Hot Takes on the Democratic Debate

Night one in Detroit

DETROIT — Perhaps the most important takeaway from Tuesday night's Democratic primary debate is the fact that celebrity journalist John Heilemann, 53, was wearing this jacket — the Adidas Firebird Track Jacket with Keiichi Tanaami Graphics (€ 89.95) — as he strolled past Fox Theater in Detroit.

The debate also happened. Indeed, one day after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) forced the resignation of a gay female combat veteran in response to criticism of the organization's lack of diversity, ten white candidates strolled on stage to answer questions like, "What makes you the best candidate to heal the racial divide?"

The night kicked off with Democrats tearing into other Democrats on the issue of healthcare reform, with a number of the so-called "moderate" candidates doing their best to provide soundbites for future Republican attack ads. Gov. Steve Bullock (D., Mont.), the new kid on the block, said he opposed the "Medicare for All" proposal championed by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) because it "rips away quality healthcare from individuals" and would "[disrupt] the lives of 160 million people."

Rep. Tim Ryan (D., Ohio) played the "Youngstown" card and talked about all the hard-working Americans who would be thrown off their generous union healthcare plans. Even Marianne Williamson, who proposed a slavery reparations package in the neighborhood of $500 billion and denounced "wonkiness" in favor of launching a Love Offensive against the "dark physic force of collectivized hatred," doesn't think Medicare for All is realistic or politically palatable.

Neither does former Rep. John Delaney (D., Md.), who got an exorbitant amount of screen time relative to his polling position (statistically insignificant) thanks to CNN's insistence on conducting the debate like a Real Housewives reunion. Delaney—whose dad was in a union, by the way—was more than happy to keep attacking his rivals for their "anti-private sector" policies and for making "impossible promises," despite the fact that no one will vote for him.

Those impossible promises are exactly what most Democratic primary voters want to hear, as evidenced by the enthusiastic response to Elizabeth Warren's promise to enact Medicare for All by "fighting" and her multiple jabs at the squishy moderates for their "small ideas and spinelessness," such as their continued support for Obamacare. Many a barb will be traded on this issue in the days and weeks and months ahead.

Failed Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke did not speak Spanish, but he did deliver one of those most sociopathically messianic opening statements in recent memory: "I'm running for president because I believe that America discovers its greatness at its moments of greatest need. This moment will define us forever, and I believe that in this test America will be redeemed." He is currently tied with Andrew Yang.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg hung around and delivered some feisty quips that will really resonate among urban white liberals with postgraduate degrees. His response to a question about the specifics of solving climate change is a superlative example of the politician's dodge and pivot, and a fitting representation of the Democratic Party's willingness to discuss their bajillion-dollar climate policies in any detail :

We have all put out highly similar visions on climate. It is all theoretical. We will deal with climate, if and only if we win the presidency, if and only if we beat Donald Trump. Nominate me, and you get to see the president of the United States stand next to an American war veteran and explain why he chose to pretend to be disabled when it was chance to serve.

The same is true on immigration. Here's what Bernie Sanders when asked why giving free health care and college tuition to undocumented immigrants would not create an incentive for more people to cross the border illegally:

Because we'll have strong border protections. But the main point I want to make is that what Trump is doing through his racism and his xenophobia, is demonizing a group of people. And as president, I will end that demonization.

On a related note: Sanders once described the concept of open borders, something many Democratic candidates have implicitly embraced by pledging to decriminalize illegal border crossings, as a "Koch brothers proposal" to flood the country with cheap labor and drive down wages for American workers.

In Summary

  • Bernie Sanders: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • Elizabeth Warren: Not a big fan of the Obama administration. But she fights.
  • Pete Buttigieg: "The racial divide lives within me."
  • Beto O'Rourke: [No hay subtítulos en español]
  • Amy Klobuchar: "The NRA."
  • John Delaney: "You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime, you better…"
  • Tim Ryan: "Chief Manufacturing Officer."
  • Steve Bullock: Democratic John Kasich.
  • John Hickenlooper: N/A
  • Marianne Williamson: "Radical truth telling."