I put the word debate in quotes in the title because I am an avid adherent of the Ratherian principle that these are joint press conferences/appearances. If they were classic debates, it *might* be possible to declare a winner with some certainty. With this format that’s impossible but people gotta do what they gotta do and declare a winner. It’s a totally subjective process.
That brings me to my WTF moment. I am not supporting Senator Sanders for the Democratic nomination but I have very few problems with him. Some of his supporters, however, are driving me nuts. My social media feeds are full of people-most but not all male-fulminating about a “corporate establishment media” conspiracy to declare Hillary the winner. You mean the same “corporate establishment media” that’s tried to kill her candidacy all year? The same “corporate establishment media” that’s obsessed with a Biden candidacy and the so-called email scandal?
It’s actually kind of funny when focus groups, online polls, and Twitter hashtags are cited as “objective evidence” that Sanders “won” the “debate.” A piece at Raw Story has been cited as “proof” that there’s a “corporate establishment media” conspiracy against Sanders. Me, I see the usual suspects who *always* treat elections as a horse race doing what they do. Most of them dislike HRC and play by the Clinton Rules. That’s pretty frail support for a “corporate establishment media” conspiracy theory, especially when most pundits have declared that HRC, Sanders, and O’Malley all did well while Webb and Chaffee came off as oddballs.
There’s an interesting exercise at the Guardian about Tuesday’s “debate.” They asked students who were selected for the USA Debate Team to grade/score the joint press appearance. All three of them graded Hillary the highest with two As and one A-. Sanders got an A-, a B+ and a C+ from the debate kids. Is that dispositive proof that HRC “won” the “debate?” Hell no, but it’s just as valid as focus groups, online polls, and Twitter hashtags. One thing is for sure: the debate kids aren’t part of a “corporate establishment media” conspiracy against Sanders.
I’ve said very little about the early stages of the Democratic race because I’m not crazy about taking shots at people with whom I mostly disagree with at the margins. I supported Obama in the 2008 primary season but didn’t take any shots at HRC. I save my ammunition for the real enemy: the flying monkeys of the Republican Right. I also like to retain some objectivity as a minor league pundit. In 2008, I knew that Obama’s inexperience was a problem but supported him nonetheless. I was with the cool kids that time. This time, I’m not. In short, I never view campaigns as religious crusades because in the immortal words of Billy Wilder and Izzy Diamond:
Unfortunately, some of the low information Sanders supporters (there are very few of those among First Draft readers) think he’s a messiah from Vermont by way of Brooklyn who can change water to wine. If he could change it to whiskey, I’d be there, dude.
Other than gun control, my issues with Sanders are largely presentational in nature. He has a tendency to shout even in more intimate settings, which may work when addressing a large crowd but comes off badly on the teeevee machine. I suspect that I’m not the only whose mother taught me to have an outside voice and an inside voice. Sanders needs to work on the latter, shouters don’t wear very well. Btw, as a Greek-American, I’m used to loud talkers, there was plenty of shouting in my house hence the inside voice rule imposed by my Midwestern Norwegian mom.
Another thing that bothers me about Sanders was captured by Megan Carpentier in a column she wrote for the Guardian after the “debate.” It’s a fairly long quote because it needs to be put in context:
Clinton’s gender was finally taken as a matter of course in the campaign, after months and months of mentioning what a proud grandmother she is. But a strange thing happened all the way inside the Wynn hotel: gender issues hardly came up at all, unless Clinton brought them up herself.
Though she gave the last of the debate’s opening statements, Clinton’s was the first mention of women that wasn’t a reference to a candidate’s wife or daughters (“I believe in equal pay for equal work for women, but I also believe it’s about time we had paid family leave for American families and join the rest of the world”) as well as the second (“and, yes, finally, fathers will be able to say to their daughters, you, too, can grow up to be president”).
After that, Bernie Sanders brought up but flubbed his reference to paid family leave, identifying it only as something that ought to be offered to mothers:
“You see every other major country saying to moms that, when you have a baby, we’re not going to separate you from your newborn baby, because we are going to have – we are going to have medical and family paid leave, like every other country on Earth.”
Which, well: research shows that equal amounts of parental leave is better for women in the work force, fathers at home and children in general.
That’s one reason that I think it’s way past time for us to have a woman President. There’s a lot of talk about party bases nowadays and women are a core Democratic constituency. I want our candidates to focus like a laser beam on female voters, especially if the GOP nominates one of the hardcore misogynists in their field. They’re actually running a sexist buffet with a token wingnut woman on the menu. The MSM may not believe it, but there are still swing voters out there and most of them are women.
I could be wrong about the Sanders candidacy. I’ll support the Democratic nominee whoever it may be and, despite some of his annoying acolytes, I’m glad that Sanders ran since his candidacy has nudged HRC to the left on certain issues. As to who “won” the “debate,” I don’t give a flying fuck, it’s a joint press conference held three months before the first votes are cast. It’s still the political silly season. These events are ephemeral and the most memorable moments in general election “debates” are usually the bad ones: Nixon sweating in 1960, Ford liberating Poland in 1976, Dukakis’ blank stare when asked the infamous Kitty Dukakis question in 1988, Poppy Bush looking at his watch in 1992, and Gore’s close-talking W in 2000.
As I said before, I could be wrong about some of this. I think Billy Wilder’s tombstone sums it up nicely so I will give the last word to his last word: