Democratic presidential nominee Marianne Williamson may have best summed up her debate with fellow underdog, Minnesota U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, with the following:
“I agree with everything Dean just said.”
Williamson’s observation landed about a half-hour into Monday’s debate as the candidates spoke in agreement on a range of issues, including supporting Medicare-for-all, eliminating student debt — and, most timely — denouncing the Democratic National Committee and President Joe Biden for treating New Hampshire as irrelevant in terms of capturing the party’s nomination.
“I’m not trying to start a food fight, but we do have to show contrast,” said debate moderator Josh McElveen, a former WMUR political director who now runs his own communications firm.
Some of that contrast showed up when Williamson pointed out that Phillips “did not do anything at all” about Medicare-for-all or tuition-free college during his three terms in Congress. Phillips said, “Democrats are losing national elections because we’re fiscally irresponsible.”
“To say that we don’t have to manage our country responsibly, I’m afraid that’s wrong,” Phillips said, an apparent jab at Williamson.
Yet with the New Hampshire primary just two weeks away, the topic drawing the most headlines is the DNC’s dismissal of the Granite State and the party’s view that its first-in-the-nation primary is “meaningless,” according to a letter sent Friday to NHDP Chairman Raymond Buckley.
After the debate, Phillips told reporters that the DNC may have unintentionally made New Hampshire’s primary “more meaningful now than it would’ve been before because Granite Staters actually have a chance to fundamentally change the future.”
“I’m taking on a big challenge, a party and a president who are seeking a coronation, which is exactly what our Founders set up in this country to prevent,” Phillips said. “And I’m going to tell the truth about it.”
During the debate, McElveen asked the Democrats if they believed what the DNC was doing to the New Hampshire primary was “voter suppression.” Both candidates said yes.
“Candidate suppression is a form of voter suppression,” Williamson said. Phillips added the DNC’s letter to the state party is so offensive it belongs “in the National Archives.”
“(It’s) one of the most egregious affronts to democracy I have ever seen,” he added. “The Democratic Party should be investing in democracy. But what are they doing? Suppressing it.”
Both candidates were also asked about the Colorado Supreme Court ruling to bounce the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump, from its ballot. The U.S. Supreme Court will review Colorado’s ruling.
Phillips said Trump “should be facing voters as the judge and jury.”
“If not, I’m very concerned about America’s future because I think violence will ensue.”
Phillips also spoke about the blowback he’s received from Democratic Party leaders over his decision to challenge Biden.
“I went from a darling to a devil for practicing democracy,” he said. “People who aspire to lead the free world are too afraid to be on this stage for fear of what the Democratic Party may do to them.”
Williamson said that under “normal conditions, it’s reasonable for the legal system to decide.”
“I share Dean’s fear about this, and I do think it’s a decision that should be made by the people.”
Phillips made no secret of his loathing for Trump, but he argued the threat posed by Trump made Biden’s decision to stay in the race a “risk to democracy.”
“He’s knowingly going into an election that is impossible for him to win.”
In a statement issued Monday afternoon, Phillips had more harsh words for the current chief executive and the DNC.
“It was one thing for Joe Biden to try to strip New Hampshire of its primary and to boycott the Granite State,” he said. “It’s another for Joe Biden to stand by while his DNC tells New Hampshire voters their votes don’t matter.
“What an incredible statement on what Joe Biden really thinks about democracy. It’s time to stop the democracy hypocrisy here. And Granite Staters can send that message on Jan. 23.”
At least one attendee liked what they heard from Phillips. “I thought Dean did a great job,” said Granite Stater Kevin Moore. “I thought Dean was really professional and he was pumped up.”