Just minutes out of the gate of the third Democratic Party presidential debate in Houston Thursday night, entrepreneur Andrew Yang made an offer emblematic of the party's contenders for the 2020 nomination.
He would give "freedom dividends" of $1,000 a month for a year to 10 Americans who signed up on his website. Within minutes, Yang2020.com had more than 100,000 visitors.
Yang was offering something for nothing. It was a stunt, a giveaway, a promise for votes (or, at least, temporary interest). It was the perfect representation of Democrats who want to replace President Donald Trump.
But the 10 candidates on the stage at Texas Southern University weren't finished making outrageous statements. Viewers who made it through the near three-hour slog also heard the following:
— "Nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime... Nobody should be in jail for a drug problem," said former Vice President Joe Biden.
If he had his way, based on 2019 Prison Policy Initiative research, 594,000 nonviolent offenders would be released from state prisons, 466,000 from local jails and 208,000 from federal prisons and jails. It would be a field day for burglars, car thieves, fraud schemers, DUI offenders and illegal immigrants.
As for drug problems, it all depends on what Biden means (and that's never easy to tell). Drug laws need to be reviewed, and light first-time offenders need to be referred to programs that would help them rather than jail. But not all drug offenses are created equal. Many involve violent crime and additional nonviolent crimes like burglary or theft. Those offenders cannot go free simply because their reason for committing the crime is drugs.
— "Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47," said former U.S. Rep. Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke.
The floundering ex-congressman — who said in 2018 no one should take AR-15s away from anyone — was trying to explain what would happen if such semi-automatic weapon owners didn't turn in their arms as part of his proposed mandatory gun buyback program.
Although we'd just as soon nobody owned such rifles to begin with, no such program will ever confiscate everyone's weapon. If such a program were to be enacted, just as with many soundly based gun control ideas, law-abiding people would turn over their guns and thugs would keep theirs in order to use them in nefarious crimes.
— "The only reason" Trump has "not been indicted is because there's a memo in the Department of Justice" suggesting a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, said U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California.
The senator, a former prosecutor, knows better and was only trying to revive the dead issue of the fruitless, two-year investigation of the president's campaign involvement with Russia during the 2016 campaign.
Both special prosecutor Robert Mueller and Attorney General William Barr have repeatedly contradicted the claim of Harris and others who said the "memo" was the only thing separating Trump from indictment.
— "We [the Obama administration] didn't lock people up in cages," Biden said.
The former vice president knows this is a lie, but that has not stopped him and other candidates from using the charge throughout the campaign. The intent, of course, is to suggest only the Trump administration has used such methods, which may seem cruel but are only a way to try to adhere to the law in the face of the overrun of the Southern border by illegal immigrants.
Indeed, the most widely circulated photo of children in cages while in immigration detention centers was taken during the Obama administration.
— "We can mark the creation of this country not at the Fourth of July, 1776, but Aug. 20, 1619, when the first kidnapped African [slave] was brought to this country against his will," said O'Rourke.
The former El Paso legislator's statement is no less ridiculous than the recent New York Times article on which it piggybacks.
Slavery is still wrong, but it doesn't begin to tell the story of how the country was founded on a desire of freedom of religion and how it grew largely on a pioneer spirit of rugged individualism.
— "We have a white supremacist in the White House." — O'Rourke
"We know Donald Trump's a racist." — U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey
"Anyone who supports [Trump's immigration policies] is supporting racism." — South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Such inflammatory, knowingly false rhetoric, whether it comes from a Democratic candidate or Trump, is wrong. If Democrats can't improve on what they accuse the president of being, or are just able to offer gimmicks, of what use is the consideration of electing one?