I suppose to some extent I can respect CNN’s tacky decision to televise a drawing for its Democratic presidential primary debates. At the very least, they were letting viewers know that if they were looking for a substantive debate, they could look elsewhere. No, ‘round their way, they were going to continue perpetuating their overall “infotainment” theme and present a debate I can best described as “What if Mona Scott Young read Maureen Dowd religiously?”
Many assumed that because they were the two progressive candidates, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders would be at each other’s throats in order to coalesce support among that bloc. This never made much sense given that one, even if some of Sanders’ people sure seem intimidated by Warren’s rising polling numbers, the two candidates themselves are friends. And two, there’s not a whole lot for them to argue about, thus those hoping for Liz and Bernie to give us Nicki vs. Cardi ended up with Nicki and Megan Thee Stallion. (If that sentence confuses you, turn to your nearest youth or The Shade Room.)
I’m glad neither Warren or Sanders took that bait because both were able to focus on the greater goal: dismantling the unimaginative centrists who believe we can’t have nice things like guaranteed health care and our debilitating student loan debt forgiven.
A little over a week before last night’s debate, former congressman and bored rich man John Delaney reportedly was encouraged by his staff to drop out of the race. Following his exchange with Warren in which he dismissed her and Sanders’ plans as “fairy tale policies,” one hopes he finally takes heed to their calls. In response to Delaney, Warren shot back with “I genuinely do not understand why anyone would go to all the trouble of running for president just to get up on this stage and talk about what’s not possible.”
As she and Sanders each explained, Republicans do not ask themselves how will they manage to give away big tax breaks to rich people or take healthcare away from millions, they simply do so out of sheer will. It’s a will many Democrats like Delaney along with the other moderates there – Amy Klobaucher, John Hickenlooper, Tim Ryan, Steve Bullock – greatly lack. They are the Democrats who continue to steer us down the road to failure by dispensing rhetoric that is nothing more than a diluted form of Republican ideology they naively believe will get them back the white votes they never need.
Those Democrats only speak to the likes of former Missouri senator Claire McCaskill, who said on MSNBC following the debate, “Free stuff from the government does not play well in the Midwest.” Plenty of farmers are getting free money from the Trump administration as a means of neutralizing their justifiable hardships thanks to President Trump’s trade war with China. What McCaskill really means is certain white voters loathe the idea of nonwhite people getting “free stuff” so we needn’t scare them away. Before she lost her Senate seat to a Trump acolyte, Claire McCaskill was criticized heavily for ignoring Black voters in her state. She ignored them while she practically begged those deplorables to vote for her – going as far to linking herself to Trump in campaign ads related to border control. Again, she lost so while she may have failed up and now gets a check for spewing useless drivel on television, it’s useless drivel all the same.
Speaking of useless people on television, CNN anchor Jake Tapper deserves every bit of criticism he has received for his performance as debate moderator. The questions were loaded — designed to either stoke petty squabbles among the candidates versus nuanced debate about the direction the party and country ought to go on and/or echoed GOP rhetoric. To frame Medicare For All questions around raising taxes is to reduce the overarching theme of the bill’s intentions to lower overall costs and play into the hands of its oppositions.
It’s fine to not agree with the bill, but the question of what matters most – better healthcare supplied differently – warrants a smarter framework to elicit more rigorous debate. Bernie Sanders, who it should be noted performed much more strongly this time than he did in the June debate, thankfully did not take the bait.
“What I’m talking about and others up here are talking about is no deductibles and no copayments, and Jake, your question is a Republican talking point,” Sanders said in response to Tapper’s trick question. “And by the way, the healthcare industry will be advertising tonight on this program.”
Tapper wanted to shimmy on by that last bit, which ought to tell you everything.
Overall, Elizabeth Warren performed best by sonning all of the rich white men who thought they knew better than her followed by Bernie Sanders who continues to be sick of everyone’s corporate shilling. With respect to the JV league candidates, i.e. the moderates with low polling numbers, none of them had the breakout moment they wanted and their uninspiring talk of minimizing expectations as a racist monster currently demolishes the rules and norms of this country as he and his cohorts effectively profit off of the pain and misery of others will do little to save their fledgling campaigns. To that end, give it up, turn it loose. We don’t want ya, we don’t need ya.
As for Beto O’Rourke, while I root for Texans generally, he did okay but that is not enough to salvage the reality that him distancing himself from the media months ago damaged his campaign in ways that may be unrecoverable. Now when it comes to his de facto replacement in the pundit world, Pete Buttigieg, he carried on with the debate strategy of reminding everyone that he is a millennial. However, as much as talked about being tired of Democrats of debating the same old things as a means of suggesting it’s time for generational change, his failure to deal with a racist police force in the city where he serves as mayor is proof that mindset matters more than age bracket.
Enter author Marianne Williamson, who may rightfully alarm people with her anti-vaccination history (I don’t want to die of the plague either, y’all), but continues to offer true condemnations of white supremacy in ways many of her opponents can learn from.
“If you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days,” Williamson said.
“It’s bigger than Flint,” she continued, referring to the Michigan town that is dealing with a water crisis. “It’s particularly people of color. It’s particularly people who do not have the money to fight back, and if the Democrats don’t start saying it, why would those people feel they’re there for us?”
Marianne Williamson may not win the Democratic presidential nomination, but she does understand that Democrats cannot win without energetic support from Black voters. Moreover, she speaks to the trauma nonwhite people suffer in the Trump era. I suggest whoever wins the nomination follow suit.
Overall, God help us all now that cable news television producers have so much sway over the future of this country.
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