Yesterday I wrote a preview of this debate I am shortly going to comment on, and here I would like to offer my perspective on the results. And remember, please thank me if you didn’t have enough interest to bother (and yet are still reading this piece about it), because I sat through the whole fucking thing and took notes. I do not wish to offer a personal partisan agenda, but mostly a review of what happened tonight. I sat through the whole two hours, plus I spent another hour watching the numerous cable news networks debate and reframe whichever issues they prioritize to present whichever candidate, for whichever reason, they choose to celebrate or denounce. I want to be honest, reviewing this like a critic commenting on an actor’s performance, or the literary merit of some work of non-fiction. And yet before I do this, for just this one moment (and tomorrow’s preview of day two will have this even harder), I need to promote my podcast, airing tonight, 6/27/2019 at 9PM Western Standard Time (USA), which is 12 midnight here on the eastcoast USA. You can find me at demospinradio.com. Please tune in. I am discussing the weather in a non we-have-nothing-to-say-to-each-other-so-let’s-talk-about-the-weather perspective.
Anyway, tonight. Here are the winners of the debate as I see them:
Amy Klobucher dominated this event, in every possible way. She came across far more charming than I expected and she seemed to understand everything. I had previously stated that she would “probably make a wonderful president because she (seems like) such a bitch,” and I still (and even more) believe this today. Nothing she said works against her. No one was even thinking about challenging her on anything and she managed to undermine a few close competitors simply because she was a woman and was able to point out that while the men might believe in women’s rights and women’s health care, no one other than “the three women on the stage” could truly understand the issues. Additionally, Klobucher had valid (and wisely political) approaches to just about everything. She understood gun rights as a public safety issue and not an anti-2nd Amendment crusade, pointing out that she comes from a “family of hunters.” Her ideas on international policy were in no way submissive, meek, or too willing to compromise. She had a strong voice, a blistering intelligence, and a very strong understanding of the political world that exists today. She spoke of how she is able to listen to the people and how she can get things done. Regardless of her second tier status, people should watch her. She will be around for a while.
Julian Castro did a great job. I’ll bet he is a terrific person, someone I would love to meet and who would provide not just a great interview, but would be a joy to speak with. And while his stance on immigration is at the forefront of his agenda, he came across as more than a partisan based upon age old ethnic identity, but as a genuinely compassionate man. He certainly understands the present political climate and focuses on the divisions on the left, attempting to bring them all together. He praises women and women’s rights (a slightly nervous Klobucher responded to his applause for promoting the Equal Rights Amendment), he appeals to the young Social Justice Warriors by pinpointing in a less radical manner (much to the relief of moderates like myself), promoting their ideals with a question mark. Castro supports trans issues as a part of increased health care, declared a “new Marshall Plan” for Central American immigrants, proving that his thought process on the issue is far beyond anybody else. He even went after Beto O’Rourke (also from Texas, so this might be merely a turf war), calling him out as the only hypocrite on the stage. O’Rourke could merely bluster and stammer, clearly not prepared for this. Castro even kept interrupting O’Rourke’s responses, not just showing a Trumpesque rudeness, but perhaps displaying a philosophical strength that can put the rest behind him. Castro did great.
Elizabeth Warren, as expected, did terrific. She was, at least at the outset, asked the most questions and was clearly held to be the favorite by the questioners. She was actually asked three different things before several of the others were even offered a chance to speak. But Warren remains on message, knowing what she stands for and to whom she is speaking. In many ways, like Trump, she is appealing only to her base, certainly a strong crowd that will eventually suck the froth from Bernie Sanders’ gang. She knows what she is talking about and is very loyal to her causes. Warren has somehow succeeded in rephrasing the general hatred of “the elites,” and has transformed that class into the hard pro-Trump millionaires. She understands finance so well that it is difficult to argue with anything she has to say on the topic (no one on stage was willing to do this). In fact, Elizabeth Warren seemed to be taken with such respect and deference by the other candidates that she was the only person able to interrupt the others (as she did numerous times), without earning the frustrated ire of their ambition. This sort of respect works against most of the other candidates. It might show Trump how he can dominate them in later debates. But Warren . . . Warren is a fighter. Watch out for her.
I honestly believe that Bill de Blasio did very well in the debate. Let me get this out of the way: I do not like Bill de Blasio. I do not think he will last in this campaign. But this does not change the fact that he surprised many people, his hard-edged New Yawker personality being employed only in the bullying moments when it was necessary to have his say. De Blasio came across like a very smart man, someone with genuine concern for the people of America (or those from New York City, anyway). He understood the issues, understood the questions and was able to answer them prolifically. Since De Blasio does not really have a chance to win, his eloquent moderation struck me as his running for something entirely different. His glad-handing partisan comments came across like he was running to be the next chair of the DNC. He will not last much longer in this election, although his fine performance will probably get him to round two.
Cory Booker did okay. He remains by far the most sincere candidate, less a politician than a social activist risen to the next level. There are few who could, in good conscience, go after Booker on a personal level. Of course he should be easy to crush by any opposition–particularly on the right–as, regardless of his intensely more liberal perspectives–a “clone of Obama,” will suffice, or whatever other monstrosity those people wish to paint him as to their terrified followers who did not listen to a word the man had to say. Of course Booker also managed to somehow make everything about race (or at least he sounded that way, even when trying to draw every person together in an issue that transcends such superficial divisions). Booker answered questions in the right way and his enthusiasm was clearly on display, but I believe that he again highlighted his political weaknesses–particularly next to the others–while praising his “friend” Julian Castro as though he were already giving up and asking his supporters to change sides. He looked good and continues to have no chance whatsoever.
Jay Inslee certainly sounded great. I said in the earlier piece that I would love to support the man if I believed he actually had a chance, and nothing he had to say changes this. But it also does not change the fact that he really doesn’t have a chance. He came across like a tough, smart, serious guy, capable of laughing at himself when it does not embarrass him, and the issues he seems fixated on–I don’t know–they just seem more important than the up-and-down blather about health care alternatives and budgetary considerations that most of the other more mainstream candidates are proposing. Jay Inslee was among the most prepared individuals on the stage and he did not allow the fact that he was asked far fewer questions than most of the others to deter him. He got his voice in, shoved his ideas upon the stage at moments he was not asked, and honestly should have a much larger following than he does. Give him another debate or two before he finally calls it a day.
As for the losers in the debate:
Beto O’Rourke absolutely bombed. The worst of the worst on stage, he seemed to be overwhelmed every moment he was forced off script. Other candidates clearly picked up on this (most notably Julian Castro), and they would hammer and interrupt him until he looked not just annoyed, but completely lost. He attempted to turn around his lagging by speaking repeatedly in Spanish (even more so than Castro), pretending that somehow this should make him seem smarter than he actually is. He spoke in a tame party-line and really exposed nothing of value about either his qualifications or his uniqueness as a candidate. All he was able to do was find the worst and most tragic possible exploitative anecdote to explain whichever issue he was questioned upon to try and prove that he really cares.
Tulsi Gabbard had one single thing to say and she incorporated it into every answer she offered: “I was a soldier. I understand these things. Trump is wrong.” And while these might be accurate statements in literally every single diversion she made into this realm, it struck one as not only bald repetition, but as a fact that she otherwise had nothing worthwhile to say. She lamely repeated party line blather on the few issues she clearly either knows nothing about or simply does not care, and kept reverting back to a gung-ho sort of yah yah yah America commentary that in the end means absolutely nothing. She should be done after tonight.
Tim Ryan was positively shell-shocked. He had this nervous look on his face, would generally only speak when asked a question (and sometimes even allowed himself to be interrupted without a response), and looked to be the most thoroughly unprepared and unqualified person on the stage. He stammered through a few answers on issues he clearly did not prioritize (“What kind of a country are we if . . .” and “With all the fear, hatred” et cetera, the sort of shit that people rant about online). He was by far asked the fewest questions and had the fewest responses. Not ready for prime time, I suppose. Give the man another ten years to see if he can make something of himself nationally.
Poor John Delany actually did not look bad. But he was the candidate farthest to the right on stage and that shit simply could not stand. Most of his responses–serious, well-thought out policy ideas–were smirked at or outright laughed at by those surrounding him. He was clearly growing increasingly frustrated with both his competitors and the questions being asked as they continually avoided him, repeatedly claiming “We’ll get to you shortly, Representative Delany.” This is a guy who does not need this bullshit in his life and I am sure he will be much happier once he drops out of the election. As I stated in the previous piece, this is a guy who is primed for a television expert post, and I will look forward to hearing from him.
Later today I will discuss tonight’s round two. As for now I wish to condemn MSNBC for their terrible broadcast, what with the technical difficulties and the repeated second long broken feeds. Maddow and Todd were awful (Chuck Todd far worse), and the other three were merely annoying, slight partisan preference clearly on display. But, nevertheless, this was a worthwhile event to watch. We watched several candidates emerge as future powers as time goes by (we already knew that Warren was, but Klobucher and Castro truly rose in this moment). It will continue to be interesting as we narrow this field down to the essentials.