Democratic Debates: The Moderates Strike Back
All told, this first night’s after effect is somewhat dependent on what happens on night two, but it is doubtful anything meaningful changed.
“In this discussion already tonight,” Rep Tim Ryan said on the stage last night, “we’ve talked about taking private health insurance away from union members in the industrial Midwest, we’ve talked about decriminalizing the border, and we’ve talked about giving free health care to undocumented workers when so many Americans are struggling to pay for their health care. I quite frankly don’t think that is an agenda that we can move forward on and win.”
Before I even had that cut-and-pasted onto this piece the Trump surrogates where splashing it all over social media. Ryan, John Hickenlooper, John Delaney, and newcomer Steve Bullock all took turns aiming fire at their more progressive counterparts generally and the two progressives at the center of the stage specifically. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders spent most of the night defending themselves and a more progressive agenda for the Democratic Party trying to oust President Donald Trump.
The first part of round two of the Democratic Primary Debates saw the moderates try to get their voices heard against the progressives who were the center of attention both on the stage and in the coverage of the party as of late. With frontrunner and relatively moderate Joe Biden waiting for night two, Warren and Sanders were the center of attention both in positioning and as targets for attack. It all lead to a long debate that ranged from a rather in-depth discussion on healthcare to broader topics such as trade, race, climate change, the economy, and the one thing to bind them all — defeating President Donald J Trump.
The only newcomer to the stage was Montana Governor Steve Bullock, and for two-plus hours he was having himself quite a night until he tripped on a nuclear question that both in pronunciation and Wile E Coyote over-the-cliff scrambling put an end to Bullockmania before it really got rolling. Marianne Williamson received the biggest cheers, most google searches, and the internet attention award for her answers that ranged from “pox on this whole house” to invocation of “dark mystic forces.” John Delaney managed to get #Delaneymentum trending for a while sparing with Elizabeth Warren before she one-lined him back to the 0% bracket from whence he had come. Hickenlooper continued his dislike for Bernie Sanders, and Beto O’Rourke & Amy Klobuchar were also there along with the aforementioned Tim Ryan.
The problem with the two night debate format is with the front-runner watching on TV while awaiting the second night, most of what happened here will be forgotten about come tomorrow evening. The much juicier matchup of Joe Biden already promising to go after Senator’s Kamala Harris and Corey Booker, who will flank the former VP on the stage, is in sharp contrast to fellow travelers Warren and Sanders declaring and holding to their insistence they would not be attacking each other. It was sound strategy for the moment, as indeed it allowed a broader progressive front between the two against the also-rans attacking them, but in the long run isn’t helping either candidate. The truth is with Sanders, Warren, and Kamala Harris bottlenecked for places 2–4 in polling since the last debate, they all need each others voters to climb Mt. Biden. Senator Harris will get the front-runner, while Sanders and Warren were punching down to the Delaneys and Hickenloopers of the world. Their camps can spin it any way they want to, but it’s hard to see how barely 24 hours of news cycle and not much to brag about helps them before Joe vs Harris II dominates tomorrow and Thursday. While the first night talked about race, the second night will be doing so with all the candidates of color. The first night had a, frankly, really good debate and discussion on healthcare, but the second night will have Biden being a full-throated champion of the Affordable Care Act he can actually hold claim to as others find their places on the M4A spectrum.
In other words, Biden probably won the first night of second debates without ever setting foot on the stage. The gathering of moderates that won’t be making the cut to the next debates made the case for him, and in the two progressives having to answer lesser competition their clips will contrast to Biden the front-runner who they weren’t even on the stage with. Much was made of Kamala Harris’ well-planned attack on a shaky Biden in the last debate, and both her and Senator Warren were recipients of fawning media coverage of them “surging” or “breaking out” but the fact of the matter is the polls are basically where they were before the first debate as we conclude the second: Joe Biden way out in front. The narratives can keep talking about the horse race and the rise of progressive ideals, but we now have months worth of data that a large swath of the Democratic party is still riding with Joe Biden for the moment. When the Trump campaign itself is tweeting out MSNBC segments on the popularity, or lack there of, of some of the key progressive issues from the debate, the unresolved schism in the party reflected in Biden’s resilient polling becomes a bit clearer:
All told, this first night’s after effect is somewhat dependent on what happens on night two, but it is doubtful anything meaningful changed. Till something changes it, this is a three-tiered race of Biden at the top, Warren, Harris and a floored out Bernie Sanders below, and then everyone else. And most of the everyone else will, mercifully, be gone come September. So same time, same channel tomorrow night to see the reverse of night one, as the frontrunning moderate Joe Biden takes center stage to weather the assault from all sides that is surely coming.
So the speaking times:
And the highlights, in order of their placement onstage, left to right:
Spiritualist and author Marianne Williamson
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass
former Rep. Beto O’Rourke D-Texas
former Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo
former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md
Gov. Steve Bullock, D-Mont
Originally published at https://ordinary-times.com on July 31, 2019.