Much has happened since the Democratic primary debates in July, and it’s been mostly beneficial developments. Despite this, these debates remain torturous to watch and I continue to advise everyone reading this to ignore them in favor of simply reading write-ups the next day on your favorite online publications. Easily the worst of the five debates thus far, this iteration managed to simultaneously both bore and enrage me. Each debate is worse than the last, which doesn’t give me much hope for October.
First, one of those beneficial developments: the zeroes have finally exited the stage resulting in a debate that lasted one evening rather than two. Unexpectedly, billionaire Tom Steyer found enough support to get a podium for the fourth debate in October, bringing the total to eleven; if Tulsi Gabbard manages to do the same we may be looking at another two-night affair for the October debates. Of course, being absent from debates isn’t the same as dropping out — Kirsten Gillibrand and John Hickenlooper have both formally exited the race, but John “World’s Oldest Baby” Delaney has yet to do the same. Plenty of the other also-rans are still in the race polling under 2%, but the less said of them the better. Let them fade away to the Land of Wind and Ghosts quietly.
Mainstream media touted the debate as the battle everyone wanted to see, a bloody brawl between the two leading candidates: first place Joe Biden and, uh, third place Elizabeth Warren. I’m sure there’s someone sitting between those two, but ignoring Bernie Sanders is par for the course. Whether or not this will have an impact on his on-the-ground organizing, which seems to be going well in early battleground states, remains to be seen.
Joe Biden still holds the lead but has continued to slowly decline in the polls, a descent mirrored by his possible — and very public — decline into senility (hey, if we’re going to talk about Trump’s mental state as it relates to age, Biden needs to be fair game, too). Thursday night, he seemed lucid at the outset then veered off into garbled nonsense, none more so than his bizarre, barely coherent response to a question about one of his many, many comments from the past that have not aged well. When asked about his 1975 statement regarding slavery — “I’d be damned if I feel responsible to pay for something that happened 300 years ago” — his response was a minute and a half stroll through his decaying brain with occasional stops at topics covered thirty minutes earlier. Seriously, watch the video and decide for yourself.
Given this very visible weakness and Biden’s frontrunner status, it was not a question of if someone would attack him but rather whom.
Would Kamala Harris take another swing? Her attacks in June gave her a boost in the polls that quickly disappeared, but Cory Booker landed some blows at the previous debate and doesn’t seem to have suffered any blowback. Maybe Beto O’Rourke would call him a “brain-damaged toothless old dog” in Spanish while Sanders continued his attacks on Biden’s voting record, ties to the finance and overall milquetoast political views. Frankly, any of these could have happened and I would not have been surprised, but what I did not expect was for Julian Castro to viciously and laughingly imply on stage that Biden’s mind is crumbling before our eyes. Later Castro called Biden out for his terrible healthcare plan as well, but the dig at his memory seemed to upset polite society-types, and may not pan out well for Castro.
Other candidates criticized him for his seeming pettiness, with Pete Buttigieg lamenting that such behavior has lead to debates becoming “unwatchable”, to which I respond “Shut the Fuck Up, Pete.” After countless hours of political debates, his bloodless, boilerplate liberalism — which runs on the classic combination of “hundreds of millions of dollars in big-donor money” and “nothing else” — is a bigger bore. Buttigieg’s strategy is to keep sucking in millions of from the wealthy impressed by his old report cards and hope that the real front-runners somehow destroy one another, allowing him to dart between their towering ruins and reach the goal. Buttigieg is already trying to walk the tightrope between policies that will please the donors to which he is beholden and policies that people actually like, half-assing his healthcare plans with empty platitudes about “choices” with no mention of the enormous monied interests who have been growing fat and wealthy by limiting the public choice in healthcare to “pay us” or “die”. With that said, Buttigieg’s decision to tell his coming-out story on the debate stage has no precedent and warrants some commendation, though it slots neatly into his socially-progressive-but-fiscally-moderate comfort zone.
On the subject of unwatchability, another reason these events fail to stoke enthusiasm beyond politics junkies was demonstrated by the gun control portion of the debate, which lasted approximately three hundred thousand hours despite the notable fact that every candidate on the stage agreed on nearly every facet of the discussion.
Only Beto O’Rourke stuck out, here. Given how many candidates the Democratic Party has, and how many mass shootings America has, it was only a matter of time before one of their hometowns suffered an attack from a white nationalist shitkicker with an automatic rifle. The El Paso shooting was an opportunity for Beto to re-launch his campaign and “Beto II: This Time With Cusses” has earned him about a point and a half increase in the polls, but his plan to take guns from the hands of owners might drag him back down under two percent pretty quickly. Beyond that, it was a simple grandstanding exercise which — as Bernie Sanders pointed out in the first debate — will mean absolutely nothing without a mass mobilization of the people to combat forces in the GOP controlled Senate. These grandstanding exercises are to be expected in a debate, certainly, but it dragged on for so long I started looking for something I could use to blow my own brains out and join the heartbreaking statistics these goons love to quote so often.
Yet an even more wretched highlight was Joe Biden, author of the notorious 1994 crime bill that damaged the black community so thoroughly, a man so rabid for putting people in jail on drug offenses that he said George H.W. Bush’s draconian drug laws didn’t go far enough, a man who introduced and sponsored the 2001 RAVE Act that would jail not only the promoters of parties where drugs were found but whoever happened to own the building as well, saying — out loud, in front of people who could hear him — that he doesn’t believe in putting people in jail for non-violent offenses.
No kidding? After hearing that I burned myself with a cigarette on purpose. I don’t even know why I just knew I had to. Maybe it’s because deceit so bold and blatant is atrocious and someone, anyone, had to pay for this utter fabrication.
Though the unmitigated gall of the statement still upsets me, more I’m just confused by Biden’s constant lying. Does he know we can hear the words that he says? One wonders what caused him to forget everything he’s said in the last forty years, but the truth is that Biden has been an inveterate liar who believes nothing for his entire career.
Fortunately for him, though, whoever wrote the debate questions for Thursday night made sure that Biden would have something big to go out on, so the final question of the debate set him up to drag out his sad story one more time just in case anyone hadn’t heard that giving people healthcare is an insult to his dead son.
And finally, the cherry on top of this sundae, which arose not on the stage that evening but on the sidelines. During the commercials breaks ABC would cut to commentators to do a quick rundown of what they’ve just seen, and to my shock and horror, I caught a glimpse of former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel praising the “energy” that Biden brought to the stage. Readers may remember Emanuel as the garbage mayor of Chicago that did everything he could to cover up the murder of teenager Laquan McDonald by the Chicago PD and attacked public schools every chance he had. Or, you might remember this ghoul advising Democrats to “take a chill pill” after Trump’s victory because “we’re not getting any power back in 2018”. He’s ridden coattails and has been continually wrong for years but he still seems to think he’s the adult in the room who needs to give advice to all these foolishly idealistic democrats who actually believe in things. Rahm is one of the “we need to win at all cost” geniuses who, despite being terrible at winning, nevertheless finds ways to get on television to tell people what they should do to win. Do not listen to anything this man has to say about anything; he is a charlatan of the highest order, a disgraced con-man and easily one of the worst people in Democratic politics in the last thirty years. In a just society, his career would be floating in a haunted toilet. But we don’t live in a just world, so instead, he got a sweet gig at that Last-Chance Saloon for political advisors that got everything wrong, The Atlantic.
See you in October!