with Brent D. Griffiths

Seasons greetings, Power People. PSA: We're temporarily hibernating for the holidays but will be back on Monday, January 6. Tell your friends to sign up. Already looking forward to ringing in 2020 with you all. Thanks for a wild and wonderful year. 

The Campaign

STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM NOW HE'S HERE: Andrew Yang concluded his appearance on the debate stage last night by taking a moment to relish in the reality that many considered unlikely. 

  • "I know what you're thinking America: How am I still on this stage with them?" Yang said in his closing statement.

The tech entrepreneur turned long-shot Democratic candidate has defied expectations at every turn of the primary. More broadly, Yang's presence last night indeed highlights just what a ride it's been for political predictions altogether. 

  • Prime time: Yang was just one of seven candidates onstage at the final debate of 2019, a once nearly unimaginable possibility given the historically large field has seen as many as 28 candidates.
  • Staying power: And while 13 Democrats have dropped out of the race, Yang has not only outlasted Democratic stars such as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) but is becoming one himself.
  • His fundraising numbers are impressive -- he raised $10 million dollars last quarter -- and his super energetic band of #YangGang supporters perhaps even more so.

We got to hear a lot more from Yang last night at this smaller debate format (even though he was the candidate who spoke the least). And his answers provided a compelling picture of a quirky candidate -- who kicked off a niche campaign to draw attention to the effects of technology on American society and his Universal Basic Income platform -- and is now shaping the conversation on important issues such as diversity and income disparity. 

Viral: Yang's big moment on the stage came when he was asked about being the lone candidate of color to qualify for the sixth Democratic debate, despite the most diverse field in American history.  

  • “It’s both an honor and disappointment to be the lone candidate of color on the stage tonight," Yang said.

Yang managed to weave together his personal experience, a snapshot of the systemic injustices faced by people of color, along with his central campaign policy. Not to mention his shout out to Harris and Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) -- "I miss Kamala, I miss Cory, although I think Cory will be back" -- a collegial touch he's become known for on the trail. 

  • The response: "I grew up the son of immigrants and I had many racial epithets used against me as a kid. But black and Latinos have something much more powerful working against them than words. They have numbers. The average net worth of a black household is only 10 percent that of a white household. For Latinos, it’s 12 percent. If you are a black woman — is 320 percent more likely to die from complications in childbirth. These are the numbers that define race in our country. And the question is why am I the lone candidate of color on this stage?"

More than message discipline: Yang's relentless focus on his $2.8 trillion "Freedom Dividend" plan that would guarantee $1,000 a month to very U.S. citizen has gained some traction even among his rivals. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told The Post last month that she's open to considering UBI and said at a campaign event last week that she's been reading Yang's book on his policies. 

Yang made his policy pitch especially personal in another memorable moment of the debate, when he was asked how to better integrate people with disabilities into the work force and their communities. 

  • “To me, special needs is the new normal in this country,” Yang said, mentioning his son, who has autism."How many of you all have a family member or a friend or a neighbor with special needs or autism? As you look around, most hands went up."
  • "Special needs children are going to become special needs adults in many cases. And here's the challenge. We go to employers and say, hey, this special needs person can be a contributor in your workplace, which may be correct, but that's not the point. We have to stop confusing economic value and human value. We have to be able to say to our kids... that you have intrinsic value because you're an American and you're a human being."
  • Closing argument: "We're going to put a freedom dividend of $1,000 a month in everyone's hands, which is going to help families around the country adapt."

The candidate who is still facing an enormous polling gap between the top four candidates -- vice president Joe Biden, Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg -- has mostly evaded the scrutiny and parsing that they have experienced. 

Yang largely diverged from standard politician tactics to tailor his debate answers to serve himself. Take his response to President Obama's comments that women are better leaders than men: 

  • "Our country is deeply misogynist, and most all of us know that. Money and men are tied together," Yang state. "The fact is, strong societies would elect more female leaders. Strong men treat women well for the same reasons."
  • "I'm on the record saying that you need both strong men and female leaders in government, because the fact is, if you get too many men alone and leave us alone for a while, we kind of become morons."

The People


Sanders was the top talker of the night, by a hair: 

Bernie exclaims "I'm white": "If there was one issue that dogged Bernie Sanders in his 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton, it was his inability to appeal to minority voters," our colleague Aaron Blake writes, listing Sanders as one of the night's "losers" for his answers on race. 

  • "And for one striking moment on Thursday, that problem reared its ugly head again. The candidates were asked about the declining diversity in their debate field, and when the question was presented to Bernie Sanders, he opted instead to try to talk return to a previous topic, climate change. Debate moderator Amna Nawaz of PBS NewsHour cut in, though. 'Senator, with all respect, this question is about race. Can you answer the question as it was asked?' The crowd roared."
  • Then there was this:

No one caves in the wine cave fight: It was the spelunking adventure America needed, but at the same time a perfect proxy for the debate that has raged in the Democratic Party over how to fund campaigns, our colleagues Matt Viser, Michael Scherer and Amy B Wang report.

  • Warren, who does not hold high-dollar events for her campaign, slammed Buttigieg for courting wealthy donors -- in particular for attending a somewhat closed fundraiser (reporters were allowed to hear some of his remarks) in Napa Valley on Dec. 15, at a wine cave complete with a chandelier tree made out of 1,500 Swarovski crystals.
  • “We made the decision many years ago that rich people in smoke-filled rooms would not pick the next president of the United States,” Warren said to applause. “Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States.” 
  • The wine cave: 

Buttigieg fought back tagging Warren as a “millionaire” and noting that she used to raise money in the traditional way: “You know, according to Forbes magazine, I am literally the only person on this stage who is not a millionaire or a billionaire,” he retorted. “This is the problem with issuing purity tests you cannot yourself pass.”

  • He defended his fundraising: "This is our only chance to defeat Donald Trump. And we shouldn't try to do it with one hand tied behind our back."

Sanders went for the biggest troll of all: “You only got 39 billionaires contributing. So, Pete, we look forward to you. I know you're an energetic guy and a competitive guy to see if you can take on Joe on that issue,” Sanders said of Buttigieg trailing Biden in the total number of billionaires that had donated to their respective campaigns.

And Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) stumped for a different kind of cave: “I have never even been to a wine cave. I've been to the wind cave in South Dakota, which I suggest you go to.” 

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) had the sharpest exchange over fundraising during the Democratic debate. (The Washington Post)

Biden on Afghanistan: The former veep refused to cede ground when pressed on our Post colleagues' bombshell report about how U.S. officials misled the public for years about the war in Afghanistan. 

  • Biden insisted he broke from others in the Obama administration who wanted a troop surge and more sweeping operations there: "Since 2009, go back and look. I was on the opposite side of that with the Pentagon. The only reason I can speak to it now is because it's been published. It's been published thoroughly," Biden said.
  • "I'm the guy from the beginning who argued that it was a big, big mistake to surge forces to Afghanistan, period. We should not have done it. And I argued against it constantly."
  • A former top Obama administration official says he's telling the truth: 

Coming up Klobuchar: Klobuchar, who was runner-up for speaking time last night, had a strong night. She branded the impeachment of Trump as a "global Watergate," explained why she supports USMCA, and emphasized that she could be the one to win big in swing states. 

  • She did this by going after Buttigieg over age and experience: “We should have someone heading up this ticket that has actually won and been able to show they can gather the support that you talk about — moderate Republicans and independents as well as a fired up Democratic base," she said. “I have done it three times. I think winning matters.”
  • "Overall, Klobuchar delivered the kind of performance she wanted, one that emphasized her focus on middle-ground policies, Midwestern values, humor and a desire to produce results in office," our colleague Dan Balz writes.
In the smallest 2020 primary debate yet, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and four other Democratic presidential candidates competed on Dec. 19. (The Washington Post)

Double standards?: "It was the last question of the debate, traditionally a softball, and the candidates on Thursday were thrown a curveball. They could give a 'gift' to someone else onstage. Or, in the 'spirit of the season,' they could ask for forgiveness," the New York Times's Maggie Astor reports.

  • "The five men chose to give: an appreciation for teamwork (Tom Steyer), a different vision for the future (Bernie Sanders), a copy of a book (Andrew Yang). The women chose to seek forgiveness: for being too forceful. Too passionate. Too much."

On The Hill

HOW CONGRESS ENDED 2019: "The House of Representatives voted in favor of a new trade deal for North America, delivering a hard-fought victory to [Trump] and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a day after Democrats impeached the president," our colleague Erica Werner reports.

  • It passed with overwhelming bipartisan support: 385 to 41.
  • Getting to this point was a journey for both parties: "The revised pact upended the Democratic Party’s long-standing skepticism toward massive trade bills such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the new deal would replace," our colleague writes. "Republicans, before Trump became president, had traditionally been much more supportive of 'free trade,' or the idea that companies should be able to sell products internationally without facing import barriers. Trump has challenged that idea ..."
  • Key quote: “We stuck to it. And so we’ve arrived at this ‘it can never happen’ moment," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) told our colleague. “I think it is a template for the future.”

Meanwhile, the Senate passed a deal averting a shutdown: "The nearly $1.4 trillion, two-part spending deal now heads to [Trump], who plans to put his signature on both bills before a midnight Friday deadline, according to senior administration officials," Politico's Jennifer Scholtes and Caitlin Emma report.

The Investigations

TRIAL, PERIOD?: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed acting to initiate the Senate trial that will determine whether Trump remains in office — a dramatic procedural move that places the two chambers at a bitter standoff," our colleagues Robert Costa, Philip Rucker and Rachael Bade report.

More details: "A day after the House voted to impeach Trump, [Pelosi] announced she would refrain from transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sets rules for the trial that are accepted by Senate Democrats," our colleagues write.

  • For now, the articles will not be delivered until at least January: But "Pelosi sought to tamp down suggestions that she intends to hold onto impeachment articles indefinitely to keep Trump from being acquitted, an idea that circulated among liberal lawmakers all week," our colleagues write. "The speaker said she was simply taking time to be deliberate about the next steps, including deciding whom to appoint as managers."
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A cartoon by Brooke Bourgeois. #NewYorkerCartoons

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In the Media

THAT'S A WRAP: For our final edition of the year, here's just a smattering of some of the most important (and our favorite) stories of 2019 that are... not about Donald Trump: 

  1. The Afghanistan Papers: At War with the Truth. By The Post's Craig Whitlock. 
  2. The year of antitrust investigations: How Apple uses its App Store to copy the best ideas. By Reed Albergotti. 
  3. #MeToo: When rides go wrong: How Uber’s investigations unit works to limit the company’s liability. By The Post's Greg Bensinger.
  4. The Youth Vaping Crisis: What we know about the mysterious vaping-linked illness and deaths. By The Post's Hannah Knowles and Lena Sun.
  5. The Climate Crisis: 2°C: Beyond the Limit. By The Post's climate team.
  6. The Opioid Crisis: 76 billion opioid pills: Newly released federal data unmasks the epidemic. By The Post's Scott Higham, Sari Horwitz, and Steven Rich.
  7. America is changing, but many children still attend segregated schools: "How the nation’s growing racial diversity is changing our schools." By The Post's Kate Rabinowitz, Armand Emamdjomeh and Laura Meckler. 
  8. How everything is taking your data: Your car, TV even your credit card. The Post's Geoffrey A. Fowler hacked, investigated and probed it all.


Biden responded to a criticism from Trump's former press secretary:

Sanders later apologized: