Debate Recap | January 14th, 2020

Our last chance to get a good look before voting begins.

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By Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Pre-Debate Thoughts

America has a love/hate relationship with political debates. In this distraction soaked world we live in, anything that can hook us for more than thirty seconds is impressive, but more often than not that cost requires more and more outrage and divisiveness and less substance. This is true for our media ecosystem at large and especially with regard to politics. I have no doubt in the run up CNN has been selling this debate less like the rational meeting of ideas and policy that it should be, and more like the WWE cage match they wish it to be.

Optics is everything. It matters less and less about what you actually believe and more about how you appear. Do you seem strong or weak? Are you too slick or are you authentic? Are you a woman or man? Far removed are any discussions about the emotional toll a political campaign takes on its candidates or the flaws of a political process that feels more like a circus than the essential job interview that it should be.

That being said, this is the last debate before the Iowa Caucuses so it’s really are last chance to see and hear from these candidates truly unvarnished. It may have seemed like a slog up until now, but it’s about to start moving fast. Look for the substantive differences. Decide on who you think would be best for the country. Beating Trump is the given for every candidate on stage, an argument could be made for every single one of them on why they are the most electable. The word is meaningless now. Vote the one who resonates most with you.

My hope is that foreign policy is given a decent chunk of time by the moderators. This an area that is criminally underrepresented in most Americans’ media diet, and few realize that America’s foreign policy actions have ramifications all around the world and domestically as well. I’d argue more Americans have been affected by U.S. foreign policy decisions than any major domestic action taken by the government in the last one hundred years.

It’s also an area that the candidates can be a bit wishy washy on. Pinning down what they believe and how they would act in times of crisis is crucial. With the recent events in Iran, the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, and the continued Palestinian-Israeli conflict, getting answers to these questions is as important as ever.


CNN. can. suck. it. Why they can’t post the livestream on YouTube is beyond me or at the very least fix their website so its not all jittery 90% of the time! This is the last major chance voters will have to examine the candidates before voting officially begins and CNN can’t loosen its dogged obsession with advertising money for one solitary second. Everyone else, MSNBC, the New York Times, PBS has found within themselves the strength to provide this momentous event as freely as possible, with little to no restrictions. Not CNN. Their livestream was garbage.

Anyway, when the CNN website or the app wasn’t buffering, the debate was solid for a variety of reasons. A significant portion in the beginning was devoted to foreign policy, a welcome change to the usual opening bout concerning healthcare. They covered quite a bit of ground, but I think Elizabeth Warren gave the best answer saying unequivocally that we must bring our troops home. She went on to mention that at some point we have to stop solving diplomatic questions with military might. It never works.

Bernie had an awkward night. In a lot of ways he was his old reliable self, except on two counts: the implication that he mentioned to Warren last year that a woman couldn’t win the nomination and his refusal to vote for the UMSCA. Part of this is to be expected as he recently gained frontrunner status in Iowa according to the acclaimed De Moines Register, and part is his abject refusal to compromise even a little bit. Tonight we saw it nibble at him a bit. Warren again drew a great contrast saying that while the UMSCA wasn’t perfect. We pass it to help the farmers and workers it helps and the next day, we get to work on making things even better.

With regards to allegations of sexism, this is a non-story. Look it’s possible Sanders said it. That does not mean he’s sexist. It’s reasonable after the defeat of a woman who was the most qualified candidate in history in favor of Donald Trump to come a way from all of it feeling like the country wouldn’t elect a women president any time soon. It’s reasonable. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s reasonable.

The problem is that it’s very un-Bernie, so if it’s true it would force people to question Bernie‘s carefully managed image of moral indignity at the system. I also find it rich that Bernie supporters, who have been gatekeeping Warren and antagonizing her followers for months, clutch their pearls at the thought of the tables being turned even for a little bit. It’s okay. Bernie’s not perfect. No one is. Breathe.

Other takes include I don’t actually hate Tom Steyer. He actually made some salient points. I liked is climate change answer and his take on foreign policy. Buttigieg and Biden felt overshadowed by the two progressives. I even found Steyer more interesting than them.

It’s also sad that all of our diversity on stage has evaporated. It speaks to a variety of problems beyond the edges of even the Democratic Party. Moreover, I did miss Yang’s presence on the stage. I hope he finds a way to come back. Even if he doesn’t get the nomination, I hope he continues to be active in politics for years to come.

Finally, in three weeks, voting will have begun, providing some much needed data to back up our assertions so far on who is electable. The one thing I know for certain after watching is that it’s still anyone’s game among this crop of tope candidates.

Also, in my opinion, Warren won this debate. Tell me why i’m wrong. ;)

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