The Second Democratic Presidential Primary Debate, Day 2: Impressions and Predictions

The Microcosms

Microcosm #1: Pandering to Mood & Trends of the Electorate

These debates and Handsome Joe are a microcosm for what is wrong with our politics. Biden has been getting attacked for his past positions on busing, the crime bill, the Hyde Amendment, women’s rights. Fair enough. Obama has been attacked for his deportation policy. Fair enough. But, what all of it illustrates is how politicians, especially centerists like Biden and Obama, reflect the times. If you want to attack Biden for something, attack him for legislating to the mood and trends of the moment and not his principles. If you want to criticize Obama for something, criticize him for trying to compromise — the heart of democracy, by the way — with the Repubes for three-quarters of his presidency.

The crime bill of the 1990’s of Bill Clinton and Joe Biden fame are one of the chief reasons they are popular with older black voters. Drug-related crime was hell in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Everyone was saying that we needed to stop the amount of crime and particularly drug-related crime and particularly in the African American community. The conventional wisdom at the time was that if you increased the penalties, you decreased the crime. And voila! When the penalties were increased, crime declined. Of course, the decline was probably unrelated to the three-strikes you’re out laws, but that’s another story. The two are linked in people’s minds.

Sure, it would’ve been possible for someone to take a thoughtful, research-driven approach and listened to the activists at the time talking about how it was the New Jim Crow, but that person would not have remained in office for very long — not that it is any kind of defense. What I’m saying it is Biden’s and Obama’s and Clinton’s style of politics is to take the temperature of the time, see where the masses are headed, and then get out in front. It is as legitimate an approach to governance as any.

The proof of that is that as society turned to being more supportive of women, Biden did too. He went from writing those god awful stupid op-eds to passing the Violence Against Women Act and worked on the Lilly Ledbetter Act.

All these white guys polling at 5% or less are poster children for white male privilege.

It is easy to judge the past by our current standards. We all do it. And, if Joe Biden isn’t willing to take Cory Booker’s advice and stand up and apologize for his legislative errors in the crime bill and his op-ed pieces on women and his stand on busing like he did with the Iraq War, he probably shouldn’t be running for president.

Microcosm #2: White Male Privilege

All these white guys polling at 5% or less are poster children for white male privilege. What do any of them bring to the race other than they are white, male, and have achieved some elected office. Really, Buttigieg? Mayor of South Bend? O’Rourke, representative? Ryan hasn’t even almost won a senate seat. There’s a reason that the offices of mayor and representative aren’t considered a stepping stone to the presidency.

What did these guys do? Get up off the toilet one day realizing that they only had gas and that he’d ticked all of the boxes: he’s a man — CHECK; he’s white — CHECK; and he’s been elected to something– CHECK. I can haz all the presidents now? What in the deep crevices of any of their minds convinced them that they should be president, much less run for the office? What do any of them bring to the table other than their male whiteness?

With this level of performance out of the fourth estate, it is no wonder our democracy is so quickly being turned into a single-party pseudo-democratic authoritarian state, but at least the ratings are good and the news presenters are all millionaires.

Seriously, eleven of the twenty are white guys and only two of them are within spitting distance of the nomination. How do you get that much ego and chutzpah to convince you that could be president? Oh, you’re male, white, and full of privilege.

Microcosm #3: The Media

CF’ingNN is the perfect microcosm for everything that is wrong with our media in this age of creeping authoritarianism. It started with Reagan when Ailes implanted the notion that there was a liberal bias in the media. That criticism alone allowed conservatives to shame the media for any questioning and criticisms with liberal bias. After cowing the press, they began demanding that we accept their made-up facts as being equal to real facts.

Under Reagan, the media still pushed back. But that changed by the time Newtie ascended to the throne of fascist-in-waiting. Newtie and Fox News succeeded in castrating the press. Now, we’re subject to the inane “hard-hitting” Repube talking-points and warmed over pap from the last debate designed to pit Dem against Dem so we can all be infotained.

All of CNN’s moderators and all of CNN’s producers couldn’t come up with a better question about healthcare than So-and-so said your plan sucks. Does your plan suck?

The point of a free press in a democracy is that they provide us with a basis of fact on which we, as a society, can base our decisions. Without that basic agreement, we cannot make well-informed decisions and we fall into our current state of partisanship. Without that factual foundation, we end up with twenty minutes of nationally televised presidential debate focused on Obamacare, Bettercare, Medicare-for-All and Medicare-for-All-who-wanna-buy-into-it. With this level of performance out of the fourth estate, it is no wonder our democracy is so quickly being turned into a single-party pseudo-democratic authoritarian state, but at least the ratings are good and the news presenters are all millionaires.

Healthcare Rant

Is anyone else just downright tired of the Dems and press just being such foolish freaking idiots? Why on god’s dying earth are we filling the debates with arcane discussions of each and every candidates’ healthcare proposals? Why isn’t someone on that stage saying in a loud clear voice — thank you Cory Booker for being damn near that person — We’ve got a lot of GOOD ideas on how to further reform healthcare and get us to universal coverage, and all of them are a damn sight better than what the Repubes have been offering. Whatever plan gets enacted will be a combination of many of them. Let’s talk about the principles that guide our healthcare policy decisions and not squabble about the minutia of it all.

Are you really trying to tell me that Jake Tapper, Dana Bash, and Don Lemon just don’t understand how our health insurance and Medicare gets paid for? All of CNN’s moderators and all of CNN’s producers couldn’t come up with a better question about healthcare than So-and-so said your plan sucks. Does your plan suck? How about, So, what you’re saying is that money saved in premiums and co-pays and deductibles will more than offset any money needed to pay for Medicare-for-All. Okay, sounds reasonable to me. Any of you have a question about that? No? All right. What do you want the American people to know about Medicare-for-All and healthcare as a human right?

Oh, and have I said, Fuck CNN and their so-called moderators? Because if I haven’t, they can get fucked. Either not understanding that money is fungible or pretending not to understand it is just inexcusable.

Goddamn! Their questions on healthcare just pissed me the fuck off. And, what pissed me off even more were the fricking 1%-ers who were trying to piggyback off of CNN’s moderator’s mind-numbingly dumb questions to raise themselves in the polling and increase their donations.

If the bottom-feeders in this primary race haven’t understood the dynamic of the electorate by now, maybe they shouldn’t be running! The progressive Medicare-for-All supporters ain’t going to switch to you because you “convinced” them that their New York math is all wrong. Attacking Medicare-for-All isn’t going to peel off Sanders and Warren and De Blasio supporters and it sure as shit ain’t going to win you any Joe Biden supporters, either. So, where you going to go? You gonna pick up O’Rourke and Buttigieg and the other 1%-er supporters? So, you’ll make the third debate. If you can’t show that you can do a better job than Handsome Joe, what hope do you have?

And next week, I’ll post how I really feel about it all. Jeez.

The Candidates

Joe Biden

Would there be any place for fossil fuels such as coal and fracking? What kind of “question” is that? Because ain’t no one going to say, Yeah, sure, fossil fuels are an important part of our energy solutions now and in the future, except for Repubes which last I checked, we ain’t got none of running in the Dem primary.

Biden’s answer of we’ll work it out is yet another microcosm. This time of his own failings as candidate. Such comments are easily misinterpreted because they are vague. He knows what he means, but his opponents can then twist it into whatever shaped pretzel they want so their supporters can dunk them into their beer.

The conventional wisdom is that Handsome Joe took hits from all comers. He was relentlessly attacked. Some of those attacks did some damage — see Castro and Booker. Some were comically inept — see Gillibrand. Some just didn’t matter — see de Blasio. But, the common thread running through all of them was Biden’s stumbling groping for words. He couldn’t go more than a couple of lines without losing his focus and needing to go back and revise himself.

He would smile and nod when the zingers were being delivered as if he agreed with them! He wasn’t, he was smiling and nodding to signal that he understood what was being said. Either way, though, it wasn’t a good look.

I gotta say, Biden just looked old and tired.

Prediction: Biden will leave the race around Super Tuesday. If he performs well, he’ll stay in, of course, because president disease. But, if he only does okay, I think he’ll wake up one morning and wonder just what the hell he’s doing and whether it is all worth it. In 2016 both Sanders and Clinton put in long grueling days on the campaign trail. Neither of them could afford to look tired and old. It still didn’t matter, the Repubes hit Clinton with it anyway. If he’s having trouble holding up under the strain now, how will he ever finish the race and how can he be president?

As much as I love and respect Old Handsome Joe, he should get out while he still has his social capital in tact. He can play the elder statesman along with Jimmy Carter.

Cory Booker

I’ve always loved Booker’s demeanor: positive, upbeat, happy, hopeful. What are the pundits calling him? The happy warrior? He showed it in his tangles with Biden over the crime bill and its aftermath.

If we haven’t learned anything from the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s, W’s, and Reagan’s presidencies, we’ve learned that you can’t be an effective president without doing your homework and being prepared when you step into center stage. Not only was Booker ready with his crime bill attack — something he’s been passionate about for the past 30+ years — he was ready for Biden’s counter attack! He and his campaign had gamed that out.

Prediction: While Booker did himself a solid in this debate, his fate is hard to predict. He’ll get at least a modest bounce out of it in the polls, but his numbers will regress to the mean long before the third debate. He’ll be in it through the early primaries. He has a great organization in Iowa from what I understand. If he can make a good showing in Iowa or South Carolina, he’s got a chance. It is just too tough to call right now.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris illustrates the futility of my blogging task (another freaking microcosm, y’all!): trying to evaluate the debates and the candidates based on the highlights and punditry and not on having watched the debates firsthand. The highlight reel is not kind to Harris.

Her most rousing and successful moment came when Tulsi Gabbard tried to Kamala Harris her ass. Harris showed her mettle in her rebut. She knew she would be attacked over her record as AG, and she was ready! She showed that self-righteous anger at having her good name sullied. She played the I was doing my job card.

That was the right way to handle that. Women can gain some social standing from being angry if and only if they have an obvious reason to be angry. The political pipsqueak and Jill Stein of 2020 is enough to piss anyone off. In fact, I’d wager, Gabbard pisses everyone off, so I don’t think this incident took any of the luster off of Harris.

Unfortunately, Jake Tapper didn’t do his homework and took the lazy way out — kinda like Gabbard and Gillibrand did. He figured if the old Biden-Harris busing dust up was good for ratings in the first debate, it orta be good for ratings in the second! I guess he’s never seen the second installment in any movie series. The number two movie is the worst of the lot. It is just warmed over pap from the first. And that’s all this was… at best. At worst, it was an attempt to throw Old Handsome Joe a bone and let him have a second swing at it. It isn’t possible that Jake Tapper has unexamined misogynistic tendencies and was just playing the same game of “she can’t be president” that the media played with Clinton. That’s impossible, right? Not a journalist with the integrity that Jake Tapper displayed throughout these debates, right?

Harris didn’t look as good in her second bite at the busing apple, though. Just like the actors reprising their roles in the sequel, she did the best she could with the material she had. It just didn’t have any punch. I don’t know if Biden surprised her or not with his attacks on her record as AG, but she didn’t show it. She fell back on, I did my job, but the thunderous righteous indignation just wasn’t there, either. Once you’ve shot your load, it’s hard to do it with the same enthusiasm and volume the second time.

If I have a criticism of Harris it is that she falls into the touring band trap: she looks board with playing the same set every night. In her stump speeches and interviews, she often seems lackluster, bored, and like she’s forcing it.

Prediction: Harris won’t get a bounce out of this debate like she did in the first one. She has the deep pockets and polling to carry her through to Super Tuesday, though. Her fate really lies in California and South Carolina. She’s got to place in SC and win out right in California to have a chance at the nomination.

Julian Castro

Castro is the tortoise of these debates, amirite? I’m right, right? He is slow and steady. Unfortunately, if he don’t get steady at about 2% instead of his 1%, his race is over. He had another outstanding performance, but the stage is already (a) too crowded with candidates and (b) too crowded at the top end of the polling for him to break through.

His line, Some of us have learned from the past, and some of us haven’t, was a great zinger. Lines like that just don’t spring unbidden in the moment. He thought out how his attack on Biden would go, and Biden’s likely response, and he was ready. What we need are politicians who actually have some guts on this issue was a line that probably did spring unbidden, though. It was equally as good as the first one, too.

His other great moment was when he went after de Blasio for not firing the murderer of Eric Gardner and Biden for criminal justice. Strong and memorable performances all.

Castro has been very frustrating in this primary. He has great policies second only to Warren. He is articulate, confident, telegenic. And, it all adds up to zilch. A steady 0.5 to 1% in the polling average over on RealClear Politics. A struggle to reach the donor and money threshold for the first debate. The only thing, I can hope for is that the polls are under representing the Latinx population and his other supporters and Nevada and Texas surprises everyone.

prediction: It may be too little, too late for Castro. He should make the third debate — he’s qualified by the money, but needs one more poll of 2%. If not, he’ll be out by September. His bounce from this debate should get him over the polling hump, though. The question is whether he can break through with only ten folks on the stage with him. At any rate, he’ll make a fine VP candidate for Warren or Harris.

Tulsi Gabbard

What to say about Tulsi Gabbard? The Jill Stein of 2020? The Russian Doll? Assad’s wing man? Is she so narcissistic that she? Seriously.

However, by all accounts, she acquitted herself well. I remember seeing her in an interview three or so years ago and being impressed. Maybe she is like the youthful football player who is always the best on his team and league until he gets on the big stage and finds out, he’s just average.

She exposed Harris’ big weakness: her history as AG. To some degree Harris is right in her defense. She was doing her job. AG’s have to work with police forces by definition, so they have to maintain some kind of working relationship with the police. Otherwise, they can really screw her.

Same thing with her policies as AG. AG’s are elected. Their actions as AG have to appeal to the mood of the electorate. Similar to Biden, Obama, and Clinton. Marijuana is the perfect microcosm for this phenomenon. It wasn’t until recently that there was widespread support for legalization. Before there was a harsh attitude towards drug offenses, especially in the white community. However, saying that she had to walk that tightrope and figured that marijuana offenders and parents of truants could be sacrificed on the altar of her political ambitions probably isn’t going to fly too well.

The Russian Doll did herself a favor by turning heads by attacking Harris. It’s always good when you can get to the red meat first, and Gabbard was the first to mine what is probably a very rich vein. Good politics.

Prediction: Gabbard is on the cusp of the cusp. There are seven candidates who have already qualified for the third debate. There are three that lack either a poll or the money but not both. And, then there is Gabbard who has one poll of 2% and almost has the money. She picked up the second most new Twitter followers after the debate. Will those followers translate to a minor bump in the polling and fundraising? Will the Russians continue backing her if she doesn’t make the third debate? Oh, who am I kidding? They flogged Jill Stein all the way to the end of 2016. They’ll ride Gabbard as far as she’s willing to go in 2020.

Andrew Yang

The whole $1,000.00 per month schtick isn’t working for him. It is just too different from what we know to be the way that the world works. It’s great for breaking ground on universal income and introducing the economic solutions to automation, but it won’t win you the presidency.

If Elizabeth Warren would pick it up, she might could fly that plane because she is a first class explainer of difficult concepts and relating to people. The Asian man who likes math is a cliche, but so is the math geek who can’t relate to people. Yang seems to personify both.

I will give him credit, though. He came prepared with some clever one-liners and some self-depreciating humor: Don’t judge me by my neck wear choices or whatever the exact line there was. I guess Jimmy Carter was breaking ground for him when he decided to wear presidential jeans as did Barack Obama when he decided to work without his suit jacket. But, if you want to be president, step one is looking presidential. Since we haven’t had an Asian man as president before, your racial features are going to put people off. Therefore, you gotta dress the part.

Prediction: Yang has the Yang Gang. They’ll keep him going.He’s one of the three who needs just one more thing to make the third debate. If he makes it, it will be because of his performance during this debate. According to FiveThirtyEight, he got the biggest addition to his Twitter followers out of the debate. That’s got to be good for something, right? While the Yang Gang keeps him in enough money to keep it going, maybe his new found Twitter followers give him that 2% poll he needs.

When he does drop out, where does he go? My guess is back to whatever he was doing before. I don’t see him as a cabinet secretary; although, it would be a shame to leave all of that talent and smarts out of any administration. After all, every president needs people who are good at the maths around her, am I right?

Kirsten Gillibrand

The GND guarantees a job with medical leave, paid vacation, and retirement security for everyone in America, explain how that is realistic? CNN was not discriminating: everyone got a dumbass question of their very own to take home tonight. Of course, Gillibrand chose this moment to trot out her line about Cloroxing the Oval Office, so that is what everyone is talking about. Good thing, too because the mumbo-jumbo confused story she told about water spewing into someone’s house and leading a “conversation” was pretty milquetoast. I’m surprised Jay Inslee didn’t jump down her throat. He would’ve had she had any supporters hiding down there that he could steal, I bet.

Gillibrand, also, had a genius plan for Kamala Harrising Biden! She knowed anyone with such a long record had to have several mildly embarrassing skeletons in his closet that if judged by today’s standards would allow her to ride her high horse and make him looks small — which wasn’t the case with Harris’ busing TKO, BTW. So, she googled herself some women’s issues and found these embarrassing writings and threw them down in front of him with a very throaty and self-righteous, j’accuse!

Apparently, Gillibrand’s genius lay in her aim because she ended up in shooting herself in the dick and not Biden. She telegraphed her attack a week before the debate giving Biden plenty of time to come up with his retort, I don’t know what happened other than you’re running for president. The humiliation of that line woulda melted lesser beings, but true to her politician self, Gillibrand pressed on and now claims she “won.” Whatever helps you sleep at night, sister.

Prediction: Gillibrand is out by 15 August. Neither of her big moments in the sun will boost her polling or attract donors to her, especially with the political acumen that she displayed during the debate. Stick a fork in her and put her out of my misery, please!

Bill Bennet

Spit whatever you have in your mouth out, Bill! Spit it out! It garbles your words and makes you hard to understand, son. I’m sorry. I really am. I know the man can’t help it; he was born that way. But, every time he talks I’m having the old nails on broken Styrofoam cringing reaction. Dammit, that gnarled slow speech is not presidential. You can be a senator with it, it’ll hurt you when you’re running for president.

Why are you the best candidate to heal the racial divide? Toss another one on to the stupid question heap. Why would anyone imagine that Bennet was the candidate to heal the racial divide? Was there nothing else they could ask him about? Did they think that asking one of the PoC’s on the stage would be too obvious? Couldn’t they have asked him about education instead? That’s what he twisted his answer into.

He had a great answer, too: We’re as segregated now as we were 50 years ago. He hit all the right talking points: slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, economic suppression of African Americans. School to prison pipeline. Unequal education. Dropout rates.

Seriously good answer, if the question was what caused the racial divide, but he never said how he would heal it, other than education. He was ready. Too bad Don Lemon wasn’t ready to ask the right question, just some lame-assed tired cliche of a question.

Prediction: Bill Bennett didn’t get himself into the third debate, either, and will be out by middle to late August.

Bill de Blasio

No wonder de Blasio is unpopular in NYC as mayor: he don’t know what his job is. He was being a moderator asking Biden about how much push back he gave Obama over deportations. Then following up with, he didn’t answer the question. If you’re gonna be president you gotta answer the tough questions. Actually, Bill, ya don’t. No politician answers the tough questions. Maybe that’s what has gone wrong after an inspiring mayoral campaign. Maybe you didn’t get that memo. Maybe you’ve been trying to answer the tough questions and muffing them. Seriously, go back and look for that email.

If you’re gonna be president, you have to be able to dodge the tough questions and let illusory explanation do its magic. You don’t want to hurt yourself by winging it. He then poured salt on his self-satisfied self-inflicted smug wound by pushing his absurdity further, I can guarantee you that the Ol’ Pussy Grabber won’t let you off the hook. Has he seen the Ol’ Pussy Grabber debate? That man can’t pursue a coherent attack on anyone beyond a one-word nickname.

de Blasio is living proof that an over inflated ego keeps you well insulated from reality.

Prediction: de Blasio is out by 15 August. The only thing he had were the debates. After this, he won’t even have that any more. He certainly won’t have any money or any more standing in the polls. And, even by some miracle, he wanted to stay in, he won’t have any staff. He’s done, thank god.

Jay Inslee

The climate crisis schtick guy. Does anyone else think he woke up one night about nine months ago and thought, Eureka! I’ll run as the climate change guy! Everyone will love it! I’m a shoe-in!

I’m sure he’s a great guy. I’m sure he does a great job as governor of Washington and did everything he says he did, even about climate change. Not every governor has you know; I’m looking at you Hickenlooper: who enacted the long-acting reversible contraceptive funding initiative for teens? Who did that? Was it you? No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t you, was it? No.

Other than trying to stick another needle into Biden’s voodoo doll with his climate change moment, he didn’t do much at the debate. He didn’t talk much and he didn’t even go after the Ol’ Pussy Grabber.

Prediction: Inslee is out. Probably shouda never ran. He could make a good EPA administrator or Secretary of the Interior. Why he doesn’t want to be senator and why he doesn’t pal around with AOC, I don’t know. Climate science can’t explain it. Wouldn’t you pal around with AOC if you could?

So, the second Democratic presidential primary debate is in the bag. It still kicking some, but with the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s Ohio rally and his director of national intelligence post to fill and another outrage du jour to bludgeon us with, it won’t be with for us long. I’m just glad that (a) I could get it written as quickly and accurately as I could and (b) have as meaningful of insights as I have. I especially like the microcosm angle and will probably be following up on posts on the media’s failures and influences and white male privilege. Thank god the great winnowing has begun and by September we should have no more than ten candidates fifteen at the outside and a possibility of twenty but a different set of bottom feeders.

4 replies »

  1. Today’s episode of The Daily from the NYT on NPR had an interesting (and depressing) analysis of the effects of the Dem debate rules. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/02/podcasts/the-daily/democratic-debates-2020-election.html

    The upshot – It’s become just another reality TV show and the candidates who didn’t arrive with a big small donor database have to get lots of cash from the big donors to afford to chase after the little ones in the numbers needed to stay in the debates.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Bob!
      Isn’t that ironic? It is the small donor candidates who are dominating the race if not the polling. If you combine Sanders’ and Warren’s they are equivalent to Biden’s. Of course if you combine Biden’s, Buttigieg’s, and O’Rourke’s polling, they have a modest lead. Fortunately, polling support is not as dedicated to “lanes” as candidates are.

      Based on this observation, I can’t help but think that Sanders is playing the spoiler — again! He is not willing to expand his base of support — kinda like Trump — and he’s not willing to drop out and influence the election from the outside. I like his policies and politics, but I hate his ego. I guess that’s a blog post that at the very least will bring the Bernie-bots.


      Liked by 1 person

      • Sanders is rather a one-trick-pony, has been for 50 years. What he does best is bring the Big Ideas out often and loud enough to get the “Fringe” label off them. Then Warren and others can pick them up and do the details. The thing that everybody seems to forget during a Presidential campaign is that no President gets to do everything they promised in the way they promised it. No matter who is in power, once they send something up to The Hill it is in the sausage factory for better or worse, or both (Something Trump has yet to understand.). That’s why it needs to be about the Party Vision and Values, not the details.

        Liked by 1 person

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