If I wanted to watch a group of white people bicker over leading questions fed to them in some form or fashion from television producers, I would have watched the latest episodes of Vanderpump Rules in real-time versus last night’s seventh Democratic presidential primary debate. To the credit of the Bravo melodrama that I finally welcomed into my life in 2019, though, at least they know their purpose.
Last night’s debate, held at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, was dull, dim, and desperate in its attempts to stoke bickering among the six candidates who made the stage (the only color came in the form of the candidates’ attire for the event).
Who benefits from that other than network executives and advertisers
True enough, the debate launched with 45 minutes of discussion about foreign policy and trade, but note the framing. With empty questions such as “Why are you the best person on stage to serve as our next commander in chief?”, they sounded like questions lifted from a middle school battle for student council president. Nothing remotely specific about Iran, Ukraine, Venezuela, or China.
Meanwhile, while the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were mentioned, they weren’t discussed in the context of how much these wars have cost Americans financially. Yet, when Medicare for All came up, suddenly there is grave concern about the potential costs of making medical care a human right in the United States so people can stop going bankrupt over medical bills or dying terrible deaths for no other reason than our current health care system is a longstanding scam.
Likewise, when Bernie Sanders was asked if his proposed spending on health care, infrastructure, and canceling student loan debt, I audibly groaned at the hypocrisy. How high is the deficit right now thanks to tax cuts for the wealthy? How high is our defense budget? And didn’t President George W. Bush nearly bankrupt the country giving money away to rich people and spending so much on wars forged lies
Unsolicited advice: if you want to ask Sanders about some of his proposals, why not prod him a bit about his proposal of putting 20% of every publicly traded company under worker control. As The New Republic’s Osita Nwanevu noted last night, it’s a subject that never comes up. And didn’t Elizabeth Warren just say that as president, she would immediately cancel federal student loan debt? How does the burden of the student loan debt continue to not be addressed in any substantial way?
If you haven’t heard, it’s a subject very near and dear to my heart and the hearts of millions drowning in debt, but nonetheless, was subjected to the same asinine and very much conservative ideological framework when mentioned to candidates. Of course, there are always candidates like Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar to tag themselves in and contribute their banal, moderate musings (in the former’s case, his moderate leanings are new and dubiously timed) but no one really cares no matter how many old white pundits on cable television taking up space will tell you.
Seriously, whenever Buttigieg talks about free public college in the context of whether rich people will send their kids there, it feels inciting. As if that is the point. As if rich people don’t have access to other things the state pays for like everyone else already.
In any event, by the time we reached the halfway mark of the debate, we heard nothing about immigration, mass incarceration, and as always, not nearly enough about climate change. Social security didn’t even get many questions. What was the point of this?
The only moment people will likely remember about this debate is the exchange between Sanders and Warren over reports that at a private dinner, Sanders told Warren that he didn’t think a woman could win the presidency in 2020. Sanders denied this, but his denial was dismissed as Warren was asked directly how she felt about Sanders allegedly making the comment.
I’ll say this: I don’t know what happened, but Sanders has made questionable comments about “identity politics” in the past. I know this because I criticized them at the time. However, Sanders says he believes a woman can be president and Warren didn’t throw him completely under the bus and used the moment to attack the “electability” question that women face. That said, I want them and their camps to end this. It helps no one but Joe Biden.
Lastly, as far as Tom Steyer goes, because I have seen his commercials for a billion years now, I feel like I know him so well. And he comes across as a nice rich white man who doesn’t want the planet to die. A very admirable quality, but considering what’s happened to Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Julián Castro, and Kirsten Gillibrand, the sight of him speaks to the mess of what the DNC has made.
Last night’s debate was just another continuation of this confounding primary, and if you didn’t tune in, you missed absolutely nothing.