Debate Upshot: Democrats Are the Only Responsible Party

The third Democratic debate is in the books, having been conveniently held on a night that featured both college football bowl games and the opening weekend of the new Star Wars movie.

It’s just as well, though, because it was a largely uneventful night. Politico has a decent rundown of the main highlights, from Sanders personally apologizing for the data breach to the candidates’ renewed push on gun control. There isn’t much reason to believe that debate will move the polling needle in a significant way, which obviously plays well for Clinton as far as the contest goes.

But debates aren’t just about sorting out the differences between primary candidates. They’re also about promoting a political party’s worldview and illustrating how its leaders would manage the nation’s problems. That’s one of the biggest reasons why the DNC’s debate schedule is so frustrating: it’s not only that infrequent and low-viewership debates prevent a healthy and vigorous contest, but also that they deny the American people a chance to hear from the party.

Those who did tune in had the opportunity to hear from three candidates who can be trusted, to varying degrees, to lead the nation. There are some obvious differences between them that don’t need restating here, but the distinction between the Democrats and the Republicans in their debates could not possibly have been sharper. The GOP wants to drop more bombs on anything that moves in the middle east, cut taxes on every corporation and rich person it can, and make life miserable for almost anyone who isn’t older, wealthy, white, straight and male.

It’s not just about morals, though: it’s about basic responsibility. Republican foreign policy wouldn’t just needlessly kill untold numbers through needless military aggressions–it would also generate a massive increase in terrorism and instability just as George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq did. Republican tax policy wouldn’t just benefit the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class–it would also bust the budget, create massive deficits and hurt the demand-side consumer economy. Republican climate policy wouldn’t just benefit fossil fuel companies and increase pollution–it would also put the entire planet at risk of eventual civilization and species collapse.

Republican candidates are catering to a furious and fearful population of resentful paranoiacs. Their policy platforms are predictably wildly irresponsible.

The Democratic Party may still have a way to go in becoming as progressive as it needs to be. But there’s no question that only one of America’s two parties can be counted on to do the basic job of running the government.

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David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.