The Masochistic Democratic Debates, Part IV


An hour ago, I was stumbling down North Main Street in Concord, seeking the new headquarters to Marianne Williamson’s New Hampshire campaign. Eventually, I found it, protected on the near side of Penuche’s, which just so happens to be the gnarliest, unfriendliest bar in town, so of course it is the perfect counterpart to Williamson’s conquest of amour. I don’t mean to write flippantly of the candidate, as she is one of only three candidates for whom I can realistically see myself voting in the general election . . . I am, however, bitter that Williamson skipped out on the opening of her operations center in the Granite State. She skipped this, as well as a visit in Cornish earlier in the day, to jet out to Los Angeles to speak with Bill Maher. I can’t blame her, of course: as insufferable as Real Time with Bill Maher may be, it is also imperative for every Democratic candidate to make an appearance. All I’m saying is that she could have fulfilled her local obligations and then flown out of Manchester tomorrow morning.

So, absent an opportunity to ask her for her thoughts on Julian Assange, I find myself at home with the notes for the second half of the second presidential debate, and . . . good God almighty, I have grown lethally tired of this division of the debates into halves and installments and whatever else. Because the overgrown field of Democratic candidates still resembles the macabre finale to “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill”, we are constantly reminded to remind ourselves that each night of the debates is only one half of one whole, as if anybody cares. There was less controversy as to whether Kill Bill was one film or two, and as far as I’m concerned, Wednesday the 31st brought us the fourth presidential debate, the puritanical be damned.

Seeing as I can’t insult your intelligence by feigning neutrality, I will come right out and say that my only interest in the fourth debate was to hear Tulsi Gabbard. Literally none of the other people onstage possess the slimmest chance of winning my vote because they are all effectively the same. They don’t offer the legitimate ideological alternative that Gabbard presents, which is exactly why CNN would seek to abridge her time as severely as it could without risking litigation. I was fully prepped for this, having suffered through the same unmistakable bias of the so-called moderators when Ron Paul ran for president in 2012, but the bootlicking crossed the line of good taste when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris received seven of the first nine opportunities to speak. That type of favoritism by the network is simply undignified, and please don’t insult my intelligence by arguing that much of those seven opportunities consisted of the candidates’ voluntary responses: it is the moderators’ charge to move on to the other eight contenders. Otherwise, you’re better off without a moderator, and I’m beginning to think that would actually be a fine idea.

To ensure that the debate would never stray too far from Biden and Harris, the moderators revealed an interesting method: when asking a different candidate a question, they would often mention either Biden or Harris, thereby ensuring that Biden or Harris would have an opportunity to chime in. An example was to be found early in the debate, when Kristen Gillibrand was asked a question that mentioned Harris; in her response, Gillibrand did not even mention Harris, but still, Harris was given time to “respond”. And in a particularly gluttonous display of favoritism, the moderators allowed Harris and Biden no less than forty-five seconds to make a follow-up statement, even though the “rules” stated that they were supposed to be permitted no more than fifteen.

The most offensive dimension to the artificial Biden-Harris rivalry is that they comprise only two heads of the hydra. As stated previously, seven of the other eight candidates pen a largely identical agenda, so maybe it means nothing at all if Biden and Harris are permitted to gorge themselves on the airtime. Cory Booker seemed to think so, at least, as he scolded the moderators for attempting to pit Democrats against each other. He argued that the priority should be defeating Donald Trump, not squabbling over petty differences. This comment, which he had the audacity to repeat later on, was perhaps the most obscene confession of the night, as the Rhodes Scholar himself stated plainly that it makes no difference who is nominated or what the nominee believes, as long as the candidate isn’t named Donald Trump.

What is the most illustrative adjective for such a perspective? Is “shallow” too polite? I expect that kind of blind reactionism out of a sports fanatic, who takes pride in his bias, but from a man who claims to be thoughtful enough to be the president of our country? You know, every time I hear a presidential candidate sully the moderators for trying to “start a fight” among those running, I think back to 2012, when Newt Gingrich refused to answer a basic question about health care because, in his wisdom, doing so would allow the moderators to “get Republicans to fight each other”. In other words: “I don’t have to answer your question because it forces me to be honest.” It’s worse than intellectual laziness; it’s intellectual cowardice, and in resorting to that kind of cheap attack, Booker proved himself to be unworthy of respect.

On a more basic level, Booker’s claim isn’t even accurate. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to scrutinize these politicians’ records, and we are completely justified in taking them to task for failing to satisfy our demands. Are we expected to accept mediocrity and worse, to take what we are given uncomplainingly? If so, then why shouldn’t we tolerate Trump? I mean, take a listen to the conversations held among progressives—real progressives, that is, not the wealthy critics on Real Time with Bill Maher—and you will hear unanimous distaste for the meandering pussyfooting of a closeted conservative like Biden. He’s hardly the only right-winger wearing a thinly veiled disguise—I don’t want to mention John Delaney, since he wasn’t onstage and, with any luck, won’t be again—but the pathological insistence of the corporate media that he must win the nod is wildly at odds with the people’s energy. If our energy takes us in a different direction, one which will be unacceptable to our corporate overlords, then maybe the problem is our corporate overlords, and not our refusal to acquiesce to Biden’s anti-programs and non-solutions.

An empty promise is one thing, but revisionist history is something else completely. I lost count on how many times Biden lied that border security wasn’t a problem in the Obama years because he and Barack worked to “stop the problems” in other countries that inspire desperate people to try to enter the United States illegally. Surely he couldn’t have forgotten that he and Barack toppled the Libyan government, murdered 40,000 Libyans, and engendered the subsequent European migrant crisis, a movement which has surely placed at least some pressure on the American courts that process applications for asylum? No, Biden is perfectly aware of the buckets of blood that he all too happily spilled, but because the great majority of Americans have never been exposed to any thought that wasn’t endorsed by a conglomerate, he doesn’t have to worry about his sterling record of crimes against humanity interfering with alternative facts.

Kamala Harris relies on alternative facts, as well. When Tulsi Gabbard confronted her on her many moral affronteries as Attorney General for the State of California, not the least of which is her unsettling penchant for concealing evidence that, if admitted, would spare innocent people the death penalty, Harris, with one hand on her hip, dismissed Gabbard as having “just giving fancy speeches”. Apparently, Harris forgets that Gabbard enlisted in the army and was deployed to the Middle East on two occasions, and that she is not “just” doing anything. If the American people are really as patriotic as they claim to be when a football player kneels during the national anthem, then surely they will demand that Harris apologize, at the very least, for her minimization of Gabbard’s military service?

This exchange reminds me of Newt Gingrich once again. In 2012, Ron Paul accused Gingrich of being a “chickenhawk”, a term that Gabbard employed in her interview with me to describe the many psychopaths in President Trump’s cabinet. Gingrich lied that he was ineligible for military service because he “was married with a child”, and I will never forget Paul’s poignant response: “When I was drafted, I was married and had two kids and I went.” It’s interesting how consistently these politicians fold as soon as they are confronted by a military veteran, in particular one who has become a pacifist, like Paul or Gabbard. If you haven’t seen Paul’s devastation of Gingrich, then you owe it to yourself:

While we’re passing out hyperlinks, I noticed that CNN uploaded a video titled “Tulsi Gabbard rips Kamala Harris’ record on criminal prosecutions” [sic], but the media conglomerate buried Gabbard’s exchange beneath four minutes of Harris bickering with Biden about bussing. Ergo, I cannot in good conscience refer you to that bad video. Instead, I will direct you to the video that Gabbard’s campaign uploaded:

Let’s see, what do we have left to talk about? Well, at this point I find Andrew Yang’s campaign to be almost self-satirical. I’m sure you’ve heard people say that Candidate X or Candidate Y talks only about Issue A, but in Yang’s case, it’s true: he talks about literally nothing but universal basic income. Seriously: every time the moderators asked him a question, he brought it back to that issue. It is for this reason that I am now convinced he is not really running for president, but is interested only in creating his own brand, in becoming a public figure or a commentator. I might write about this issue in greater detail later, especially if I see Yang during his next visit to New Hampshire, but for now, just know that I don’t take him seriously as a candidate, not for a moment.

Hmm, what else? Oh, yeah: Cory Booker claimed that “everyone from Republicans to Russians was suppressing the votes of African-Americans”. I wasn’t aware that anyone had accused, credibly or incredibly, the Russians of having suppressed the vote, but in these hyper-paranoid times, I guess you can convince the American people almost anything, especially when marijuana is on the brink of legality in so many states.

Oh, and I should mention that, at the end of the debate, Joe Biden repeated his own lie that he voted for the invasion of Iraq only because he thought that, in doing so, he was voting only to bring in “nuclear inspectors”. I already called him out for making this foolish lie in my essay on his disastrous tour of southern New Hampshire, but you can guarantee that he will say it many more times as he ventures further within our political heart of darkness.

One last thing: I was tempted to title this essay “Waiting for Gabbard”, but I’ve actually never seen or read Waiting for Gadot, so I decided against it. The only Samuel Beckett play with which I’m really familiar is Endgame, in which a blind man struggles to fend off his weak, elderly parents. Insert sarcastic description of the Democratic primaries here.


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