The debates were weak, but not a complete waste

The recent Democratic debates were poorly done by CNN, but they were still revealing. We saw a lot of random people get good camera time, but also learned some good lessons about corporate media. A lot of people complain about the number of candidates still in the debates, and it’s true that it dilutes them. But we’re dealing with an airtight political system that forces us to deal with only 2 parties, so of course they will be fractured in this way. Especially when the country is this far behind the other first world countries in establishing real democracy.

 Another source of debate criticism is the policy focus. People complain that there wasn’t enough arguing against Trump issues rather than party policy. I hope this is coming more as an effect of the bad debate format, because it would seem to make sense that a primary debate is about party policy topics. People who are more obsessed with Trump can’t stomach the sight of Democrats debating policy with each other.

Unfortunately, Trump-obsession seems to increase with Obama-love, so polling has stayed strong for the most well-known ‘moderate,’ Joe Biden. People who are scared and anxious about Trump tend to see Obama as a safety zone they can return to, so the debates are between the 2 sides of that argument. It doesn’t matter if his policy led us to the rise of Trump, or if we tried it already in 2016 and it didn’t work. So during his debate night, Biden took a lot of criticism. There are mixed reviews on his performance, which is actually a big step up from last time. He’s lucky they didn’t pair him with Sanders and/or Warren, though.

CNN wanted a Sanders vs. Warren showdown on the first night of the debate, but they ended up mainly defending each other and talking a lot about policy. They need to spend a lot of time explaining their policies, because most Americans won’t spend the time to look up and see these things working in other countries. One of my favorite moments was when Bernie stated that pharmaceutical companies would be running commercials during the debate that night. And of course there were voter-aimed pharma commercials; CNN runs a lot of ads for drug companies.

Most of the “Faux-bama” candidates can’t get a rise in the polls because Biden dominates the ‘anxious moderate’ market. Kamala Harris grabbed some attention with the first debate, but she’s currently fading. She is struggling to explain her healthcare plan, and her judgement in criminal justice is questioned. She smartly focused her scrutiny on Biden since she was seen as a top tier candidate in CNN’s dumb game. But she also came off as elitist while dismissing some of the other candidates.

Major Pete leads the rest of the Fauxbamas in polling, with his main competition being O’Rourke. Booker may rise to some challenge, but ultimately all these folks are stuck if Biden sticks around. If the DNC notices a consolidation of support for Sanders and Warren, they will want the Fauxbamas to step aside so that Biden can fully consolidate the “back to 2008” voters. Mayor Pete was pretty invisible during the debate, but he’s expected to have the support to make future debates. O’Rourke did not accomplish much, either.

Of the long shot choices, Yang and Gabbard seem to be most popular, and they were decent at the debates. Gabbard landed good points, but she didn’t get to shine. That’s probably because there was so little foriegn policy discussion. Yang got to be very clear about his proposed UBI and the possible benefits. But people got tired of hearing him talk about it eventually. He has a unique following and some potential to keep going. A lot of these candidates won’t make it to the next debate.

Hopefully that next debate won’t be on CNN. Or if it is, the question prompts shouldn’t sound like they were written by the Heritage Foundation. They need to put Biden, Sanders, and Warren together at the same time if they really want to make these debates useful. But this is a corporation; being “useful” means maximizing profit. So we shouldn’t be surprised if they hide Biden from the main competition again. It’s going to be hard for him to keep up.