“The grown-ups” took the stage during the Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night in Las Vegas, The New York Times editorial board wrote Thursday.
“It was impossible not to feel a sense of relief watching the Democratic debate after months dominated by the Republican circus of haters, ranters and that very special group of king killers in Congress,” the paper’s board wrote.
On the debate, in which the candidates differed only by a few degrees on taxes, spending, civil rights, the role of government, amnesty, and the need for a larger government, the Times praised the diversity of opinion. “But what stood out most was the Democratic Party’s big tent, capable of containing a spectrum of reality-based views,” the Times wrote.
As for the Republican field, the official opinion of the paper is less favorable. “For those despairing about the future of American politics, here was proof that it doesn’t have to revolve around candidates who pride themselves on knowing nothing or believe that governing is all about destroying government,” the board members wrote.
“On guns laws, there was great divergence. Mr. Webb has earned an A rating from the National Rifle Association,” they said.
“Regarding unauthorized immigrants, there was agreement that they should be allowed to purchase coverage on the health exchanges, but Mrs. Clinton, unlike the others, did not support giving them government subsidies,” they continued.
The Times did, however, note there was a lot of agreement, particularly on the need to increase the role of government in redistributing the earnings of others.
The biggest point of agreement was on income inequality, the central theme of the Sanders campaign and one that has been put on the top of the agenda by the other candidates as well. The question, of course, is how to reduce it in an economic system that has been moving toward ever greater inequality. Mr. Sanders said he would change the tax code to have the wealthiest pay a lot more, with new revenues going to education, free college tuition and health care for all. Mrs. Clinton would also raise taxes, and said she supported reining in “the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn’t run amok,” though it’s not clear what that would take, given the trajectory we’re on.
The editorial concluded that Democrats’ disagreements are serious and substantial while Republicans are incompetent.
These are healthy and necessary disagreements on difficult challenges that America faces. There is no one way to achieve a more economically equitable and just society, but these Democrats have that common aim. Their discussion showed a capacity to absorb facts and adjust plans to consequences. The Republican candidates may have a lot of fun campaigning for office, but they haven’t a prayer of knowing what to do if they ever enter the White House.
The Times last endorsed a Republican for president in 1956 when the paper favored Dwight D. Eisenhower over Adalai E. Stevenson.