Friday, June 28, 2019

The historic second night of the Democratic Debate

Tomorrow is the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall, and tonight the United States made history. Mayor Pete Buttigieg was on the Democratic Debate stage, the first openly gay presidential candidate ever to be included in a nationally televised political party’s primary debate. Whatever anyone thinks of him, and whatever happens in the future, tonight was groundbreaking and it was incredibly important.

Most of the debate wasn’t particularly memorable because of the sheer number of candidates and the format of the debate. Later debates will become more enlightening as the field narrows—after we all start paying more attention. Still, it was what it was.

I didn’t think there were any clear winners tonight. The minor candidates didn’t win, but they mostly avoided hurting themselves, although I saw that one of the fringe candidates, Marianne Williamson, who the news media usually refers to as “a bestselling spiritual author,” was openly mocked on Twitter for saying that love would defeat the current occupant of the White House.

Here’s my take on the he top polling candidates, listed in their current polling rank: Former Vice President Joe Biden probably came out worse for wear, which isn’t surprising: He had a large target on his back. He didn’t fire as much as could have, and he should have been prepared for an exchange on race, but he didn’t seem to be. Sen. Bernie Sanders was, well, Bernie. He didn’t always answer questions, sometimes talked too long, and a lot of the time—I gotta be honest here—he came across like a grumpy grandad. Sen. Kamala Harris was Biden’s chief antagonist, and scored some major hits against him on race. Biden was clearly weakened by that exchange. On the other hand, her first one-liner didn’t seem spontaneous, which annoyed me because of that. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg was pretty much the same as he always is—well spoken, on point, and quick on his feet. He also had some great lines.

Among the minor candidates (again, in polling order): Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang didn’t impress me. I wasn’t actually clear what he was advocating or how he’d do it. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand scored some good points, and probably did the best I’ve seen her do, which, as a low polling candidate, was important for her. Sen. Michael Bennet did similarly, but I wasn’t clear how he differs from other, better known candidates. Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper was all over the map on the issues, sometimes not even making sense, in my opinion. He attacked “socialism”, but what did he even mean? Social Security? The national highway programme? Dunno, but to me he sounded an awful lot like a Republican. Maybe that makes him the most conservative? US Rep Eric Swalwell is a candidate I’ve often thought was good, but I thought he did a really poor job on his MSNBC Town Hall. He redeemed himself tonight, doing much better, and he may have helped himself tonight. I’ll freely admit that when I first heard about Marianne Williamson, I assumed she’d be pretty loopy, however, she made some good points—all of which were undone by her “love will win” bit in her closing remarks. That was loopy.

Last night, none of the female candidates talked over or interrupted the other (male) candidates, but tonight they definitely did that. Was that better or worse? Well, neither. I wish ALL candidates could have resisted doing that.

I don’t think that any of the candidates changed my view of them very much, though Gillibrand may have a little bit. However, I liked both Bernie and Biden somewhat less than I did going in, in part because I think Swalwell was right: They should pass the torch. I didn’t really know anything about Yang going in, and I still don’t. I didn’t like most of Harris’ performance, though she was great when she took on Biden, though I recognise it could have been a contrived performance, and no one took her on for her criminal justice record, the thing that makes the Left, and many black voters, dislike her. Is that fair? I don’t know, and nothing tonight pushed me one way or the other about her. The one candidate who I liked going in and afterward was Mayor Pete, even though Swalwell scored a hit against him. In a debate like this, not changing opinions all that much may be the best that can be expected.

All in all, neither tonight’s debate nor last night’s changed anything for me. But it’s still very early in this campaign, after all, so that’s probably to be expected. I do know that I’ll vote for the Democratic nominee, no matter who that is.

All that aside, and regardless of the debate results, tonight the USA made history. On the eve of the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall, the first openly gay presidential candidate was included in a nationally televised political party’s primary debate. Whatever anyone thinks of him or the other candidates, tonight was groundbreaking and it was incredibly important—no, actually, it was fucking important.


“Race flares as dividing issue in Democratic debate”ThinkProgress

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

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

“Harris stops playing it safe, and 5 other takeaways from a raucous debate”Politico

“Takeaways from night 2 of the Democratic debate”Associated Press

“Buttigieg and Biden acknowledged an important truth about undocumented workers”Vox

“Fact-checking the first Democratic debate (night 2)”Washington Post


rogerogreen said...

I've long thought Gilllibrand (MY senator, BTW) has no chance. Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang don'rt belong up there; they have their Big Idea, but not much beyond that. I thought Harris was better than you did. But, as I've said somewhere, the format is unfair.

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

I agree. I'm not firm in my opinion of Harris, but I realised that when she made her "food fight" crack, that was my turning point. Up until then, I thought she was good, but when she said that I literally said out loud, "You thought that up in advance so you could use it", and it was the authenticity that annoyed me. After that, I noticed a lot of moments that seemed inauthentic to me—from many of the candidates, but none of them all time. I'll be over that by the time the actual voting starts, and it's not impossible that I'd vote for her, however, at the moment I don't think it's likely.