in this sentiment..

    Also for a couple hundred thousand (and falling every year in price) I could buy a machine to print my own gun parts. That’s going to be the next big enforcement problem.

  32. Matt says:

    Sorry I forgot to link to the FBI’s crime database. It can be found here.

    Note how hands and feet account for more deaths than assault rifles, assault weapons or even just plain rifles in general. If you’re wondering hands and feet mean strikes. For example punching or kicking someone to death. Choking someone to death with your hands would be classified as “strangulation”.

  33. mattbernius says:

    I did mean “assault weapons” that’s for the catch. It’s really easy to make that mistake.

    And yes, I’m aware of the statistics.

    Again, I’m not calling for a ban of the AR-15 platform (or similar platforms). I realize they are a valuable tool for hunting and for a subset of the population that has to deal with very specific challenges (often associated with living in rural areas). It’s a pretty amazing platform (which to some degree gets to the challenges it creates).

    I, personally, would like to see greater regulation of long guns alongside hand guns. I also thing there needs to be better regulation of some of the “tacticool” accessories like bumpstock and high capacity magazines (yes, I’m sure this will go down the either the “well they are dumb anyway as they are more likely to jam or hurt aim” or the “but they make it more convenient for when you are at the range or hunting wild pigs that are about to eat your children” line of thought). In some cases that doesn’t necessarily mean an outright ban, but it would be great to put some additional steps in front of acquiring them. Which gets to:

    Personally I would prefer something like with car ownership where I register myself and the guns I own (although it won’t stop events from occurring). At least something like the FOID system in Illinois where mandatory training and such are involved. I already have insurance for them so that wouldn’t even be a change for me.

    That’s pretty much where I am too. I think you should be licensed for long guns as well as hand guns and I think there needs to be some form of training/testing involved in the licensing process.

    FWIW, if that was put in place nationally, then I also think that would allow for licenses to move across all state lines regardless of whether there is any reciprocity.

  34. Matt says:

    I also thing there needs to be better regulation of some of the “tacticool” accessories like bumpstock and high capacity magazines

    Bumpstocks are already illegal as the ATF under Trump’s direction just simply reclassified them as machine guns in a fairly cludgy dumb manner. This is the frustrating part when it comes to talking to people about gun regulations. They keep calling for stuff that already exists. In this case you want “better regulation” of an item that is already essentially regulated as illegal (if you have the proper FFL and SOT you might still be able to own a bumpstock I haven’t looked into that). This is a common problem here (and other places) when I enter gun control related discussions. Most of the suggested regulations already exist..

    What you call a “high capacity magazine” is actually a standard capacity magazine. The standard mag size on the AR/AK platforms is 30 rounds. A high capacity magazine is something larger like 50-100+ rounds. I use standard sized magazines in my saiga (AK platform made by izhmash) when hunting but I only have around 5 rounds in it. 30 rounds can get quite heavy and if I’m unexpectedly charged by an angry boar or two from a group then 4 rounds has been enough to stop them too.

    The last assault weapons ban did what you wanted and it made it illegal to have too many features such as bayonet lugs or pistol grips. So they ended up banning some pump action shotguns along with other hunting rifles while having no noticeable effect on murder rates or crimes in general. Which is not a surprise because the vast majority of murders are committed by hand guns and hand related objects (knives/strangling/etc).

    There’s an indoor range near where I live that I sometimes go to for sight adjustments (it’s windy all the time here). I’ve been there many times and there have been a few times where I’ve had to step in because people were being stupid. Mostly because they weren’t properly trained in the safe handling of firearms. That’s why I support at least a FOID like system which includes mandatory safety training.

  35. mattbernius says:


    Bumpstocks are already illegal as the ATF under Trump’s direction just simply reclassified them as machine guns in a fairly cludgy dumb manner.

    I’m aware of that. However, the problem is that these aren’t statutorily illegal or regulated. They are being regulated by fiat. Which, as we have seen, can be immediately reversed by another EO.

    This is the frustrating part when it comes to talking to people about gun regulations. They keep calling for stuff that already exists.

    Again, some of us actually have done the research. But we’re immediately undercut the moment we accidentally write “assault rifle” instead of “assault weapons” because that’s an easy way of disarming any discussion of the underlying points.

    Additionally I didn’t want to take the time to list a lot of the other AR-15 platform additions that fall under the “tacticool” “cosmetic” category that people bitch about the regulation of. For as much as many people talk about the function of the rifle as hunting or self defense, they are willing to hand wave the moment someone suggests that not having a grenade — excuse me, *flare* launcher on the front — is clearly violating their first amendment rights.

    A high capacity magazine is something larger like 50-100+ rounds.

    Yes, I know. That’s what I was talking about that as a compromise option.

    Though my preference would be to limit AR-15 standard magazines as well. Again, I question the need for a 30 round magazine from a hunting perspective (for the reasons you laid out). I’d be open to the idea of being able to apply for a waiver to get a “standard” magazine (though my preference is 20 rounds) or have something that allows for higher capacity magazines if they are stored at ranges. I could likewise see an argument for some of the other “tacticool” features being available but only at ranges (i.e. flash suppressors).

    I do think that whatever gun laws we have do need to account for rural users and people who are, in good faith, hunting. I’d just prefer to see that done via waiver versus default.


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