Debate Part II

And the winner is …

She’s not my first choice on policy, but damn would I pay money to see Kamala Harris on a debate stage with Trump.

And what’s that noise about Joe Biden being the best person to take on Trump? I never believed it, but after last night you’d have to be a Biden cult follower to still think he’s the Only One Who Can Beat Trump. His affable Uncle Joe act was not working for him, at all.

Greg Sargent has an interesting analysis. Biden has simultaneously been selling himself as a champion of civil rights while, at the same time, signaling to white working class voters that he’s still the guy who fought busing.

When we discuss Biden’s electability in the industrial Midwest, race is central to what we’re talking about, and we all know it.

The most charitable way to put this is that Biden comes from a Democratic Party that precedes its new “wokeness,” so those voters might be more comfortable with him. A less charitable way is that Biden’s past association with things like his opposition to busing — which meant capturing the political energy of white racial backlash — carries an implicit racial and cultural signaling that will reassure them.

One key reason that Biden’s nostalgia over white supremacist senators blew up on him is that it ripped the lid off of all this. Just as Harris does, I believe Biden when he insists he was, and is, horrified by their white supremacy.

But what still remains ambiguous is whether Biden does or does not conceive the source of his claimed appeal to conservative whites as rooted in subtle appeals to blue collar white identity politics, as Jamelle Bouie has detailed.

This ambiguity was pushed forward when Biden adamantly refused to back off his praise for segregationist senators and, worse, when he dressed down African American Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) over the matter.

Harris put Biden on notice that he’s not going to get away with it. And he won’t, with younger voters, although I’ve seen polling saying that older voters are willing to give him a pass. Well, we’ll see what the polls do.

If Harris was the biggest winner and Biden — who had the most to lose — the biggest loser, what about the rest of the field? My impression is that it came down to who did and did not hurt themselves. For example, Bernie Sanders was Bernie Sanders, and if you love Bernie you still love him, and if you don’t, you still don’t. I don’t think he was much of a factor last night, but he didn’t hurt himself.

Likewise Pete Buttigieg, who is mostly getting good reviews, didn’t hurt himself, but I don’t know if he helped himself. I suspect he mostly reinforced the impression he had already made on voters.

Michael Bennet had little speaking time, but when he did have the mic he managed to not be obnoxious. He may have helped himself with moderate voters, for what that’s worth.

I’m not sure about Kirsten Gillibrand. She was working hard at being assertive and did more than her share of interrupting. I remember agreeing with a lot of what she said. But no one is talking about Gillibrand this morning. She didn’t “break out.”

Andrew Yang had nothing to lose and little speaking time. He is mostly remembered today for not wearing a tie.

Now, to the second-tier losers. The Mr. Obnoxious Award goes to Eric Swalwell for his repeated bellowing of “pass the torch!” at Biden and Sanders.

John Hickenlooper remains The Candidate From the Past Century. I might have given him a second look in the 1980s. Well, no probably not then, either.

And last and least, there is The Candidate From Another Galaxy, Marianne Williamson, whose performance last night deserves to be re-enacted in an SNL skit. Last night I posted “Marianne Williamson is annoying” on my Facebook page, and the first person who agreed with me is a Zen priest. Really.  She must have some following or she wouldn’t have been on the stage, but I seriously hope she’s gone before the next round.

For those just tuning in, here is Debate Part I.

Update: Frank Rich, Kamala Harris’s Debate Performance Should Scare Trump

13 thoughts on “Debate Part II

  1. When I saw Harris slice and dice AG Barr with such precision, I was very impressed with her. However, I just feel that the only person who could really do the job of President really, really well is Elizabeth Warren.  Still, I have an open mind.  I agree with you that Biden did not win the debate; but, he was pretty good.  I am one of those who has never been on the Bernie Band Wagon.  I don't dislike him; I just feel despite his good ideas, he does not seem to have any follow through.  I was not impressed with Bennett at all; in fact, he creeped me out a bit.  I am very angry with Gillibrand and, don't think I am ready to forgive her.  I agree that Harris really does show she could stand up to trump and possibly beat him at his own game.  I would like to see that.  I wish the moderators would have given more time to the issue of what America is doing to children under the trump administration.  Williamson gave a great answer on that issue.  But, it is the most hideous thing America is doing and any one who supports kidnapping and child abuse should be ashamed.  And, it's an issue that should be front page news EVERYDAY until the election.  We should not let trump or any Republican escape the horror of promoting this program.

  2. I watched the second debate earlier.

    Too much shouting.

    BTW, SNL has one of their female comic actors ready to go with a Williamson impression.

    That comedian went through a lot of work getting Williamson down, but it's too bad her candidacy will long be over before the new SNL season starts in the Fall.

    Also too – Harris was really good.

    Also three – time to go, Joe.

  3. In a country where dystopia has been elevated to the ideal, Marianne did manage to paint her version of utopia.  I think this is to her credit and the credit of the party.  If nothing else it brought back memories of the days of utopian idealism, and the lyrics (slightly modified) of this great Cohen tune.

    Marianne  takes you down to her place near the river
    You can hear the boats go by
    You can spend the night beside her
    And you know that she's half crazy
    But that's why you want to be there
    And she feeds you tea and oranges
    That come all the way from China
    And just when you mean to tell her
    That you have no love to give her
    Then she gets you on her wavelength
    And she lets the river answer
    That you've always been her lover

  4. Less noted but also an effective bit of Harris' poke at Joe was her mention that she was a little girl riding a bus to school back in the years he was cutting deals with segregationists. It made him seem almost antebellum, didn't it?

    You're totally correct about Eric Swalwell. If we're lucky that was his last appearance.

  5. I am still puzzled on what Ms. Harris' point is regarding the busing issue.  I tend to think it was the education she got from the busing situation that helped give her the skills and knowledge she is using to run for President.

  6. Marianne Williamson made a couple comments that meant something to me but they really didn't have anything to do with politics.  I don't know why she is running.  As for Kamala Harris, I liked her even before the debate and now like her even better.  At the risk of being obnoxious and this is metaphorical, I can see her demasculating Trump and handing him his balls on a platter before he can even blink.  It's interesting that Trump doesn't have a nickname for her.  At least as far as I know.  Biden and
    Sanders are nice guys but I want someone younger.  It is early and honestly I'm already tired.

  7. Summary of both debates:

    Hickenlooper and Swalwell: go meet up with Ryan and Delaney in the bar. You're done.

    Williamson and Yang: it was fun having two novelty candidates. Now go do a startup in California or something.

    Bennet: mildly interesting, like De Blasio and Inslee and O'Rourke. But you're not going to be the white male nominee, if we go that way.

    Gillibrand, meet Gabbard and Klobucher: nice to see you. But you're not going to be the female nominee, if we go that way.

    Biden and Sanders: one of you will be the old white guy nominee, if we go that way, but we're hoping not to go that way.

    Buttigieg, meet Booker and Castro: hang in there, you three. Who knows what might happen, you still have a shot at it.

    Warren and Harris: we could very well pick one of you. Don't shred each other. I wonder if co-presidents is possible?


  8. To me the point was, Biden was making deals (probably necessary at the time ) that affected people of color and women. Those compromises affected the lives of others,  not the white male club. Gillibrand was trying to say it. Now there are others in the house and Senate  and those compromises do not seem so acceptable. As klobuchar said there are three women here. Your arguments are not abstract to us. When others are in the room nostalgia for the old boys club won't cut it. The diverse field is not just an optic for tv.

  9. One of the things that caught my attention was at the end of the first night's debate was how  quickly and spontaneously Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker embraced each other ( watch the video). There appears to be a working chemistry between them. They are both inhabited by a kindred spirit of selflessness, justice and equality. Booker mentioned that he wouldn't serve as a vice president with a male at the top of the ticket, so by that calculation a Warren/Booker ticket would be feasible.

     It's still early, and there's no telling how things are going to go, but I'm going to keep my eyes on that possibility. I feel like there is something there that would be beneficial for moving America in the right direction.

    And both of them have expressed the need to bring Trump to account. All the issues brought up in the debates have no chance to improve or resolve unless we stop the bleeding by removing Trump and the spiritual and moral decay that he brings with him.

  10. The main thrust of Harris's point was that Joe supported states' rights regarding integration, which he himself then admitted in a forcefully grumpy way. It's a concept that is now firmly associated with the right and the Republican party. Her prosecutorial manner was effective on several levels and at least two rhetorical moves ahead of any response Joe could have given. She could probably tie Trump in knots.


  11. The good news is damn near every candidate on the stage on both nights,  would be an improvement over what's in the White House today, in terms of competence, compassion, and appreciation of the constitution and rule of law.  That said, some of them are not quite ready for the presidency, but would make excellent Senate candidates.  And if dems take the presidency in 2020 and the Senate is still run by McConnell, although we will have moved the ball forward, there's still work to do.

    Lastly, the most important issue is going to be election integrity.  Dems have to.focus hard on GOTV, but also doing what we can to counter the coming interference.

  12. I read yesterday that cabbage head, David Brooks, suggested the Dems run a nice Republican such as Mitt Romney.  The more I thought about it, the better the idea looked.  Whodathunk a cabbage head could have even one interesting idea.  When I told my Mormon sibling, she was really excited about the idea.  Still, Warren is my favorite and Harris is running a close second.  I am with GrannyEagle and very tired already.

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