A day after Donald Trump was officially impeached by the House of Representatives, Democrats held their latest presidential debate to help determine which candidate will challenge Trump for the presidency in 2020 if he is not removed from office by the Senate. And while a number of candidates had big moments on Thursday night, one of the most memorable was when Elizabeth Warren criticized Pete Buttigieg for holding a campaign event in a “wine cave.”
The line was an attack over campaign finance. Buttigieg has been criticized for changing his stance on fundraising dollars coming from wealthy donors and closed door events, something Warren attacked the mayor of South Bend, Indiana for on Thursday night.
“The mayor just recently had a fund-raiser that was held in a wine cave, full of crystals and served $900-a-bottle wine. Think about who comes to that,” Warren said according to a transcript from the New York Times. “He had promised that every fundraiser he would do would be open-door, but this one was closed-door. We made the decision many years ago that rich people in smoke-filled rooms would not pick the next president of the United States. Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States.”
For the record, this is apparently the “wine cave” that Warren mentioned during the debate.
Here are some photos of the Buttigieg fundraiser in Napa — with the famous wine cave and the chandelier with 1,500 Swarovski crystals — that @BrianSlodysko wrote about.https://t.co/0sprQ3aDsy pic.twitter.com/3waO6jO93L
— Teddy Schleifer (@teddyschleifer) December 16, 2019
It’s also important to note that Buttigieg went back at Warren for her comment, pointing out that his net worth is much less than Warren’s.
According to Forbes magazine, I’m literally the only person on this stage who is not a millionaire or a billionaire. So this is important. This is the problem with issuing purity tests you cannot yourself pass,” Buttigieg said. “If I pledge — if I pledge never to be in the company of a progressive Democratic donor, I couldn’t be up here. Senator, your net worth is 100 times mine.”
Despite the retort, the line quickly became a talking point on social media.
protecting my wine cave pic.twitter.com/I1UjmcxZa5
— Alexandra Petri (@petridishes) December 20, 2019
Someone in the Sanders campaign apparently got to work on some shirts in a hurry, too.
— MaryAlice Parks (@maryaliceparks) December 20, 2019
Sanders surrogates wearing wine cave shirts … pic.twitter.com/5FR2GkR7BT
— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) December 20, 2019
It was also mentioned later in the debate by Andrew Yang, who has echoed similar fundraising concerns throughout the campaign. His “shaking the money tree in wine caves” line had quickly become a campaign line by night’s end.
— Andrew Yang🧢 (@AndrewYang) December 20, 2019
Even Cory Booker cracked wise about the line.
.@CoryBooker responds in real time to the wine cave debate, notes he does not drink: “If I had a cave in my house, I’d fill it with something better than wine.” Says he’d probably make it a sci-fi cave, watch Star Trek in it. You’re welcome, America pic.twitter.com/1hbBiBjwCx
— Iowa Starting Line (@IAStartingLine) December 20, 2019
And as it turns out, building a “wine cave” is actually a pretty savvy move if you’re wealthy enough to afford it in some places!
I just realized this will be the first and last chance I have to impart a useless nugget of California information in my possession, which is that you can get a tax break for building a wine cave. https://t.co/txlFc6y3Cb pic.twitter.com/wmGH2hryQS
— Matt Pearce 🦅 (@mattdpearce) December 20, 2019
The “wine cave” line likely stuck because it’s a bit of odd imagery and that’s always ripe for memes, but it’s also a valid opening to an honest discussion about campaign finance in the United States. Especially considering the context of what else is happening in Washington lately.
the wine cave is fun because 1.) we're in the midst of an impeachment process involving an unqualified hotelier who bought an ambassadorship, and 2.) the wine cave itself is co-owned by someone who gave tons of money and received an ambassadorship https://t.co/ICnSWGhoyp
— Tim Murphy (@timothypmurphy) December 20, 2019
Maybe that honest discussion can happen once everyone’s done making memes, though.