After weeks of impeachment weariness, Thursday's Democratic debate was a welcome ray of sunshine and hope.
There was no one on the stage in Los Angeles that would not lead this country far better and with much more grace, optimism, wisdom and morality than what we've seen from Donald Trump over any single moment of the past three years.
The candidates — Former Vice President Joe Biden; Sen. Elizabeth Warren; Sen. Bernie Sanders; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Sen. Amy Klobuchar; Andrew Yang, and Tom Steyer — had humor, humility, good ideas and even nice manners when they differed on policy. Wow. Just wow.
After each debate, pundits carry on about winners and losers. But truly each of these top Democratic candidates was a winner Thursday.
The only loser continues to be Donald Trump, who almost 24 hours to the moment before the show began became the third American president in history to be impeached by U.S. House of Representatives.
Trump, of course, has been in meltdown mode since, disrespecting a dead statesman — John Dingell — and ravaging the magazine Christianity Today for its moralistic call for his removal over the Ukraine scandal.
The one thing going for Trump that he could make points on if he were one tenth as smart as he thinks he is, is the economy. A new CNN poll, conducted by SSRS, indicates that although it has taken a decade for many Americans to feel safe in their jobs and investments again after the Great Recession, overall 76% of those polled rate today's economy very or somewhat good. That's up nine points from last year, and the highest percentage since February 2001.
"Time gets some of the credit. The president and his bullish megaphone get the rest," writes CNN business analyst Christine Romans.
On Thursday night's debate stage, Democratic candidates smartly made the case that the Trump economy isn't working for everyone. Frankly, it's not even working for most of us.
"Go back and talk to the old neighborhoods and middle-class neighborhoods you grew up in," Biden said. "The middle class is getting killed.
"You have, for example, farmers in the Midwest, 40 percent of them couldn't pay their bills last year. You have most Americans, if they received a bill for $400 or more, they'd have to sell something or borrow the money. We have to eliminate a significant number of these god-awful tax cuts that were given to the very wealthy. We have to invest in education. We have to invest in health care. We have to invest in those things that make a difference in the lives of middle-class people so they can maintain their standard of living. And the idea that we're growing? We're not growing. The wealthy, very wealthy are growing. Ordinary people are not growing. They are not happy with where they are. And that's why we must change this presidency now."
Pete Buttigieg had his own example: "Where I live, folks aren't measuring the economy by how the Dow Jones is looking. They're measuring the economy by how they're doing. When you're doing the bills at the end of the month at your kitchen table, and you find that even if your wages have gone up, it's not nearly going as fast as the cost of health and housing. This economy is not working for most of us. ... [And] we've got to talk about poverty in this country. ... The biggest problem in our economy is simple: People are not getting paid enough. That is not the result of some mysterious cosmic force. It's the result of bad policy. And we've got to change it by raising wages and empowering workers."
Andrew Yang also had a great answer: "GDP and corporate profits are at record highs in America today. Also at record highs? Depression, financial insecurity, student loan debt. Even suicides and drug overdoses. ... If you're a recent college graduate, you have a 40 percent chance of doing a job that doesn't require a college degree. That doesn't show up in the headline unemployment rate, nor does all of the families that are working two or three jobs to get by."
Elizabeth Warren: "We've got a government that works great for those with money and doesn't work for much of anyone else. We have a government that works great for giant drug companies, just not for someone trying to fill a prescription. Works great for people who want to make money on private prisons and private detention centers at our border, just not for the people whose lives are torn apart. Works great for giant oil companies that want to drill everywhere, but not for the rest of us who see climate change bearing down upon us. And when you see a government that works great for the wealthy and the well-connected and for no one else, that is corruption, pure and simple. And we need to call it out for what it is."
Taking Trump on over the economy isn't really as tough as it might seem. For all his hype, job creation in Trump's first 33 months in office trails the final 33 months of the Obama years, and the 2.1% economic growth in the third quarter is not the 3%, 4%, 5% or even 6% growth he promised.
It was a great debate, and the candidates are right. It's not as much about Wall Street as it is about Main Street. Most of us just remain optimistic because we're thankful we have some kind of job.