October 13th, 2015, the Democrats have finally started their race for the White House. After seemingly hundreds of Republican debates, speeches, and interviews, it was nice to hear from the “other side of the aisle” for a change. In contrast to what, at times, has felt like a GOP circus, the debate between Democrat candidates felt more relaxed and balanced.
That, however, does not mean that the night was without issue. CNN’s debate format was confusing and poorly enforced. Anderson Cooper did not have any control over the forum and was consistently run over by the candidates. In many responses, the Democrat hopefuls were able to get to full Speech on the Washington Lawn mode while Cooper meagerly uttered “thank you” in the background. It was not a good look for CNN, but it was also not the organization’s worst look.
Being clever is an artform. Throwing reporters on stage that identify with a particular racial group (African American, Hispanic) to ask the hard questions related to their races came off as tone deaf. It smelled of an organization that was attempting to pander to certain groups rather than actually challenge the candidates. It was both poorly conceived and poorly executed.
The Rapid Reaction
Clinton and Sanders both landed exactly where they were predicted to land. There are many, many outlets praising these two candidates as the obvious victors so there is no need to parrot those statements. Sanders brought his fiery conviction and dedication to his cause; his supporters would be proud of his performance. Clinton showed that despite being involved in almost every scandal that could be brought to the table, she is still a polished debater and a talented politician.
Martin O’Malley wins the award for Best Performance by an Unknown Politician. As the Governor of Maryland, O’Malley was able to lean on his implementation of a number of the planks that the Democrat Party has set as a national agenda. He was excited and had clear talking points (specifically on green energy and infrastructure). O’Malley isn’t going to replace Sanders or Clinton any time soon, but may have put himself firmly in the race for the Vice President position – likely of Clinton – with his performance.
A VP with Executive experience and a clear pet project would be a very good running mate for Clinton. O’Malley’s VP chances will ultimately be hindered by being from a state (Maryland) that is somewhat inconsequential with regard to the Electoral College and, additionally, the fact that Maryland is also on the east coast.
The Time to Stop
As with the GOP debates, there were candidates that were overmatched and clearly not prepared for prime-time (see Perry, Rick). Senator Webb and Governor Chafee were unnecessary additions to the debate and when each reviews his performance, should be embarrassed enough to hang up the gloves.
Senator Webb spent a significant amount of his limited time complaining about not getting enough time to speak. When he did speak, his points landed somewhere between forgettable and baffling. Specifically when asked “What enemy is he most proud of?” Senator Webb replied “the soldier in Vietnam that threw a grenade at him, but he isn’t around anymore to say it.”
Viewers can, rightly, take this from that response: Senator Webb is most proud of killing a stranger, who was likely a farmer or some other peasant, in a foreign country, fighting for reasons that he did not fully understand. This was a disgusting response by the Senator.
Governor Chafee was equally as bad in his performance. While he spent the majority of the time doing a terrible Senator Palpatine before he reveals that he is a Sith Lord impression, it was his final statement that was sure to cause an issue with the residents of one particular state. Noting that he “turned around Rhode Island” was one of the most laughable statements that any politician has made, Republican or Democrat.
Rhode Island continues to recover in spite of the terrible leadership it has received over the past 10 years. Governor Chafee’s four years in office left no significant policies or accomplishments in his wake. In fact, his approval ratings were so low at the end of his first term, he didn’t consider running for office again. It is disingenuous to state that Rhode Island has been turned around when it is still very much trying to recover.
The real winner tonight was the Democratic Party itself. CNN moderation and murderous Senator Webb aside, the party came across as very much sane. As the Republican Party continues to waffle around petty social issues that have already been resolved, the Democrats laid out clear paths to move the country forward. Sure, Senator Sanders’ plan would require significant tax increases, but at a minimum he gave voters something tangible to think about.
Republicans at this stage are still indicating that they need to “tap into America’s greatness and break the Washington machine.” What the GOP fails to realize is that the Washington machine has already been broken and that, in itself, is the issue.
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