Debate discussion: chime in

February 20, 2020 • 8:15 am

As I said this morning, I didn’t watch last night’s Democratic debate, but I’m watching it now as I work (from the ink below). But it’s distracting, and I may have to stop.

I gather from the media reports that it was pretty fractious, with everyone going after Bloomberg and Sanders. I’m still amazed that Sanders is the front-runner, which seems to derive solely from his victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, tiny states that are nearly all white. I’ll vote for him in November if he’s nominated, but he’s not my favorite candidate. (In fact, no candidate gets my juices flowing, and so I’m not sure who I’ll vote for in the Illinois primaries.)

The New York Times columnists and contributors have discussed the debate performances and ranked them on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the highest. Here are their rankings and scores:

Elizabeth Warren, 8.4
Bernie Sanders, 7.2
Pete Buttigieg, 6.9
Joe Biden, 6.2
Amy Klobuchar, 6.0
Michael Bloomberg, a bottom-scraping 2.9!

I see you can watch the full debate (1 hour, 38 minutes) at the NBC News site (click on screenshot):

So, since I’ve only watched a few minutes of the debate (and am already cringing), I’m sure most American readers have, and so weigh in below with your take. Did Bloomberg shoot himself in the foot? Is Sanders unstoppable? If so, can he beat Trump? This is all prognostication, of course, and it’s not pleasant to see the Dems attacking each other this way, but hey, there are big stakes and they have to distinguish themselves from the other Dems.

Reader Pliny the in Between’s take on the debate:

154 thoughts on “Debate discussion: chime in

  1. I think this “debate” had two results. It was an attack on the billionaire, no surprise there. It was also a time for others to get back into form or improve their lower status in this popularity contest.

    My subjective opinion is they did not spend enough time going after Bernie. After all, he is the lead. I also saw a personal attack by Mayor Pete on Klobuchar. I am not sure why he did this but it did not turn out well for him. Making a big deal about forgetting the name of the leader of Mexico – so what? Just kind of petty. I do not think Biden is particularly up for this but that has been the case since the beginning. How will all of this affect Bloomberg’s standing. It won’t help. I think Mayor Pete may have had the best line – something about Bernie and Bloomberg being something other than what he is – Democrat.

    1. I should also say something about the NBC media who put this thing on. They mostly sucked all the way around. They went right down the same old rabbit hole spending lots of time on health care. They have beat it to death and for nothing. These news people did not ask one question on foreign policy. Nothing. What the hell is the media doing besides creating fights among the candidates. They are about nothing but ratings.

      1. Indeed. I was especially annoyed by the stupid questioning of Klobuchar about having blanked on a previous interview on the name of Mexico’s president. It was petty and stupid questioning.

    2. It was a bit petty but if harsh questioning can almost make Klobuchar cry, is she really presidential material? Can she really withstand Trump’s campaign assaults? Even if one ignores the crying, she didn’t handle it at all well.

    3. I don’t like the fighting, but I think the Buttigieg vs. Klobuchar thing made sense. With Biden faltering and Buttigieg and Klobuchar with upward momentum; those two are both competing against each other to take over the middle lane. I saw the Telemundo flub and it didn’t come off well. She came off like she had no idea and was trying to fake it at first. Steyer failed the question too. Of course, Buttigieg wanted to bring it up since he was the only one of the three they interviewed that knew Mexico’s president. Its not like Buttigieg started things either. Klobuchar’s disdainful remark about Pete was many months ago.

      Since Buttigieg is probably my #1 pick and Klobuchar is my #2, I think they really are competing against each other for the same section of voters. They know that Bernie already has his segment locked down and they need to try and consolidate quickly.

          1. Oh, OK, thanks. I wish Steyer were still in the running, although I guess he’s not totally out.

  2. I watched it. At one point, Bloomberg was saved by the bell when the moderators called a break after Liz Warren hit him with series of heavy shots about Bloomberg’s non-disclosure agreements with several woman concerning the settlement of sexual-harassment claims.

    Bloomberg’s cut-man must’ve come out of his corner during the commercial break to patch him up, since he was looking like journeyman heavyweight fighter Chuck Wepner, known as the “Bayonne Bleeder.”

    I think it’s a good thing for the Democratic candidates to mix it up some in the debates. It’ll toughen ’em up, ensure that the eventual nominee in the general election can take a punch. “Politics ain’t beanbag,” as Finley Peter Dunne’s Mr. Dooley used to say.

  3. “Did Bloomberg shoot himself in the foot?”

    Yes, Bloomberg shot himself in the foot. And Warren shot him in the neck.

  4. The debate was vicious and a fiasco for the Democratic Party. It had more mudslinging than any other debate I’ve watched, ever! There were the usual meaningless arguments over the best healthcare plan. To my surprise, I thought that Biden came off best. He was fairly calm, coherent, and did not get into the mud as much as the other candidates. Sanders had to defend his socialism and not all that well. Klobuchar and Buttigieg seem to dislike each other intensely. Warren attacked everyone. By far, the biggest loser was Michael Bloomberg. All his commercials could not cover up the fact that he looked pitiable. In particular, he looked like a deer in the headlights when asked whether he would release the women from honoring the non-disclosure agreements he had them sign. He refused. He mumbled something about that the women seemed to accept them. This is the exchange with Warren:

    WARREN: Mr. Mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those nondisclosure agreements? So we can hear their side of the story?
    BLOOMBERG: We have very few nondisclosure agreements —
    WARREN: How many is that?
    BLOOMBERG: Let me finish.
    WARREN How many is that?
    BLOOMBERG: None of them accuse me of doing anything other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told. And let me just—there’s agreements between two parties that wanted to keep it quiet. And that’s up to them. They signed those agreements and we’ll live with it.

    If Bloomberg is the nominee, it will destroy the argument that Trump is a moral pig. Bloomberg seems no better. Trump would crush Bloomberg in a debate. I fear that Trump was the big winner because almost no time was spent on attacking him.

    My biggest takeaway is that Bloomberg must not be the nominee. My second takeaway is that this debate did not nothing to promote party unity. I think there was a lot of bitterness shown that will not dissipate when the ultimate nominee is chosen and all the others make pro forma announcements that they will support that person.

    Osita Nwanevu at the New Republic has an assessment of the debate that I largely agree with:

    1. I certainly agree with the conclusion of that article. At the rate we are going the democratic party simply has no leader. If they had any real thought about this they would get back to the DNC and overhaul this debate theme and create something that actually helps to select a candidate.

      1. Isn’t voting what is supposed to select a candidate? Why do people think the selection should be made before anyone who doesn’t live in Iowa or New Hampshire votes?

        1. It’s high time the Democrats came up with another system for selecting its presidential nominees. There’s no good goddam reason why Iowa and New Hampshire should go first every year — except that the entitled fucks in those states have come to think of it as their god-given right to have prospective candidates spend a year there wooing them one-on-one by by repeatedly attending their private little soirées and kaffeeklatsches.

          On the one hand, it would make sense simply to hold a national primary with the winner running as the nominee. The argument against this is that it would cut out all but the super rich or well-funded candidates who can afford to run a national campaign from the get-go, especially given that SCOTUS took the cuffs off campaign financing in the Citizens United case.

          If the Party’s to keep the state-by-by state primary system, it should be done on a rotating basis, with a preference given to swing states having a population representative of the Party as a whole — not to states like Iowa and NH that are whiter than Miracle Whip on Wonder Bread, or to South Carolina which, while it sports a diverse Party membership, is never gonna swing Democratic in the general election come hell or high water.

          1. I don’t disagree at all with your desire to get the system changed. It isn’t, however, just the Democrats who use this system. Republicans do to, not that it makes any difference in this cycle. The point, I think, here is that you use the system you’ve got until that time comes. And until more voters have had a chance to chime in, I don’t think it makes much sense to complain about Democrats not having chosen their candidate yet.

      2. Isn’t this process about selecting a leader?

        I don’t see the current situation as a bad thing at all, unless the losers’ supporters throw their toys out of the box and fail to show up for the real election.

    2. “If Bloomberg is the nominee, it will destroy the argument that Trump is a moral pig.”

      I disagree with this.

      No one can touch Trump’s levels of misbehavior.

      And the Trumpers are truly immune to data.

      One of my relatives (cringing in shame) posted a picture on FB yesterday of a loon wearing a T shirt that said:

      Obama: No Jobs

      Trump: More jobs

      Clinton: Blow jobs

      That is the level of thought, the understanding of the data, and the parsing of “morality” for these people.

      Der Drumpfenfuhrer lives in a fake, gold-plated tower and says he’s really rich (richer than anyone in history!) therefore, he gets a total pass on his two (certain, known) affairs, which included breaking campaign finance laws for the pay-offs. Total pass.

      Trump has done nothing to affect the jobs in this country, he’s just riding Obama’s coattails:

      1. What I am saying is that if Bloomberg is the nominee and doesn’t release the women from the NDAs, he will be accused (rightly or wrongly) that he is morally on the par with Trump. Thus, the moral issue against Trump would be negated.

      2. Bloomberg doesn’t have to be as bad as Trump to still be an awful choice. Is it worth installing a half-Trump in order to oust a full-Trump? What about a three-quarters-Trump? How has running on the “lesser of two evils” ticket worked for Dems in the recent past?

        1. What I care about are two things:

          Can they beat Trump?, big No. 1
          What will they do in office?

          I actually don’t give a rat’s ass about Bloomberg’s past (except as it bears on No. 1)

          I really care about what he would do in office.

          I don’t consider him a “half-Trump” by any stretch of the imagination:

          His policies are likely to be acceptable to vast majority of Dems.

          He spent a ton of his own money (many millions) on House races in 2018 of which 21 were successful for the Dems, of which 15 were women (71%).

          He has pledged to spend what ever it takes to get a Dem elected in 2020, whoever the nominee is.

          Not a half-Trump.

  5. “… In fact, no candidate gets my juices flowing“

    Perhaps this is a favorable condition – in control, pensive, disciplined, cautious – unmotivated by the passions, invulnerable to cynicism…

    1. There is always a tension between wishing for a white knight, and accepting that government means the people make or break the country. It is dull, bureaucratic, legislation that actually counts. Votes for dog catcher. The willingness to vote an increase in your own taxes to make things better.

  6. Not specifically about the debate but seems the only democratic candidate that Trump’s campaign team is worried about is Klobuchar (assuming you trust Robert Cahaly which is debatable).

        1. I disagree. Unless she has something really horrible in her closet, they can be written off as inconsequential grumblings of staff with a boss with a lot on her plate. Based on her almost coming to tears last night when pushed on her inability to remember the Mexico leader’s name, it will be good for her image to appear tough.

        2. Well, if you want to descend to that level, which maybe you do if you want to get rid of Trump, I bet you could find plenty of disgruntled ex Trump employees. Certainly, he spent a lot of time shafting contractors before he became president.

          1. Trump will descend to any depth in order to win. There is no bottom to the man, which is why his mouth spouts so much shit.

            The thing is – the Democratic Party is fundamentally a labour party. That is why it courts minority votes, because that’s a big chunk of the working class.

            The Republicans are a boss’s party, this is why Trump has spent so much time cutting environmental protections, reducing regulations on corporations etc…

            What is fatal to one isn’t fatal to the other. Part of the problem with dealing with Trump has been treating him as if he was a Democratic President rather than a Republican one., when the sorts of weaknesses that would depress his base are different.

            Anyway for a Democratic candidate, a big chunk of your vote is going to be working people. The Democrats tend to have a lock on the youth vote because of this.

            That youth vote will identify very intensely with individual stories about suffering under a bad boss, because there are a lot of shitty bosses out there.

            All Trump needs to do to win in that exchange, is have people say, “I can’t vote for either,” because most of the people who would care, would otherwise vote Democratic.

            It doesn’t mean that I think she’s a guaranteed loss, though I think this is a very serious problem with her campaign, it is that I think this is the direction the oppo research would take in attacking her.

        3. And each of those bad stories are easily matched by many positive stories.

          If our standard is going to be zero disgruntled employees, we may as well throw in the towel right now.

  7. I thought they appeared desperate except for Mike who looked unprepared. Top two for me were Pete and Amy. No good choices to pick from. Warren looked food defending Amy and going after Mike, but not other than that. Joe and Biden are tired old men, rigid in their speaking and thinking.

    1. “Joe and Biden are tired old men, rigid in their speaking and thinking.”

      I should think that one should look forward to attaining the age (whatever that is) of a “tired old man.” Not everyone gets to.

      The film “The Three Faces of Eve” comes to mind, as well as sentence proof-reading, not a strong characteristic of every young man.

      1. I am 77, same age as they are or younger. I know how I feel, tired old and too rigid in my thinking. Believe same applies to them. Happy and thankful to have gotten to this age, but not looking for a job as chief executive of anything.

        1. I will be 50 next week & I feel tired and old and have felt this way since I was 35. Still open to new ideas though.

        2. I will be 50 next week & I feel tired and old and have felt this way since I was 35. Still open to new ideas though.

  8. The 2020 Democratic nomination race and the 2016 Republican race ain’t in the same ballpark, ain’t the same league, ain’t even the same sport (as Samuel Jackson said about foot massages and cunnilingus in Pulp Fiction 🙂 ), but I’m starting to see one disturbing similarity: now, especially with Elizabeth seemingly tacking back to the center last night, there’re five candidates essentially competing for the center-left vote, while the Bern has the left flank essentially to himself.

    It’s like the early going of the 2016 Republican primaries when you had Jeb! and Chris Christie and John Kasich and Marco Rubio (and, eventually, even Ted Cruz) tearing into each other trying to consolidate the non-Trump vote, while the Donald had the extreme wingnut flank to himself and started rolling up the majority of delegates in the early primaries (while winning just 20-30% of the popular vote in each state). None of the other candidates wanted to take Trump on in the early going, since they saw that the real action and excitement lay with his Birther base, and since they figured they could subsume that energy into their own campaigns once Trump self-destructed (as would have any other candidate who said and did the outrageous crap Trump did).

    If Bernie ends up winning the Nevada caucuses on Saturday and holds his own in South Carolina the following week, he’ll have a head of steam going into Super Tuesday. If he takes the majority of delegates up for grabs that day, it could be like trying to stop a runaway freight train on the way to the convention in Milwaukee in July.

    1. I don’t buy the metaphor of Bernie as a runaway train, at least not yet. Delegates per state are divided proportionately as long as the candidate receive 15%. I don’t think there are any winner-take-all states. Hence, there is a real possibility of a contested convention, particularly if three or four candidates stay to the end.

      This site discusses the delegation allocation rules:

      1. If there’s a contested convention (which would be the first in the US since ’52, when Uncle Adlai won the Democratic nomination in the third ballot), I think the candidate going in with the lead in delegates should be the presumptive nominee — but the strength of that presumption should depend upon how close to the magic number the leader is and how far he or she is ahead of the other contenders.

        A floor fight at the DNC would likely be a bruising and ugly battle, possibly leading to enduring hard feelings among the leading candidates and Party bigwigs. But it might be the best way to settle upon a consensus candidate widely acceptable to the Democratic Party rank-and-file. Which, in the end, is what really matters.

        It would also be kind of a kick for us political junkies, since the national conventions over the last four decades (going back at least to the run Reagan made at Gerald Ford at the ’76 RNC) have become naught but staged, made-for-teevee showcases for the foregone nominees, lacking anything resembling drama or excitement. Could be interesting to have a return to the wheeling’n’dealing of the old (now no doubt smoke-free) smoke-filled rooms.

        1. I think the delegates should vote on the first ballot as they are pledged to do. To do otherwise would be to betray those who elected them. I listened to both conventions in full in 1952 as a ten year old. They were not as disruptive as they are made out to be.
          If we want to elect the candidates by popular vote first past the post I don’t disagree with that, but people should know in advance, not by changing the rules in midstream.

          1. My first trip to the voting booth was the ’52 election. I was in utero at the time, and my mom cast the first vote of her 23-year-old life by pulling the lever for Adlai over Ike.

            Nineteen and a half years later, a few months after the 26th Amendment had lowered the voting age to 18, the moms and I returned to the same polling place together so we could each cast a primary ballot for George McGovern.

          2. I voted for George also. I knew Nixon was crazy paranoid.

            My parents never voted republican, but they really disliked Stevenson. On election day we were driving back from visiting my aunt in the Florida panhandle and listened to the returns on the radio. I never asked my parents if they voted by absentee ballot in advance. Still don’t know for sure.

          3. “My parents never voted republican, but they really disliked Stevenson.”

            Did they ever say why they so thought? Was it perhaps because he was not sufficiently thoughtful, rational, intellectually curious?

          4. I, too, voted for the first time when I cast my ballot for McGovern. My parents had been Stevenson supporters when I was a kid but in ’72 they voted for Nixon.

            I think they were ever-after ashamed of that fact. And rightfully so, IMO.

        2. Let’s play out this scenario. Assume that going into the convention Bernie has 35% of the pledged delegates; Biden and Bloomberg each have 20%; the other candidates combine have 25%. Since the delegates are pledged there would have to be a second ballot (it is possible that a candidate could release his/her delegates before the first ballot, but I’m not sure of this). In the second ballot, the 771 superdelegates would be allowed to vote. They can’t vote on the first ballot. Thus, the total number of voting delegates from the first to the second ballot will go up from 3,979 to 4,750. Without doing the math, it would seem that Bernie would have to make a lot of concessions to get enough votes from the other candidates plus the superdelegates to gain the nomination on an early ballot.

          Despite protestations from Bernie and his fans, I don’t see the other candidates throwing their delegates to him, even on the second ballot. If a candidate doesn’t have a majority going into the convention (or at least 45%), I would expect a bruising and bitter fracas, all working to Trump’s favor. But, it would certainly be fun for political junkies and cable news.

          This site explains how the superdelegates work.

          1. I agree that no other candidates will back Bernie, especially in the first round at a contested convention. Once the superdelegates come into play, Bernie’s chances go way down. If he goes into the convention with a plurality and loses, the Democrats will lose in the general due to the ensuing infighting. If he wins the nomination, he will be destroyed by Trump in the general, which will have potentially equally poor consequences for the Democratic Party.

            We live in interesting times.

          2. What Trump does is irrelevant. He will be equally vicious to anyone who gets the nomination, under any circumstances.

  9. Rather than proposing trillions in new spending; rather than pushing legislation that will never get through a Republican-controlled chamber of Congress; rather than boringly promoting inspiration as a factor in voting for a particular candidate, put President Barf on the defensive. Make him defend his idiotic and pandering policies: the details of which he likely knows little about.

    I lean toward Buttigieg for numerous reasons but sincerely I would vote for warm excrement in a shoe over the current occupant: an occupant who shouldn’t be allowed to go on a tour of the White House let alone live there.

    “Trump did that: I would do this. Trump did that: I would do this…” Beat the voters over the head with all the specific illegalities and mixing of religion and the intended entrenchment of an actual deep state. Trump wants resignations so he can actually install the very thing he whines about.

    Each candidate should focus on his/her own campaign while stating publicly that whoever gets the nomination, he/she must be supported. This needs to be said, by every candidate, repeatedly.

    If Bernie voters stay home because their guy loses, those lost votes essentially go to the conman. So too of those petty stay-at-home voters who support any other losing candidate.

    Bloomberg has a shady record that he transparently dodges and it’s equally absurd that his taxes weren’t prepared ahead of time — or that he didn’t have a strategy to deal with his multiple NDAs: it’s the same slimy excuses as President Steak-Salesman. Bloomberg, philanthropy aside, can take his greasy money and throw it into Super PACs, where it will end up anyway.

    Klobuchar works hard with an OK record and seems decent but she gets flustered when under attack or attacking: I just think Trumpy will crush her on a debate stage, because apparently zingers are all that matter.

    Biden can’t speak in full sentences.

    Warren’s potential performance in swing-states is concerning.

    And Bernie’s hyperbole is so excessive that even where his policies are reasonable, they’re not. Everything has to be groundbreaking though the country mostly just wants a return to normal (with improvements, of course).

    So I’m left with Pete, who speaks with few words, honorably served his country, mindfully makes decisions, has a sense of humor, and who has a sharp and informed wit, which is especially important in light of the dumbbell we have as president.

    These debates add nothing. And any voter who doesn’t really know whom they’re voting for at this stage is completely worthless.

    Now get off my lawn.

    1. I agree that the Democrats, at least in the debates, need to spend much more time attacking Trump than attacking themselves.

      1. I agree in principle, but remember that they’re jockeying for the nomination. To do that, they have to set themselves apart from the others, and how do you do that without attacking the others?

    2. +1
      I was disappointed by Pete’s cheap shot at Amy’s forgetting AMLO’s name, but he’s still my choice (or Amy). Listening to Warren speak last night drove me absolutely up the proverbial wall. I’m sure she means well, and I will vote for her if she’s the nominee, but please don’t make me listen to her. She was terrible about interrupting last night, too.

      1. Yeah, it was uncomfortable watching Amy and Pete (my top two candidates at this point) go at it — like overhearing your aunt arguing with that nice neighbor boy down the street. 🙂

      2. If breathless histrionic bloviation were sufficient to yield victory, Warren would win hands down. I gather (that Warren perceives) that many if not most of the electorate require that in order to “connect” with a candidate. Otherwise, why does she act that way? (Of course, she may not be able to act otherwise, and may enjoy it.)

          1. I think she’d make a great president in spite of her lack of personal appeal. Very smart, very experienced, very much in touch with the workings of congress. So, a person of such great qualities should not be written off.

          2. Her idea to simply ban all fracking seems calculated solely to establish her Lefty credentials. She’ll likely be forced to abandon that position if she becomes president. Perhaps she would even abandon it if she won the primary. She has to know this but, if she does, it implies that she’s modulating her positions based on what gets her elected rather than any deep-seated belief or coherent plan. I suspect all politicians do a little of that kind of triangulation but it bothers me that she’s doing it so blatantly. It makes me wonder what she really believes.

            Of course, if she wins the nomination I wouldn’t hesitate to vote for her over Trump. Same for all the other Dems.

          3. “she’s modulating her positions based on what gets her elected rather than any deep-seated belief or coherent plan”

            These are not mutually exclusive. I’m pretty sure she does have a coherent plan, largely within the parameters of what’s actually possible. Medicaid for all will not be possible, for instance, so yes it’s a shifting public stance, but she’s using a strategy to get nominated right now. Let’s see if it works.

    3. If Bernie goes into a contested convention with a plurality and loses the nomination due to superdelegates, the Democrats will be lucky if his supporters simply stay home. The possibility of an independent run are non-negligible. Those votes could also go to a third party “protest” candidate.

      It will be interesting to see what the game board looks like after Super Tuesday.

  10. The NYT Columnists forgot to rank one of the candidates. Donald Trump won this debate with a 10.0 rating. What a pitiful set of candidates the Democrats are left with. Not a one mentioned Trump’s undermining of the Rule of Law, his assault on the courts, or all the crony pardons.

    This election may already be over.

    1. It would be totally useless for the candidates to stand around slamming Trump; how would that help us decide amongst them?

      1. They don’t have to “slam” him, candidates rather should explain how they will work with Congress and the people generally to make sure abuses of power and so on like Trump has done do not happen again; that would be a way to constructively differentiate.

  11. I favor Warren, who is intelligent and thoughtful and has well-thought-out plans. Buttigieg or Klobuchar would be my second choice. I find Sanders too ideologically rigid.

    As a naturalized U.S. citizen, I continue to be amazed by the number of Americans who are scared of Medicare for All. “OMG M4A is evil communism!!!11!1!” Canada has Medicare for All, and although it’s imperfect, no Canadian would trade their healthcare system for the kludgy mess the U.S. has.

    Bottom line: I’m voting for Warren on Super Tuesday and for anyone, anything, including a trained porcupine or moldy cheese sandwich or literally any person or entity who ends up running against Agent Orange in November.

    1. The widespread attack on Medicare For All seems to me to be premature. We need to see the actual legislation and determine whether the benefits outweigh the costs. Each person would have to determine if its cost through increased taxes would be outweighed by its essentially free care and the quality and scope of the care. Of course, there would some losers: the insurance companies and people who have Cadillac plans (wide coverage with all or most of the premium picked up by the employer). I have an open mind on Medicare For All. I need to know many more details of actual proposed legislation before making up my mind. In any case, the chances of such legislation passing in the near future is near zero.

      1. I think the debate on Medicare for All comes down to a difference between those candidates that want to go directly for European style healthcare as a revolutionary step and those that acknowledge that that is where we want to end up but that you can’t turn the supertanker of US healthcare on a dime like that. I suspect they all know that the latter is the truth but differ on whether acknowledging that truth is a winning position at the moment.

        1. It’s a four-year transition (Bernard) vs. an imaginary transition (all the rest). Insurance money is flowing heavily in order to spike M4A.

      2. Historian, I agree with you re: weighing costs and benefits. There’s a saying in construction: “Fast, cheap, high quality; pick any two, but you can’t have all three.” It’s the same in healthcare: pick any two of affordability, high quality, and universal coverage.

        Every civilized nation other than the U.S. has agreed that universal coverage is a must, and has struck some kind of compromise on quality vs. affordability. U.S. healthcare is the worst of all worlds: not affordable, not universal, and quality varies widely depending on each individual’s coverage. I wish we joined the rest of the civilized world, but to do that we must have a rational discussion about necessary trade-offs, as you suggest, rather than a knee-jerk “Oh no government scary high taxes evil!!!” reaction that is typical of right-wing America.

    2. I agree on Medicare for all; but beating Trump is more important that that right now.

      I know quite a few Canadian US residents. All of them have kept their CA citizenship in order to retain access to Canada’s Medicare (the original Medicare).

  12. I disagree with those that call the debate a big win for Warren. Sure, she was good at slamming others but that alone doesn’t make her a good candidate. Her intent to ban all fracking puts her in Bernie’s “I’m more liberal than anyone” fake revolution camp. The both have ideas that they’ll never get passed by Congress and, if passed, would be terrible policy.

    1. I really don’t get this complaint and yet I see it everywhere. “This candidate has some (IMO) bad ideas that won’t ever be implemented.” Okay? Then why not consider any of numerous other policies instead of hyper-focusing on the ones that by your own logic are the least important since they won’t ever come to pass?

      1. “Then why not consider any of numerous other policies instead of hyper-focusing on the ones that by your own logic are the least important since they won’t ever come to pass?”

        Easy answer. If a couple of the candidate’s positions don’t acknowledge reality, then her other positions are suspect. I get the attraction of calling for revolution and the overthrow of the old, bad ways but I want a president that can actually get things done.

        1. I see the moderates attempting to follow in the Obama mold of negotiating against themselves before they’ve even won a spot at the table knowing Republicans are going to make massive counter-demands no matter what they bring as being very unable to get anything done.

          The incremental progress approach does not work at all when one party is actively attempting to drag the country backwards by decades or centuries. The reality that everyone needs to acknowledge is that statesmanship is dead and Republicans killed it. There will be no negotiation and you will have to fight for everything you want to do.

          1. I wasn’t so much talking about getting Republicans onboard with their plans as their plans meeting with the realities of budgets and practical making of laws. Many things will be impossible unless the Dems win the Senate and get rid of McConnell.

    2. I’ll repeat an observation I saw someone make elsewhere. After each debate, the paper’s declare a debate winner, but the very next poll then shows the “winner” move down. Meanwhile, Buttigieg and Klobuchar have moved up in the polls after nearly each debate and don’t get much recognition for that fact that more people want to vote for them after hearing them speak.

  13. That’s a good one by Pliny the in Between. Thing is, were it not for that “natural born citizen” thing, Macron might just be available, since back home in the land of Liberté, Égalité, et Fraternité, Manny’s approval rating his hovering in the low to mid 30s.

    1. Yeah France is positioned to elect a populist government and with Merkel stepping down I wonder what will go on in Germany to. The heart of Europe may be populist. I’m sure there’s a heart joke in there somewhere.

        1. Haha. I already have a satire song I sing regularly: Makin’ It Worse.

          Makin it worse takes a little longer
          Makin it worse takes a little time

  14. So after virtually everyone agreed that Bloomberg went down like a lead balloon last night, he’s out this morning posting deceptively edited video of the debates which make his performance look marginally less embarrassing.

    1. What were you expecting, mate, feathers?*

      *Punch line to an old joke about a Cockney lass and a Yank fella sitting at a bus-stop when a breeze blows her skirt up revealing she isn’t wearing underwear. To break the embarrassing silence that follows, the Yank comments on the weather, “It’s a bit airy today, isn’t it?”

  15. After the 1968 Democratic Party convention, The McGovern–Fraser Commission reformed the candidate nomination process to make it oh-so democratic. This enabled me to caucus for McGovern during the 1972 primary season, and then to work in his disastrous presidential campaign. That experience led me to wonder
    whether an oh-so democratic nomination process is really the best possible idea.

    I have to say that last night’s debate made me long for the good old days long before The McGovern–Fraser Commission. That is, the days when presidential candidates were quite properly decided in secret in a smoke-filled room—leading to candidates like, say, FDR.

  16. I taped it, but didn’t watch. After reading all these comments, I won’t watch as I get the gist. Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…

        1. Yes, I’d forgotten about the jeering from the crowd directed at Biden. What were they saying? They were an epic fail in this mode of protesting. Their voices were so perfectly out of sync as to make their message completely unintelligible, to me anyway.

    1. Yeah, well, mere anarchy could be loosed upon the world if that rough beast, its hour come at last, is permitted to slouch back to Washington.

  17. Warren certainly tried and succeeded in proving that she would be a tough opponent against Trump. Pete seemed petty when insistently questioning Amy’s experience (the gall of the millenial mayor!). Biden continues to display his mental decline, which is just sad; not his worst night, but the man simply cannot get his thoughts out coherently and that should be disqualifying. Bloomberg, to everyone’s surprise, had *zero* charisma and was completely out of his element. Trump may well win the biggest landslide victory of all time if Mike is the nominee, especially as liberals would not just be forced to hold their nose to vote for him, but would have to amputate.

    Regardless of all that fracas, Bernie came out decent, likeable, and is the only one who genuinely wants to reinstate the postwar social contract, when working people materially benefited from economic growth (imagine that!). His plan to have 20% worker representation on corporate boards was new. His only loss was to not go after Warren, while she has no qualms throwing occasional jabs at him. Doesn’t he realize she is the biggest threat to his share of the votes? I can’t make out the sense in treating her as a “friend” each time and laying off, especially since they don’t even seem to like each other.

    But the big takeaway, to me, was the last question, where Chuck Todd asked whether the candidate with the most delegates going into the convention should be the nominee, and to hell with the backroom dealing. All but Bernie said they would be fine with overturning the will of the voters. Shameful! It’s about time the DNC adopted the procedure of that genuinely far more democratic entity, which has NO superdelegates and which has historically demonstrated their fairness to outsider candidates: the RNC! The ending was a great way to get Bernie supporters in conspiracy mode once again. That should be great for turnout.

    1. All but Bernie said they would be fine with overturning the will of the voters. Shameful!

      As I recall, Bernie (whom I supported against Hillary in the last cycle) took the position that the 2016 nomination should go to the convention floor if no candidate emerged from the Democratic primaries with the requisite number of delegates (and many of his supporters continued to be intent on contesting Hillary’s nomination at the convention itself, even after she surpassed that number and after Bernie conceded).

      It’s all about whose ox is getting gored, I guess (or, if we’re talkin’ 2000, whose Gore got oxed).

      1. Yeah, you’re right. I’d change my comment to say it’s the process that’s awful. The candidates doing everything in their power to win is to be expected, and I would certainly be fuming if Bernie was down by only a handful of delegates and didn’t do a bit of backroom dealing himself. But they really ought to get rid of these annuated elites tipping the scale. The Republicans are more progressive on internal democracy, even with the latest DNC reforms.

        1. Pure democracy in the process brought us: George McGovern (biggest modern landslide) and Carter.

          The supers were added as a sort of senate to give some party stability/continuity and extra say to the party core and faithful. And why shouldn’t they? They have built the party structure.

          Hasn’t done too badly, in general.

          It’s mainly just Bernie supporters (Bernie has never been a Democrat) who are squawking about them.

          1. The influence of the party core heavily weighs against unorthodox candidates. And I think outsiders are a good thing, given the Democrats have been continuously shredding the social contract since 1980 onward, as they’ve been captured by FIRE and Silicon Valley.

            Bernie not being a Democrat is a plus. Others put a minus there, but really, who cares. Policy and electability are the major concerns.

          2. Totally agree on your last sentence. Those are my only priorities (but in reverse order).

            We must lance the boil in the White House and drain the poison from the system.

    2. Mayor Pete’s attack on Amy for not knowing the name of Mexico’s leader did sound a bit petty until he reminded the audience that she’s on some committee involving trade with Mexico (I forget which).

      I don’t think Warren’s competitiveness says anything about how she’ll handle Trump. Trump has no shame and a unique knack for controlling the subject. Her Dem opponents are regular old political debaters and stay away from personal attacks because they don’t want to look bad. Trump has none of that.

      1. I do expect Trump to bring back the classics. Like hovering over his debate opponent, and interjecting “Wrong!” at every opportunity. Liz certainly might lose her cool at his antics.

        1. Assuming Trump even submits to a debate which is very doubtful, IMHO. He’ll just tweet and talk over the helicopter to get his message across. He also has many, many sycophants willing to go after the candidate. They have just as little shame as he does. It’s going to take a lot to beat him, I’m afraid.

        2. One of Trump’s stunts in 2016 was to invite as his guests at the second presidential debate the women who’d accused Bill Clinton of sexual improprieties.

          Proper turnabout would seem to call for the 2020 Democratic nominee to invite Stormy Daniels, appropriately decked-out in a décolletage outfit, to sit in the guest box at a 2020 debate (though I understand Messrs. Cohen and Avanatti will be otherwise occupied and unable to attend).

          1. Perhaps if Warren wins the nomination and Trump debates her (a big if), he’ll invite the elders of whatever tribe she claimed to be a member of. That would be something.

          2. Knowing Trump, he’ll just hire some people (or, knowing Trump even better, get someone else to hire and pay for some people) to dress in “Injun” garb and stand up to do the “tomahawk chop.”

        3. He’s the frickin’ President, access to media anytime he wants, with the ability to sucker punch anyone anytime or “encourage”/direct his *minions* to do so.

          Why the heck would he bother with debate where *other* people get to speak?

    3. It’s about time the DNC adopted the procedure of that genuinely far more democratic entity, which has NO superdelegates and which has historically demonstrated their fairness to outsider candidates: the RNC!

      As I recall, Ted Cruz was able to poach some of Trump’s pledged delegates at 2016 state GOP conventions where the persons who sit as delegates were actually selected.

      Indeed, this was, as I recall, the original raison d’être for Trump’s bringing Paul Manafort (whose main claim to fame, other than having lobbied for some of the world’s worst dictators, was that he had served as the convention floor-manager for Gerald Ford when Ford fought off Ronald Reagan’s challenge at the ’76 RNC) into his campaign. Or at least that was the ostensible reason given; it may also have had something to do with Manafort’s willingness to work for free and his close ties to pro-Russia Ukrainian oligarchs.

    4. I don’t think they would necessarily be overturning the will of the people if they don’t give the nomination to Bernie and he has a plurality because it isn’t a two way race.

      It is would be very possible (maybe even probable) that the majority of democrats would have Bernie as their last choice, but he could still have the lead with 30% of the delegates. If 60% of the democrats would have chosen him last then they wouldn’t be thwarting the voters will.

      I think it is best if the candidates who realize they are out of the running try to send their delegates to the candidate who is most similar to them who is likely to the 2nd choice of the people who voted for them.

  18. I think Mission #1 is the defeat of Trump and the capture of both houses of Congress. Mission #2 is creating a progressive coalition to govern the country. We need work on the environment, controlling the defense budget, universal health care and reducing economic inequality with a fair tax code.
    Here is some humor to keep us all in focus.

  19. Regardless of policy specifics, what crucially matters for beating Trump is voter turnout. Will Pete, Amy, Joe, or Mike be able to energize enough people to get out of bed to vote blue? My gut tells me no. This is why I believe our best bet is to go with Liz or Bernie who will be most effective in motivating and mobilizing people to the polls.

    1. Maybe so, but weigh that against the risk of Republican-leaning suburban swing state voters who say, “I hate Trump and I’d gladly vote for Amy/Pete/Joe, but I hate socialism more, so if Bernie or Elizabeth runs against Trump, I’ll hold my nose and reelect the Orange One.” I’m still voting for Elizabeth in the primary, but am I making a mistake? I honestly don’t know.

      The young people who Feel The Bern are historically lousy at actually turning out to vote, and that’s disturbing.

      The question no one has the answer to: How do you maximize the number of inspired/energized voters while minimizing the number of scared/disgusted ones (scared either into staying home or into voting for your opponent)?

  20. I heard that this was the most watched debate. I attribute that to Bloomberg’s appearance. I’m not at all sad that Bloomberg flopped.

    1. I doubt he flopped as much as the pundits claim. His lack of reaction to many of the bombs thrown his way was somewhat Trumpian. The pundits said Trump had bad debate performances and we know how that turned out.

      I am not suggesting Bloomberg should be the Dem nominee but I suspect this performance won’t hurt him that much and he’ll do better in the next one. Whether that will be enough to give him the victory, I doubt it.

      1. Debates and viewer reaction is hard to gauge, that’s for sure. Though there seems to be correlation regarding Klobuchar’s successful NH debate and how that translated to 3rd place.

  21. This headline just in NYT:

    “Russia Backs Trump’s Re-election, and He Fears Democrats Will Exploit Its Support“

    Ya think?

  22. Biden was somewhat better Wednesday night than in previous “debates”, but he still seems to have more than a touch of lysdexia. Mayor Pete’s taxing of Amy Klobuchar for forgetting all four of Mexican president AMLO’s names was embarassingly petty, and did not increase my esteem for him.

    As with most of Uncle Bernie’s”revolutionary” proposals, the idea of worker representation on business governing boards is long-established in some West European countries. In Germany, this practice was mandated for businesses over a certain size in the Codetermination (Mitbestimmung) law of 1976, passed under Social Democratic Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. [BTW, Schmidt was routinely libelled as a “right-winger” by American pop-Leftists because of his robust support both for NATO and for countering the Soviet missile build-up.] A number of other European countries, but not the UK, now have similar laws.

    Some of us agree with most of Uncle Bernie’s proposals, but are put off by his combination of crotchetiness and rigidity. These are not trivial defects. Bernie’s particular character presumably impelled him to run again this time, rather than letting a younger stand-in carry the ball for the ideas he favors. If the outcome of his choice to act the Big Leader again results in a near civil war within the Democratic Party, as could happen, that will be catastrophic, and a sign that crigidiness is no virtue—and often leads to bad ends, as the Left has shown so many times in so many different contexts.

    1. I would be happy if all of Bernie’s policies were implemented. (Well, except the get-out-of-jail-free cards for college debt. Spend that money supporting the state universities and colleges instead. Or set up free 2-year Associates degrees from community colleges.)

      I really just want to beat Trump (and therefore will vote for whoever gets the DP nod). And I will be encouraging all my interlocutors to do the same too.

      I sincerely hope that the rest of the Dems (I’m looking at your, Bernie supporters) do the same, regardless of whether their favorite candidate gets the Nomination. And drive their friends, relatives, and neighbors to the polls.

      The Bernie question is a judgement call. Will he attract lots of young people to vote for his free stuff (and actually show up)? Will he attract lots of African Americans? Lots of Latinos? And how many of the working class who moved from Obama to Trump will he turn off? What’s the balance? No one knows.

      NV and SC will say much about Bernie’s appeal to AAs and Lxs.

      From everything I am hearing, my judgement is that the latter (the turn-off) will be greater than the rise in (historically no-show) younger voters. I can’t say about AAs and Lxs yet.

      As I’ve said elsewhere in the thread (ad nauseum I’m sure): What I am hearing in MN is, consistently: I hate Trump, give me a Democrat I can vote for (please!). But Bernie and Warren are definitely not it. I will not vote for them: Too far left.

      1. Good points, jblilie. In point of fact,
        Uncle Bernie & Co. propose measures that are mostly no more “radical” than the New Deal or 40-years-old programs of the Soc Dem parties of northern Europe. The trouble is that Uncle Bernie & Co. themselves insist that they are “too far Left” by constantly using the word “revolution”, and trumpeting that they are “socialism”. What is the point of this overheated rhetoric?

        It has exactly three effects. For old-timers like Uncle Bernie, it evidently reminds them of their youth in the YPSL. (And maybe for some others, their youth in the LYL, which was the Communists’ youth group.) For young things who have never heard of YPSL (or LYL), it gives a thrill of feeling transgressive. For Trump and other Republicans, it produces the ideal target to shoot down Democrats.
        How brilliant!

    2. “Mayor Pete’s taxing of Amy Klobuchar for forgetting all four of Mexican president AMLO’s names was embarassingly petty, and did not increase my esteem for him.”

      Perhaps he should be required to memorize the personal pronoun preferences of the other candidates.

  23. It’s important to focus on much more than winning the majority of Dems. As much or more important is turning out these:
    * Rarely and never voted people who tend to stay home on Election Day. Some believe politics does not relate to their life directly. Some are jaded and disgusted with politics generally; they don’t like any party (so don’t care about party loyalty either).
    * disgruntled Trump voters, current and former Republicans. Turn these ones out too.
    * independents and third party voters.
    * Bright-eyed, eager, naive and innocent folks (not just young people)who want to see Democracy in action, to have their votes actually count in selecting the nominee AND the President. Party loyalty, labels, polls and pundit opinions tend to matter less than the Party old guard may believe.
    * This is NOT an election to swing the pendulum back to Clinton years with a Moderate, kiss and make up with Republicans candidate. So don’t forget the many Radicals, young and old, looking for real change, absolutely including redistribution of wealth.
    * Smart people who wonder why all the criticism about paying for health care, housing, social services (too disruptive) but too little attention about balancing the costs of cutting tax rates for wealthy, military spending, bailing out banks and auto industry. Some people understand that the economy is healthiest when the bottom tiers of society have money to circulate.
    IMO it’s Bernie or Warren who will turn voters out. My parents were Eisenhower Republicans, and I have voted for Democratic Presidential candidates beginning with Lyndon B. Johnson. That means I am old and remember the Great Society programs, most of which have been dismantled by BOTH parties over time.
    I voted for Hillary in the end but supported Bernie from the get-go in 2016. He’s authentic. So is Elizabeth Warren. Trump should shake in his shoes to face either of them.

    1. ” I … remember the Great Society programs”

      Did they produce a “Great Society”?

      I watched a close relative stay permanently on Welfare until forced to work by the changes in the 90s. And has been gainfully employed ever since.

      1. We all can find examples to match the story of your relative staying put until he or she had to move off. Overall, though, the programs were able to meet basic needs for the numbers of people in this country born without “bootstraps” to pull up. Too many in rural areas, low income neighborhoods, the Rust Belt, crippled children, elderly and disabled have no safety net.

  24. We all can find examples to match the story of your relative staying put until he or she had to move off. Overall, though, the programs were able to meet basic needs for the numbers of people in this country born without “bootstraps” to pull up. Too many in rural areas, low income neighborhoods, the Rust Belt, crippled children, elderly and disabled have no safety net.

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