September 13, 2019
Another combative Democratic debate saw clashes between Joe Biden and his opponents – but no clear winner emerged Nathan Robinson: ‘Biden did better but remains a liabilityThe consensus will probably be that Julián Castro distinguished himself in Thursday’s debate, thanks to some forceful talk on immigration, a good story about hard ethical choices, and some deliciously salty exchanges with Joe Biden. Biden himself did better than before, which isn’t saying much. There were still painful moments, especially a downright bizarre ramble delivered in response to a question on his racial record – Biden implied that black parents need instructions on how to raise children, told people to “make sure you have the record player on at night”, and then started talking about Venezuela for no reason at all. I continue to believe he is a political liability who should under no circumstances be nominated.Bernie had some excellent answers on foreign policy and democratic socialism, sadly made less forceful thanks to a hoarse voice. Unfortunately, he was also denied the chance to say anything about climate change, meaning he couldn’t explain the urgent need for a Green New Deal.Warren distinguished herself as an explainer of progressive policies and effectively replied to the line about people wanting to “keep their insurance” by saying “I’ve never met anybody who likes their health insurance company.” Kamala Harris continues to duck tough questions about her atrocious record as a prosecutor, Amy Klobuchar continues to offer uninspiring centrist cliches, Beto O’Rourke continues to emphasize guns and racism, Andrew Yang gets ever closer to becoming Matthew Lesko, and Cory Booker continues to be personally endearing without offering any reason to vote for him. Oh, and please: no more three-hour debates. They are truly unendurable.
Who won the Democrats debate? Our panelists verdict
* Nathan Robinson is the editor of Current Affairs and a columnist for the Guardian US Lloyd Green: ‘For Democrats, 2020 can’t arrive quickly enough’Joe Biden came out swinging hard but then struggled to stay focused in the third hour. Still, his swipes at Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were effective. Warren refused to own up to the cost of her single-payer healthcare plan; as for Sanders, he was reminded that “socialist” can be a putdown. Biden’s line, “I’m with Barack, Elizabeth is with Bernie” is here to stay.Kamala Harris also did well. Her tart Wizard of Oz description of President Trump, “When you pull back the curtain it’s a really small dude,” got the audience’s attention.Presidents Obama and Trump were also winners. This time, the candidates on stage repeatedly sang Obama’s praises on his healthcare reform. As for Trump, he had to be smiling when Julián Castro angrily taunted Biden over his age. For the Democrats, 2020 can’t arrive quickly enough.
* Lloyd Green was opposition research counsel to George HW Bush’s 1988 campaign and served in the Department of Justice from 1990 to 1992 Jessa Crispin: ‘I miss Marianne Williamson’Biden as the Democratic frontrunner only makes sense if no one is watching any of his media appearances or these debates: he spends half his time stuttering, digressing, and bleeding from sensory organs.Everyone on stage on Thursday agreed on which issues are important and squabbled about how they will all magically solve intractable problems like healthcare, gun control and environmental devastation. The only fun left here is guessing who leaves the race next. Well, that and figuring out why Kamala Harris, who kept giggling at her own awkward jokes, had such a strong wine mom energy tonight.I miss Marianne Williamson. While everyone else argues about whose plan is going to actually raise taxes the most, she spoke to the deep issues of apathy, loss of authority, and weariness with a system that spends a year making big promises and then spends four years explaining why those promises are all impossible to achieve.If Biden is the Democratic future, responding to every mass shooting with an Oh Jeez and every diplomatic crisis with a “got your nose” joke, I want at least one person talking about why this is a joke too many.
* Jessa Crispin is the author of Why I Am Not a Feminist Malaika Jabali: ‘No clear winners – but better moderators’It’s clear that Democratic debate hosts continue their disingenuous framing of socialism and the left, from asking loaded questions about what distinguishes Bernie Sanders from Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro to repeating conservative talking points about Medicare for All. The debates are becoming increasingly redundant, with few revelations materializing among them. However, moderators Linsey Davis and Jorge Ramos asked tough questions that were a welcome shift from the tone of previous debates.Davis unflinchingly confronted Biden on his positions on racial equality and lack of interest in reparations, and she directly called out Kamala Harris’s criminal justice record. Likewise, Jorge Ramos keyed in on Biden’s support for the Obama administration’s deportations of 3 million people.As the debate was three hours long, there should have been plenty of time to follow up on these questions, instead half of the first hour was spent relitigating Medicare for All. While there were no clear winners, and the frontrunners’ positions will likely change little after tonight, at least a few pointed questions forced some to contend with their records.
* Malaika Jabali is a public policy attorney, writer, and activist Art Cullen: ‘Beto had a tremendous night’The best moment in all the debate was when Joe Biden made his closing remarks, speaking of resilience against all his tremendous personal loss: “Faith sees best in the dark. You find purpose in what you do. I stayed engaged.” Going up against that, Julián Castro looked small nipping at Biden’s heels by suggesting that he was forgetful.Beto O’Rourke had a tremendous night, the best on stage, with accolades all around and the most applause from the crowd for championing gun safety and condemning racism with passion, calling Trump a “white supremacist”. “Would you take away their guns? “Hell yes,” O’Rourke said. “We’re gonna take away your AR-15, your AK-47.”Elizabeth Warren maintained her momentum with cogent riffs on trade, Afghanistan, healthcare and corruption. Amy Klobuchar’s midwestern appeals for pragmatism will echo for voters looking for relief from chaos. She stayed in the fray.
* Art Cullen is editor of the Storm Lake Times in north-west Iowa, where he won the Pulitzer prize for editorial writing. He is author of the book: Storm Lake: A Chronicle of Change, Resilience, and Hope from a Heartland Newspaper
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