Thursday, June 27, 2019

First 2019 Democratic Debate, Night One

Today I watched the first night of the first debate among Democratic presidential candidates. I wasn’t sure I was going to, since I’m still not yet paying that much attention to the race, but then I thought, “Why not?”, and so, I watched. There were some surprises, and things that weren’t (like that at some points my mind and attention wandered). Overall, it was interesting and produced interesting results.

The leading candidate on the stage was Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is polling higher than any of the candidates. I thought she did well, and maybe more importantly, wasn’t harmed by the debate, either. At one point I thought to myself, “she’s the smartest person on the stage”. On the other hand, she sometimes came across as university professor, and, while I have fond memories of many of my professors, do US voters want one as president? I honestly don’t know. It doesn’t bother me, of course, but other voters may not be so, ahem, liberal.

In my opinion, the biggest winner of the night was Julián Castro who displayed an impressive and deep understanding of his signature issue, immigration, but also poverty, women’s rights, and even trans* rights, too. He also took former US Rep. Beto O’Rourke to task, which suggests that if Castro was the nominee he could stand up to the Republican candidate in debates—assuming that party’s nominee is brave enough to debate, of course. My favourite part though was something he said that doesn’t seem to have been noticed by pundits: He said that the US should have a sort of a “Marshall Plan” to lift up poor Latin American countries so that their people won’t need to come to the USA. I’ve been saying that for some 40 years now because I think it’s the best long-term solution to the problem.

Among others who did well, Cory Booker was good, but he talked a lot and didn’t really catch my imagination. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio did surprisingly well, I thought, and made some good points. But I didn’t especially care for him. The best lines of the night come from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who said, “I don’t think we should conduct foreign policy in our bathrobe at 5 in the morning,” and from Washington State Governor Jay Inslee who said, “The biggest threat to the security of the United States is Donald Trump,” getting the loudest cheers of the night.

Among those who definitely did poorly were Beto O’Rourke who failed to launch, and he desperately needed to. None of the other candidates really stood out, though some got in good points that were well received. John Delaney was too conservative for my liking, and didn’t seem to connect with the audience, in my opinion.

The two most annoying to me were Beto and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, both of whom ignored the first question they were asked in order to make campaign speeches, something that insulted those of us watching and listening. Gabbard did better on other questions, and so did O’Rourke.

The questioners did pretty well, including, I noticed, asking Gabbard about her past record as being anti-LGBTQ, which she had an acceptable answer for, but then Booker chimed in, saying she should have also talked about transgender rights, which undercut what she was saying. Was that good, bad, or indifferent? I’m not sure—for either one of them.

On balance, I think Warren and Castro did the best of all (it’s absurd to talk about “winners” in a debate with ten candidates, especially since they’re only half of those participating in the two nights). Booker probably helped himself, but most of the others didn’t, though only O’Rourke seemed damaged by the debate.

No matter who wins the Democratic nomination, that person will get my vote, no exceptions. But it’s early days yet, and I have no idea who I’ll vote for in the primary. There will be a lot fewer candidates by then, though.

Tomorrow’s debate will feature another 10 Democrats, including frontrunner Joe Biden, plus the other top-polling candidates Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris. It will be interesting to see whether any of them will be picked on, or the current occupant of the White House, or maybe none of them.


“4 winners and 3 losers from the first night of the Democratic debates”Vox

“Winners and losers from the Democratic presidential debate’s first night”Washington Post

"7 big takeaways from the first Democratic debate"Politico

“Fact-checking the first Democratic debate”Washington Post

“Search interest for Julián Castro surges by more than 2,400 percent during first debate”The Hill


Linda Sanora said...

We watched the same debate. Excellent review of the candidates and their performance. And Castro is one of my faves. Joe's fave from the moment he entered the race.

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

I first heard of him when he was a guest on various shows (Democracy Now! back in 2012 may have been the first, but he's also been on All In With Chris Hayes. His twin brother Joaquin has been on a lot of those sorts of shows, too.