September Democratic Presidential Debate Recap

September Democratic Presidential Debate Recap


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Another month gone, another Democratic debate to usher in the fall season. Thank goodness this one was culled down to 10 candidates, and could actually be more substantial. While the multitude of speakers introducing the candidates didn’t exactly speed things up, they did
set a more serious tone for the debate. Once Hinojosa and Perez took
the stage, we got several clues to how the debate would go: the word
“Texodus” (not sure how I feel about that one yet), clever puns on how
bad the Republicans are (sorry, John Cornyn), and a sense that change
is in the air, and that all the candidates would be shifting towards bolder actions. Here’s my take on how everyone did. This will be more opinionated than previous reviews, for the simple fact that there are
fewer candidates and more policy to discuss. From best to worst, here
they are:

Elizabeth Warren

You know, after three great debates, I think I now have to call myself a Warren supporter. Whether it’s her unique idea of reforming the State Department internally or eliminating the filibuster, Elizabeth Warren has stayed realistic, yet creative throughout these debates. She doesn’t take cheap potshots and she doesn’t make empty promises of executive orders. Instead, she works with Congress, using regulatory power and diplomacy to achieve her goals. Warren has been able to
sidestep much of the sniping on the debate stage because while she is progressive, she’s always controlled, and insulting her doesn’t really do much good.

Beto O’Rourke

The third debate was Beto’s best debate so far. He had an advantage, being both from the same state the debate was in, and being recently affected by the El Paso shootings, and I thought he used his advantage
quite effectively, without pandering or capitalizing on tragedy. Beto has carved a position for himself as the gun-control candidate, and was given the airtime to air some other ideas. For anyone who missed
it, the idea of paying farmers for environmental services is a new,
workable, and potentially bipartisan idea, and I’m glad to see it on the stage. I am still unhappy with reparations being floated as an actual, possible idea, but if Beto’s smart, he’ll leave it alone once he gets through the primary.

Bernie Sanders

It’s very hard to see past my own biases with Bernie: I don’t like his approach or his views and it colors my perspective. However, in tonight’s debate, he objectively did pretty well. He did “write the damn bill,” and he has justified the cost of Medicare-For-All. He does have an F from the NRA, and so I thought that this debate, Bernie used his record to solidify and perhaps expand his base. His comment about not spending on the military until there is an enemy perhaps assuage
fears that he would spend without limits as president. Do I like Democratic Socialism? Not really, no. Do I enjoy Bernie’s abrasive
style? Not at all. However, Bernie approached other candidates with
the appropriate respect before criticizing them, backed up his points, and overall did a good job this debate.

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor Pete never does badly, per se, but in a debate full of bold ideas, he didn’t exactly stand out. I have no problems with Pete
Buttigieg, and I really like some of his ideas–the sunset clause on new wars being one. On the other hand, while Buttigieg certainly never performs badly, and is always on top of his game, I don’t think
anything he did this debate convinced voters to switch to his side. Buttigieg has a race problem, and he knows it. Yet, debate after debate, he has never made a concrete attempt to win over minority voters that feel alienated from him. Yes, he spoke three words of Spanish. No, that’s not what I mean. Buttigieg certainly didn’t lose support, but I can’t say he gained it.

Amy Klobuchar

I’ll tell you this much: my moderate Democrat dad really likes Amy
Klobuchar, and she’s stuck around more than any of the other moderates. With Ryan, Delaney et al. out of the race and the debates, Klobuchar’s moderate approach seems less par for the course and more
original. The bad news for Klobuchar is that moderation is a bit of a losing strategy in this particular primary. She handled herself well at the debate, but gave an opening statement about not leaning into
extremes not five minutes after the introducing speakers (Hinojosa and
Perez) riled up the audience about how change needs to come, and come now. Klobuchar’s debate performances are always controlled and professional, but her status as the last moderate is telling.

Joe Biden

It’s going to be an interesting race with Joe Biden. He’s got lots of experience, and lots of positive points to talk about, but he keeps getting caught in one major flaw, a flaw that other candidates haverepeatedly pointed out. He wants to synonymize himself with Obama, but
continues to waffle when directly asked to question President Obama’s decisions. While that’s understandable for an ex-Vice President, it’s tiresome. Biden was strong as the realistic candidate, a candidate who
cares about the Constitution and the budget. He’s got bipartisan, reasonable ideas, but he’ll continue to struggle on the debate stage until he figures out how to get around his Obama quagmire.

Kamala Harris

This was definitely a better debate for Harris than her last one, but nowhere near as good as her first. She successfully defended a critique of her tough-on-crime past, which is impressive in a field
that refuses to own up to past mistakes. On the other hand, Harris does a lot of promising. Last night it was, “Executive order this,” “Day 1 change that.” She came across as fairly flippant towards the idea of
congressional approval for her plans, which is especially concerning in the Trump era. Harris has good ideas, but she lately has debated as though she’ll have sole power over policy making in the United States as president. Maybe promises will help her falling support in the polls,
but they make her a worrisome candidate.

Cory Booker

Vegans take heed: Booker is here for you. Joking aside, Booker had more substance tonight, but for me, stayed solidly average. He has a record to use, and on education at least, he brought that record to shine, providing solutions that benefit both parents with public and charter school students. On the other hand, Booker did some classic question dodging and shifting, didn’t have all that much speaking
time, and still comes across as a bit of a panderer to me. I think I’d need two hands to count how many times he referred to living in a poor, black and brown neighborhood or his work there. Booker has been around in politics for too long for that to be his signature achievement.

Andrew Yang

I’m surprised Andrew Yang is still in the race, and he certainly hasn’t changed tactics. Actually beta testing his universal basic income plan was interesting (For those who don’t know, Yang will give you $1,000 if you have the best application on his website), but only strengthens my opinion of him as a gimmick. When asked why he was the most qualified politically, he dodged the question, and after four years of an entrepreneur running things, Yang has a lot of ground to cover to convince voters he’s a serious politician. His plan to handle tariffs and the trade war was the closest thing voters got to a normal policy plan, and that’s in his strong area. I find Yang interesting, and his approach is certainly novel, but I don’t see him progressing into the serious primaries.

Julian Castro

Oh, Julian. In a serious debate, you can’t win by being the political equivalent of a hockey enforcer (for those who don’t know: it’s the guy who fights the other team’s players). I’m not saying Castro’s
attacks didn’t hurt Biden; they certainly did. However, I don’t believe they helped Castro either. Castro appeared almost jealous of Biden’s position as Vice President as he was more interested in calling Joe Biden out than in defending his own record. The most memorable thing about Castro tonight was his snipes at other
Democrats, which is really concerning in an election where the Republican challenger will be Donald Trump. Klobuchar and other moderates talked about unity in the face of extremist opposition, and Julian Castro didn’t seem to get that point.

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