The Masochistic Democratic Debates, Part II

I was on my way back from the store, planning to pour myself a few glasses of Boston rum punch and subject myself to the second installment of the Democratic Party’s presidential debates. Eight years ago, when I covered the Republican Party presidential debates, I didn’t need to drink to make it through them . . . but that idealistic nineteen-year-old is gone, and standing in his stead is a bitter, broken man, a man whose dreams of political benevolence have been cruelly drowned—

[Oh, would you shut that gap in your face? If you’re gonna be melodramatic, then you’re just going to make this campaign ten thousand times worse than it already is, or even needs to be.]

Ah, for God’s sake—I was just kidding! No, but seriously: I don’t have as much patience for this nonsense as I did in 2011. Maybe it’s because, back then, I was gullible enough to seriously believe that Ron Paul could win the Republican nomination, whereas, this time around, I’m entirely aware that Tulsi Gabbard, the only candidate whom I can even stomach, stands about as much chance as I do of winning the tiara. I still have a rooting interest, but it isn’t quite legitimate, you know what I mean? And even if there was a chance that Gabbard would get it, I’m not completely sold on her, like I was with Ron Paul.

[Plus, Gabbard wasn’t even appearing in the second debate.]

Yeah, that’s right. Thank you for pointing that out. Yeah, Gabbard wouldn’t be there, but Joe Biden would, and in case you’ve been ignoring all political media for the last three months, Biden is the preferred candidate of “the establishment”, of “the powers that be”. These nebulous and nefarious forces want to pour their money behind this warmongering dullard, but they’re reluctant to throw any hard cash at him unless he demonstrates that he can win the nomination.

And that, of course, is where the media comes in: the media can act as the mediator between Biden and Big Business by feeding the American voters, gluttonous consumers of media as they are, with as much propaganda as is safely palatable. The people are told, day after day, that there is only one person who can defeat Donald Trump, and that person is Biden. There’s never any explanation as to why Biden can defeat Trump, never mind why Biden is in sole possession of this magic political power, but, hey: who has time for reason and analysis? This is the time to throw on your blues and fight the good fight!

[What’s your point?]

My point is that it was painfully obvious, months before the debate even started, that the so-called moderators would direct the lion’s share of their questions to Biden, that Biden would be given an abundance of time to promote his shameful brand, and that the other candidates, in the absence of any substantive spine, would feebly attempt to knock Biden from his throne, thereby playing their own role in the fulfillment of the self-fulfilling prophecy of the elite.

Now, where was I? Oh, yeah: I was planning to go home and loosen up a bit and try not to become suicidal over something as meaningless as a political debate. However, as I drove home, I noticed an advertisement for a debate “watch party” at Area 23! For those outside the know, Area 23 is a bar situated kind-of on the outskirts of Concord, New Hampshire, and one of only two bars in this town that refuses to cater to the toxic culture of professional sports. The only other bar is that cute little speakeasy known as Chuck’s Barbershop, which doesn’t even have a television set. And hey, I didn’t even know that Area 23 had a TV, so when I saw the sandwich board promoting the watch party, I was excited.

Unfortunately, this watch party turned out to be an informal rally for Biden, a rally that appeared to be organized by some local branch of his massive re-election campaign. I have no idea what the group called itself; to be honest, I was completely creeped out as soon as I entered the tavern, and I knew I would have to fend off bloodsuckers who would demand I provide my email address and medical records to a machine whose operators I would never even see. There was a table set up at the main entrance, marked by a sign reading “NH 4 Biden”. I was sick to my stomach, but I knew I had to stay, and I did.

I made way directly to the bar and ordered a brown ale. For some reason, brown ale tends to be a cheap beer in New Hampshire, but I never expected to pay four measly dollars for a pint! I settled in, my copy of Songs of the Doomed at the ready, but sure to be useless: in a situation such as this, conversation is not only mandatory, but inevitable, and what do you know, it wasn’t too god-awful long before a middle-aged man with salt-and-pepper hair moseyed on over to the counter to ask the barkeep what was good. He took my advice on the brown ale, so I took the liberty of asking if he was here for the debate.

He probably told me his name, but that was four days ago, and for reasons that will become clear in a minute, I likely shouldn’t use his real name, anyhow. Let’s just call him Straub, if only because I am quite confident in saying that that couldn’t possibly be his real name. So, Straub—who, as I suggested, was somewhere north of sixty—confirmed that he was, in fact, here for the debate. He volunteered that he was a Biden voter, too. Courteously, he asked if I shared his predilections, and I admitted that I didn’t: I told him that I was voting for Tulsi Gabbard, and our subsequent chat, well . . . perhaps it’s best to let the words stand alone.

Straub: Gifford, eh? Hmm. I haven’t heard of him.

Dack: It’s Gabbard, sir. Gabbard. Tulsi Gabbard. She’s a woman.

Straub: Tulsan Gabbard? Hmm. I’ll have to look her up.

Dack: Tulsi. Tulsi Gabbard.

Straub: Tussie Gabbard?

Dack: Tulsi. T-U-L-S-I.

Straub: Hmm. Okay. So, why are you voting for her?

Dack: Well, I’m voting for her because she’s a serious critic of our foreign policy. She’s a veteran, and she’s the only one who’s criticizing Trump for getting us entangled in Venezuela, and probably in Iran, too. She’s also said that she would drop all of the charges against Julian Assange, which is precisely why she stands no chance at all of winning the nomination.

Straub: And you’re gonna vote for her anyway.

Dack: That’s right, sir. I’m going to cast my futile vote for her in the primary, and then, when she drops out of the race, I’ll probably vote third-party in the general election.

Straub: Hehe. Well, at least you know exactly what you’re doing.

Straub wasn’t looking at me, exactly. He was looking off to the side. A lot of older guys do that to me when we’re discussing politics. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because they’re embarrassed to be having a “serious” discussion with a dude who’s less than half their age, or perhaps I just exude a really toxic vibe. Or maybe he could tell it wasn’t my first beer. Not that I was drunk or anything. I mean, I know how to pace myself when I—

[I want to hear what you and Straub were saying.]

All right. So, I made the classic mistake of asking Straub . . .

Dack: Might I ask why you’re voting for Biden?

Straub: Well, he’s the only candidate who can take out Donald Trump.

Dack: Mmm. So I’m told. Any other reasons why you’re voting for him?

Straub: Eh, not really. My priority is getting Trump out of office. I’m kind-of a one-issue voter.

Dack: Oh, I see.

Straub: So, if it was Biden vs. Trump in November [2020], what would you do?

Dack: *shrugs* I’d probably vote third-party.

Straub: Mmm. And why is that?

Dack: To be honest with you, sir, I don’t think that there’s a remarkable difference between Biden and Trump.

Straub: Hehe. Yeah, you might be right about that.

Straub took a sip of his beer and looked at the three or four guys who were sitting behind the “NH 4 Biden” table at the front of the tavern. I didn’t want to chew his ear off by explaining why there was no remarkable difference between Biden and Trump; he didn’t strike me as a man who wanted to be force-fed any dosage of the red pill, so I thought it best to let sleeping dogs lie. However, he wanted to know a little more about me, which is why he asked me . . .

Straub: So, you’re not gonna vote for anyone other than this, uh . . .

Dack: Gabbard.

Straub: Right. This Gabbard person?

Dack: Well, I’m not in love with her, or anything. I’m voting for her just because she’s informing the public about the military-industrial complex. I mean, take Biden for instance: he basically said he’s okay with what Trump is doing in Venezuela, trying to engineer a coup against the president. And I expected that, because Biden supported the invasion of Libya, which killed 40,000 people. So, with all due respect, I can’t vote for a war criminal.

Straub: Mm-hmm. Well, like I said, I’m a one-issue voter, and I just, I just think that we gotta get Trump out of office. I mean, when you look at his disrespect for the rule of law, when you look at what he’s doing to our foreign relationships, I mean, it’s just, it’s gotta stop.

[Wait a minute: he was getting this drunk off of one beer?]

I never said he was drunk. He was just really distant, even though he was standing less than a foot away from me. He was detached and disengaged. It seemed like he really didn’t want to be around me. Kind-of like when your little brother won’t leave you alone.

[Yeah, but the reason you want him to leave you alone is because he’s too young to really get into whatever it is you’re doing. Oh, but you already said you suspect Straub was judging you because you’re so much younger than he.]

I mean, I could be wrong, but at the same time, I doubt it. Anyway, Straub didn’t want to keep this conversation going: he told me that he had to move closer to the aforementioned table, which was right next to the only television set in the entire tavern. I told him I would be going that way, too, and we ended up sitting at the same table. He didn’t seem to mind, but he didn’t really want to talk to me, either—probably because we were watching the debate.

[Yeah, that’s true. How many of you were there?]

You mean, besides the guys who organized the party? Only three, including Straub and yours truly. The third was a woman who works as a skate guard at the Everett. I remember talking to her about the Epic of Gilgamesh.

[What the hell?]

Hey: some people like to read Mesopotamian literature, all right? So, anyway, the debate got fired up—

[Do I even need to hear it? Let me guess: the candidates uttered a bunch of embarrassing platitudes that demonstrate, to a thinking person, their affinity to the current president, and to the most recent president, and to all of the previous presidents. Am I right?]

Pretty much, yeah. I don’t even remember a whole lot of it—and no, not because I was drinking. I just couldn’t be bothered to write down all of the folderol that the candidates were saying. Like we mentioned at the beginning of this piece, the only candidate who is worth considering had the night off, so I was kind-of running on autopilot, if you catch my drift.

[Yeah, that’s reasonable, I guess. But don’t you have anything to say that isn’t bogged down in a dispiriting comparison to Gabbard or Trump? What about that exchange between Biden and Harris that the media was puzzling over for days?]

What, you mean the four days before I wrote this bloody thing? Listen: I think that it’s completely inappropriate for any member of the Obama Administration to run for president in the Trumpish Age. The Obama Administration was such a humiliating failure, particularly in its alleged efforts to overcome American racial tensions, that it is simply tasteless for any of the performers of that minstrel show to demand a second chance in 2019. Now, I don’t think for a moment that President Kamala Harris would make any progress on that front, either—despite her call to sign into law an ineffectual piece of legislation like the Equal Rights Act into law—but at the same time, can’t we do better than an irredeemable failure like Biden?

And let me say something else about Biden: it is incredibly awkward for him to run for president after he declined to run four years ago. It’s one thing for a non-entity like Julian Castro to run for president, even though he was, technically, a member of the Obama cabinet, but why on earth did the sitting vice-president decline to run in 2016 before suddenly deciding to run four years later? What was so troubling about your record that you couldn’t run in 2016? Were we just supposed to forget about it? Can you imagine if Dick Cheney, after refusing to run in 2008, had randomly opted to run in 2012? It’s ridiculous, watching Joe Biden try to assert himself on that stage. The Obama Era is dead, my friend, and your viability is dead and gone with it.

[Wait a minute: are you suggesting that Joe Biden can’t win the presidency?]

No, he might win, but it will speak strictly to the intellectual bankruptcy of the American people. I can’t imagine why any informed individual would want to return to Obama’s policies—unless, of course, such an option is undertaken for the sole purpose of preventing four more years of the Trump Administration.

[But didn’t you tell Straub that there is no meaningful difference between Trump and Biden?]

Yeah, but I’m not going to say automatically that a person who votes for Biden to spare the world from Trump is a simpleton, or something. That’s a little too aggressive for me, even if the person who votes that way isn’t aware of all of the facts.

[Okay. So, do you have anything else to say about the debate?]

Well, I should probably tell you what happened after Bernie Sanders made some speech about the need to protect the American people from Wall Street, or something. Straub started chuckling to himself, so I decided to say . . .

Dack: You don’t like Bernie Sanders, I’m guessing.

Straub: No. Not at all. He’s a whacko.

Dack: So, if Bernie wins the nomination, what will you do?

Straub: *scoffs* I probably won’t vote. *chuckles* No, no. I’m kidding. I will vote for any person other than Trump.

Dack: But you don’t like Bernie.

Straub: Correct.

Dack: Now, a lot of people your age seem to hate Bernie completely, but what you gotta keep in mind is: when people my age listen to him speak, they absolutely love it.

Straub: *scoffs* Yeah, well, that says a lot, doesn’t it?

Dack: You can’t just say that, though. You can’t just dismiss the reasons they’re voting for him. What happens if he wins the nomination?

Straub: Yeah? And what if I told you that Biden was the only one who could beat Trump?

Dack: But why is that, exactly? Why is Trump the only one who can beat Trump?

Straub: Hmm. That’s a pretty good question.

[And then . . . he reached for his pint.]

Correct. And towards the end of the debate, when I stepped into the bathroom, he ran out the front door.

[Hmm. And what do you conclude about all of this?]

Well, I think there’s a problem that the older generation has in connecting to mine. For one thing, I really don’t appreciate this attitude whereby these older people suggest that, because I’m younger than they are, I’m automatically a subscriber to whatever stereotypical attitude or philosophy they baselessly assume is endemic to the entire “younger generation”. Whatever the hell the “younger generation” is. I mean, do they really think that no one under the age of fifty voted for Trump?

[And that stereotype would be especially ridiculous when promoted by Straub, who, as you said, appeared to be over sixty.]

Hey, whatever, man. I’m over it. I dealt with this kind of disrespect when I covered the nonsense in 2012, and I’m sure that Straub won’t be the only middle-aged ignoramus I encounter before this embarrassing spectacle concludes. Onward we march; forevermore we suffer. Such is the life of an unknown, self-represented journalist, it seems.

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