The last time there was a Democratic debate, I wrote about how modern televised debates are superficial acts of theater where true substantial discussion is all but impossible and the only real goal is to avoid gaffes, look confident, and maybe unleash a zinger that will be replayed for a day or two afterward. In short, the whole thing is more about who lost, and with that in mind, I now present to you a complete list of candidates who tripped over their own feet at last night’s debate.
1. Joe Biden lost because he rambles and his teeth maybe almost fell out
This answer was realllllly something. Watch all two minutes, if you can:
That feeds into the narrative that he's confused and scattered, at least in public performances, and whether there's any kind of neurological truth to that, clips like these don't help. Also, something weird may have happened with his teeth:
2. Julian Castro lost because he was mean to Biden
According to some of the Internet and many sensitive pundits, this was a form of elder abuse:
This reaction was common:
But, question: If Castro was too mean, what do you think Trump is going to do?
3. Pete Buttigieg lost because he was a scold
Look at this nerdy nerdling:
This was the old “be the adult in the room” tactic, but in this day and age it's nothing more than insufferable. I'm with Castro—it's a debate, and at the very least it should be a stress test for everyone that eliminates any weakness before they have to face Trump.
4. Bernie Sanders lost because he was shout-y and hoarse
Here's me, an admitted Bernie stan, on Bernie's performance last night:
I get it: This is an annoying critique. But if you're going to participate in a spectacle of theater, it's incumbent on you to do the theatrical stuff well. To whatever extent people can change their minds because of a debate (which is, itself, debatable), they need to see someone whose presentation inspires confidence.
5. Andrew Yang lost because he apparently wore his flag pin on the wrong side
Did you know there was a “right” side on which to wear your American flag pin? And that this “right” side is apparently the left? I didn't! And Andrew Yang didn't either. Get ready to hate everything:
What an annoying take! But, going with the theme of the post, Yang is DONE.
6. Amy Klobuchar lost because she tells the corniest jokes imaginable
When she's not throwing heavy objects at staffers' heads or eating salad with a hair comb, Klobuchar can't resist telling jokes. She had a couple primed up for her opening remarks, and while I don't have video, I think the transcript will tell the story:
Now, I may not be the loudest person up here, but I think we've already got that in the White House. Houston, we have a problem. This — we have a guy there that is literally running our country like a game show.
It's not just the content, it's the delivery—Klobuchar pauses after each line with an enormous smile, like she's just said the funniest thing ever conceived by a human politician. It's an excruciating amount of undeserved confidence. To see what I mean, watch this:
7. Kamala Harris lost because she's a terrifying, charismatic strongwoman
Watch as she very eerily, but somewhat inspiring…ly…laughs off the idea that anybody can stop her from issuing whatever decree she wants from the oval office:
The knock on Harris from the left is that she's ruthless and cop-like, especially going back to her days as a prosecutor and state attorney general, and she's also very good on camera. All of which contributes to the perception that she is prepared to actually crush people if she has executive power. When “light laughter” provokes the gut emotional response of “please don't hurt me,” and when Joe Biden has to be the voice of reason on executive orders, we've gone to a frightening place.
8. Beto O'Rourke lost because people are obviously not scared of him anymore
It became a contest Thursday night to see who could congratulate Beto the most for his reaction to the recent mass shootings in Texas, and I can guarantee you that nobody would be singing his praises if they thought he was real competition. The minute other candidates are universally nice to you, you know you've lost. Now, Beto, please go take down John Cornyn in the Senate.
9. Cory Booker lost because I can't remember anything significant he did
Was Booker even there? How can he expect his poll numbers to rise if he didn't do anything wild enough to get people to yell at him? DONE.
That leaves us with Elizabeth Warren, who was very good, especially in her courage to advocate abolishing the filibuster…even Bernie won't go that far. Also, watch her on trade:
So I declare Warren the winner, because she’s smart, telegenic, and—at least last night—much better than Bernie or anyone else at communicating her ideas in the limited time frame of a debate response. Through a combination of actual success but also managing to avoid various potholes of public humiliation, Warren takes the belt.