If we were going to have to suffer through the cruel and unusual presidency of Donald Trump, one may have hoped that at the very least, his opponents may use this unfortunate opportunity to take stock of what went wrong, how they got in this mess, and how to get out. Judging by the first set of debates, which aired last week, it’s almost impressive how little the Democratic Party has managed to figure out over these last couple of years. It would be difficult to watch even a few minutes of these debates and emerge with the calm certainty that defeat awaits Donald Trump in the 2020 general election.
For starters, these things just looked and sounded like an absolute mess. We’ll get into the asinine ‘debating’ that unfolded, but simply at face value, these things scream of a party utterly clueless as to what the hell it is. 20 candidates (to say nothing of the handful that didn’t make the cut!) were paraded out over two nights to do little more than lobby the moderators for speaking time. One candidate, Marianne Williamson, who is almost completely unknown to the American public, appears to be positioning herself as a sort of delusional life coach for the country. She did not speak a word in her debate for the first 27 minutes. When she did, she instantly turned herself into a meme. Legend. But, it wasn’t just Williamson, it was the whole damn thing. There are too many people running for President on the Democratic ticket. They are choosing to brag about their wide net, showing what a variety of perspectives and plans they can all bring to the table. In reality, it’s just an embarrassing echo chamber, with candidates that could easily be chucked out after hearing them say half a dozen words, and others that just overlap too much to be bothered with. What was presented to the American public was nothing short of a joke, but somehow fitting for the state of affairs. It was a non–debate debate, showing all of the visual markers of the thing itself — a panel of inconsequential moderators, a partisan crowd waiting to clap about the story of some Senator’s uncle and how he came to this country with nothing but the lint in his pockets, candidates feigning that they wish to be clear, and so on — but managed to be even less than the usual pointless over–produced nonsense voters are typically treated to. Such was the chaos of having 10 candidates on stage each night, that most statements ended with this annoying battle between the moderator, who would have to keep begging the candidate to shut up, and the candidate, firm in the knowledge that they may not get to speak again for an entire segment, just squeezing every last word out of whatever superficial fix they were peddling. At times, it seemed less like a contest of ideas, and rather a series of public figures with the eyes of the nation upon them, pointlessly stretching out every comment, even when they were simply expressing the same sentiment or idea for the fourth time in fifteen seconds.
The only thing worse, was when you managed to actually hear what they had to say. Too many exchanges to cover here, but perhaps most telling over the two nights is the ridiculous conversations about healthcare. After all this time, they (Bernie Sanders, aside) just can’t bring themselves to figure out how to bring public healthcare to America. Even with Trump and his cohorts doing what they can to destroy the meager gains Obamacare brought, the Democrats just cannot get there. The candidates were all in agreement about one thing: Healthcare is a human right. Yet, almost none of them actually articulated how they would stop denying that right to millions of people. Instead, they stuck with the usual cake–and–eat–it–too approach that there would magically be a public option but that anyone who didn’t want to use it could stick with their own private insurance. This seems a common pattern for the modern Democratic Party — find some sort of moral high ground, talk of rights, and justice. Explain that there is a crisis in regards to the denial of that right, that justice, that morality — and then, refuse to even consider the depth of structural decay at play, and the scale and scope of what would be required to actually fix it. Even worse, many of them claim to be doing just that. They speak of corruption, and having to make the economy work for the working class, and so on. But, time and again, they fall short. It’s precisely this type of circus that could hand another term to a President who barely seems to cobble a coherent thought together. There would only be one defeat more embarrassing than the Democrats loss to Trump in 2016. That would be to lose all over again. V