Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The 2020 Democratic Debates (Round 4)

Another debate! And, instead of winnowing the field, the debate stage has actually grown, even as the billionaire vanity candidate made his first formal appearance on the debate stage! And, as the debates have grown larger and longer, the audience has inevitably declined - from a high of some 18+ million back in June to something like 9+ million last night. How much more of this can the candidates take? How much more can the country take? And, of course, Cory Booker's pathetic appeal to remember the real enemy and not try to destroy each other fell on deaf ears, as most of the candidates joined in ganging up on the apparent new front-runner Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Given the concurrent impeachment inquiry in Washington and the media's obsession with that subject, it was no surprise that the debate began there and went 20 minutes before moving on. It was Andrew Yang who best stated the obvious - that impeachment would not likely result either in removing Trump or in solving the problems that got him elected in the first place. Unfortunately, impeachment then yielded to another repetition of the how to pay for "Medicare for All" debate. If there is one issue on which it should be easy for Democrats to present a united front it should be opposing the Republicans' repeated efforts to deny people health care coverage. Instead they fight each other repeatedly over the arcane details of different plans and let journalists do their customary thing of highlighting Republican talking points about taxing the middle class.

As it should, given recent events, foreign policy got a lot of on-stage energy. Both Buttigieg (more combative than in past debates) and Klobuchar distinguished themselves in that field. While the nuances of alliances and Middle Eastern power balances may be too complex for the debate stage, the horror Trump has recently unleashed in Syria seems sufficiently understandable to all.

In the end, the debate highlighted Warren's front-runner status and further diminished Biden's claim to that honorific. Meanwhile Pete Buttigieg had his best night - tackling Tulsi Gabbard on foreign policy, Beto O'Rourke on guns, and (most important for him) pointedly challenging challenging Elizabeth Warren.

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