Last week, the Atlantic’s McKay Coppins nailed a trend that has emerged among many 2020 Democratic presidential candidates: Calling for “a conservation” on issues to avoid policy specifics.
“It is the catchall cop-out of this campaign season, and it’s been deployed in response to all manner of weighty policy questions. … The truth is that when politicians are pleading for a national conversation, it is usually because they are trying to avoid one.”
It has become a favorite dodge for Democratic candidates, allowing them to diagnose an issue without proposing a solution. At least 15 of the 24 major Democratic candidates have employed the technique in 2019, according to a Fix count, examples of which you can watch in the video above.
Eliminating the filibuster?
“I think that’s a conversation you definitely want to have with the Senate leadership,” South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg said in March.
Guns and policing?
“We need to have a different conversation in this country,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said last month.
“I think that there is definitely a conversation to be had on that subject but first I want to hear from” special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) said in April. (Four days later, Harris called for impeachment.)
“I believe it’s time to start the national, full-blown conversation about reparations,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) said in March.
In April, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) called for conversations 11 times in eight minutes on topics including health care, food, agriculture, education and the minimum wage.
And author Marianne Williamson, who bemoaned the idea of even having a policy plan at last month’s Democratic debate, told CNN in January she was “seeking to have the conversation that I believe we need to be having.” She did not specify that conversation.
But even as candidates continue to call for conversations as a way out of said conversations, there are exceptions.
Asked about “so-called white privilege” during a campaign stop in Youngstown, Ohio, on Thursday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) sympathized with laid-off area workers but said “that’s not what that conversation is about.”
“What is it about?” an attendee asked.
“What that conversation is about is when a community has been left behind for generations because of the color of their skin,” Gillibrand replied. “So institutional racism is real. It doesn’t take away your pain or suffering. It’s just a different issue.”
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