Michael Bennet, the son of a Holocaust refugee, wants to bring an inclusive and progressive vision to the Oval Office and consign Donald Trump to the dustbin of history, putting him in the nation’s “rearview mirror.”
The Colorado Senator and United States Presidential Candidate Michale Bennet spoke and took questions from the public at a town hall organized by the ASU Young Democrats at Arizona State University’s Discovery Hall on October 11, 2019.
Earlier in the day, the Senator held a roundtable with educators at Tempe High School, met with a journalist from AZ Central, and had lunch with University officials including President Michael Crow. Mr. Bennet concluded his day in Arizona by keynoting the annual Arizona Democratic Party Hall of Fame Dinner.
ASU Young Democrat Mariana Pena introduced Senator Bennet at the well-attended event after reminding everyone that Maricopa County will be one of the top ten contested counties in the 2020 elections.
After being introduced, the Senator thanked the Young Democrats for inviting him and allowing him “to crash their monthly meeting.”
He then described his background, first as a Superintendent of the Denver Public Schools and then a United States Senator from Colorado for the last ten years.
Senator Bennet then described the hopes of his presidential campaign, relaying that he wanted to pursue progressive policies such as:
- Promoting opportunity and move the country forward.
- Helping students tackle financial aid debt.
- Tackling climate change.
- Reforming government.
- Achieving universal health care.
- Investing in education.
He blamed the failure of the country moving forward on the obstructionist tactics of the Republicans saying we have been “immobilized by the Freedom Caucus” and nothing gets done in the Senate, except judicial confirmations because of Mitch McConnell.
Touting himself as the only candidate running from a current swing state, Bennet stressed that it was necessary not only to win the Presidency but to win vital Senate races in Colorado, Arizona (Mark Kelly), and Iowa.
The key to achieving this, according to the Colorado Senator, was to work hard at getting out the vote, remind voters that Mr. Trump has not delivered on any of the promises he made to the American People in making their lives better, and convince the nine million people that voted for Trump that had voted twice for Obama, to come back and support the Democratic nominee and other down-ballot races.
To the mostly student audience, he stressed that “you should not be giving up on Democracy” and they should all work together to put “Donald Trump in the rearview mirror.”
The Senator then took over a dozen questions from the public on a range of topics that included the Colorado Senate Race, immigration, Venezuela, the environment, health care, education, corruption, women’s rights, government reform, Middle East policy, moving forward, and his own Presidential electoral prospects.
Interestingly, while corruption came up, the specific subject of the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump did not.
In response to the many excellent questions posed by the audience, the Senator delved more into specifics on the issues. These included:
- Endorsing former Colorado Governor and Presidential Candidate John Hickenlooper for the Democratic Senate nomination to contest Republican Cory Gardner.
- Restoring our National Conscience and repairing the divisions inflicted by the Freedom Caucus.
- Getting rid of Betsy Devos from the Secretary of Education post (which generated much applause) and assembling a cabinet and bureaucracy of dedicated, “talented,” and competent public servants which would include at least an equal number of women and men.
- Solving the Trump and Republican invented border crisis by no longer separating children from parents, largely adopt the 2013 Senate passed and bipartisan immigration reform bill that provided a pathway to citizenship and $46 billion for border security and leading all the nations in the hemisphere in solving the causes for migration. Senator Bennet reinforced his commitment to this issue by telling the audience that his mother and her family were refugees from Poland during the Holocaust.
- Stating that Mr. Trump raised false hopes without doing anything in Venezuela.
- Denounced the rules the DNC composed in setting up the debates because it encouraged candidates to set up quasi “money laundering” operations to raise qualifying funds.
- Championing more safe/clean and national federal water regulations, saying that individual state mandates vary.
- Allowing education reforms like universal and affordable Pre K so children can have a good start. Furthermore, he would promote affordable college like increasing the amount a student can get in Pell Grants. Mr. Bennet then chastized Senators Warren and Sander’s ideas for doing nothing to address the rising costs of higher education. He also wants to pay public school teachers more.
- Supporting a woman’s right to choose and nominating judges that will not overturn Roe vs. Wade.
- Doing away with Citizens United, ending political gerrymandering, imposing a lifetime ban on lobbying for retiring public servants, and making it easier to vote.
- Totally shifting away from Trump’s failed Middle East Policies. Senator Bennet criticized Mr. Trump for abandoning the Iran Nuclear Deal, being largely silent towards the Khashoggi assassination by the Sauds, and the recent betrayal of the Kurds in Northern Syria. Mr. Bennet wants to combat extremism in the Middle East by working with liberalizing forces and agencies within those nations and building on them.
- Protecting and expanding public lands and preventing their exploitation for mining interests like uranium. Mr. Bennet believes this conservation land protection will help combat climate change as well.
- Allowing people to buy into a health insurance public option administered by Medicare. Calling this Medicare X, Bennet thinks this building on the Affordable Care Act, along with negotiating drug prices at the federal level, expanding Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (C.H.I.P.) is preferable to achieving universal health care than the more radical ideas offered by Senators Warren and Sanders. The Senator also said that Medicare for All would not win in Colorado.
- Championing his American Family Act which would bolster the middle class and reduce poverty (especially child) by expanding the Child and Earned Income Tax Credits.
- Being a prudent steward of the people’s money by not borrowing from the Chinese to finance tax cuts for the rich and “endless wars.” The Senator would also work, as President, to make sure the wealthiest paid their fair share and stop the “transferring of debt” to the next generation.
Senator Bennet showed his sense of humor and command of history when the last questioner, citing the candidate’s poll numbers, asked if he was a viable candidate.
After saying how glad he was to have called on the questioner for the last question (which drew laughs), the Senator reminded the audience that at this time of the primary process, viable Presidential candidates like Gary Hart, John Kerry, and Barack Obama had not yet established themselves.
The Senator also questioned whether some of his more liberal opponents in the primaries and their positions could win in states like Arizona or Colorado.
After concluding the town hall, the Senator took selfies outside the lecture hall with members of the audience and answered more followup questions. One student asked about filibuster reform and the Senator answered that would be something to visit if the Democrats regained the majority in the Senate.
This writer was able to follow up on that question with the Senator and asked how given that Republicans have obstructed in the Senate even when they were in the minority during parts of the Clinton and Obama Administrations, would he be able to secure the programs he wants. The Senator, commenting that “Democracy is hard” said the key is to elect more senators from purple states and take the case to the people in districts that did not support him in the election.
Senator Bennet has an excellent point that it is still too early in the Presidential campaign to think the top candidates are the ones leading in the polls at this point in time. If people settled on polls 13 months before the election, people like Ted Kennedy (1980 and 1984), Gary Hart (1988), Mario Cuomo (1992), Howard Dean (2004), and Hilary Clinton (2008) would have been the Democratic Presidential Nominees.
The people, including media pundits, need to remember that before prematurely declaring winners several months before the first votes are cast.
The people also need to consider where the country is when deciding which Democrat to support in 2020.
While Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are passionate advocates for the forgotten, do their ideas, when probed more deeply, have the support of the American People?
While Joe Biden is an accomplished former Senator and Vice President, is he the change agent the people will look to in moving the country forward?
Citizens would do well to consider the Pragmatic Progressive positions embraced by candidates like Senator Bennet.
They are progressive, realistic, financially sound, and would move the country forward.
More importantly, they would probably garner the support, after further review, of the great majority of the American People, especially those who do not live on the nation’s coastlines.
Featured Image from CNN.