If you watched the Democratic Presidential Primary debate on 02/19/20 you witnessed a poorly moderated chaotic event, more similar to a prison riot than civil discourse. While there was plenty of name calling, principled debate was for the most part absent. It is difficult to pick a “winner” based on coherent and principled platforms of the candidates as the bloodletting consumed so much time to really allow for that, and differentiation in this regard remains ambiguous.
Appalled as I am by Trump’s actions and behavior, I was looking for a decent Democratic alternative to voting for a Libertarian as I always do; having seen the debate, here are my takeaways:
- Michael Bloomberg can’t debate. He was stiff and pedantic, as if presenting at a technical corporate event. He was unable to handle what he should have known was coming his way regarding his wealth, misogynistic history and stop-and-frisk policies as mayor, not to mention his opportunistically flipping party loyalties. He may stumble into the convention as a possible “centrist” or “moderate” alternative hoping for a brokered win, but he failed miserably in this debate and will likely fall in the polls and do poorly in the Nevada primary.
- Elizabeth Warren is repulsive, like Nurse Ratched from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. She lent little to the debate as far as policy or ideas are concerned. Probably because she has fallen so dramatically in the polls she felt compelled to viscously attack everyone else, especially Mike Bloomberg, who admittedly was very vulnerable, and ill equipped to respond effectively. It was a desperate scorched earth approach in the hopes of remaining relevant long enough to get to the convention.
- Bernie is…well, Bernie, the proud honeymooner in the USSR, Soviet loving and table thumping avowed socialist. He is making huge inroads with the younger electorate to become the current leader of the pack, so if you are a socialist there’s no need to vote for any other party if he wins the Democratic ticket. The DNC leadership is scarred he will do just that and is desperately looking for an alternative, but based on this debate there may not be one. I did see that some of the other candidates hit Bernie with concerns about the violent approaches by some on his staff and supporters; alarmingly, Bernie’s responses were at best unconvincing.
- While Sleepy Joe was more awake than usual, he put forth a performance based on platitudes and association with Obama, in effect looking like someone who needed an intellectual walker to get through the debate; no, it will not be Biden, as a candidate he looks like a dead man walking, even though he’s likely to make it to the convention.
- Pete Buttigieg is an intelligent talker in these kinds of political debates where substance is a low priority. FDR was also a good political debater who once said that the trick is to never really take a position you can’t change, and never provide any real detail to what you propose. In that regard, Mayor Pete is his heir apparent, spouting grand hyperbole with interpretation wide open. His shallowness was most apparent when he attacked Amy Klobuchar for forgetting Mexican President Obrador’s name. Making togetherness a presidential platform is more effective for kids watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
- Amy Klobuchar came across as the most sincere, decent and intelligent of all the candidates. She made an honest attempt to actually answer moderator questions and showed poise and humor in responding to attacks. She should be that potential DNC choice for a moderate or centrist candidate, an alternative to Bernie, but unless she continues to rise in the polls and win more delegates, she may not make it to Milwaukee. That would be a real loss for the Democrats from a decency perspective, but I doubt that’s what their looking for.
What I think what was missing or scarcely and/or poorly addressed in the debates, which is significantly due to a really poor performance by the moderators, were issues such as:
- The budget deficit and national debt were hardly mentioned and only obliquely.
- Answers as to where the trillions of dollars all the candidates, with the exception of Amy Klobuchar, where throwing at all the various issues raised was going to come from, as if spending from an empty pocket was a rational and responsible approach.
- Ending the senseless, immoral and endless wars the US has waged, wasting lives, money, assets, not to mention good will.
- Ending the war on drugs that has done nothing in addressing addiction, but has created the largest proportion of incarceration in the world, especially among poor minorities, squandering trillions of dollars, and enabling rampant corruption.
- The senseless, polarizing and irrational class war rising in this country due to a lack of economic and civic education, where being rich and/or successful is deemed evil.
- The lack of respect for individual rights, especially those as guaranteed in our own constitution; the most glaring example is free speech suppression, especially in our universities.
- The lack of financial accountability, not only in government, but among our banks, businesses and consumers who have created the largest debt burden in US history, clearly unsustainable.
These are just a few of the issues that I think the moderators should have focused on for the candidates to have addressed. The moderators should also have provided the opportunity to have done so by deflecting the vicious attacks and redirecting the debate to issues of substance as that’s their job.
While there was significant talk about the need to beat Trump, it remains talk as this debate was more blood sport than a show of potential leadership. If this is the best that the Democratic Party has to offer, then they have a long way to go if they want the White House come November.