On the Second Debate: The Murder of Joe Biden, Marianne the Magnificent, and MorePhoto by Drew Angerer/Getty Politics Features Democratic Primary Debates
When he feels confident, Trump pictures the Wednesday night Dems.
When he feels afraid, the President thinks about the Thursday night Dems.
Thursday evening kicked off like an old tractor engine in a playpen: there was a powerful, growling, cranked-up mojo in a bright space. The Kids’ Table debate seemed to need moderators. During the Adult Evening, I thought the candidates might actually eat the talking heads.
I got to Manuel’s Tavern late; I was driving down from the Dunwoody Nature Center and frustrated by my inability to learn teleportation at this stage in my journalistic career. Somewhere by exit 284-C on I-85, I turned off “We Built This City” and began jabbing my finger at the radio button in my car. I needed the soothing tones of older people screaming at each other.
Using a driver’s best friend—a hunch—I turned the FM wheel back and forth. At one point in the static, I heard the sound of a hoarse man yelling about powers and kingdoms, with applause following. I figured had to be Bernie. Boy, was I wrong. It was the preaching channel. “Y’know, how many people, they, they love to GO to church?” a voice said. I was embarrassed I couldn’t answer his question so I kept the wheel moving. When I reached my destination, the inside of the tavern was packed, and so I spent the next two hours standing next to a pinball machine featuring Aerosmith.
The Thursday Debate was the Yelling Debate, sure. But more importantly, it was the Return of the Lorax, and I was hyped for it. Wednesday was the shadow of Bernie; Thursday was the return of Bernie. The man didn’t give Sorkin-style riffs about American history. He was his same old irascible self, reminding us of what was necessary. Sanders had not moved; the world had moved towards him. He entered the debate as the nominee-apparent and left it the same way. It was Bernie in the morning, Bernie in the afternoon, and Bernie in the evening. It was Bernie that called the tune and as Waleed Shahid notes, it was “pretty awesome that every Democrat now has to respond to the policy platform” that Sanders has held “for the past 30 years.” It’s his house in all but name.
The rest of the debate unfolded as I expected. The moderators had been unfrozen from the Winterfell crypts under NBC and rolled into the debate with the same questions from Wednesday. If SNL doesn’t mock Chuck Todd at the next opportunity, the show has no real reason to exist on TV.
About Chuck. The man had an exhaustive series of bizarre rules that he’d apparently invented on the spot, like some kind of freaking speech-club wizard. The candidates were asked a serious question, but Todd stipulated that they had to answer with one or two words, tops. If the debate had been five hours long, I expect Todd would have began asking for the responses in the form of riddles, or some other medieval-times-ass criteria.
True to her future nickname, “The Biden Murderer,” Harris absolutely field dressed the once and forever Vice President. I am not a Harris stan, to put it mildly. I’ve spent a significant part of the past three years not being a Harris fan. So when I say that it was a pleasure to watch the Senator kneecap Biden, I’m being sincere; I think it’s the only compliment I’ve ever paid Harris. Who knew that the Senator from California was in favor of televised executions? When she began her sincere, moving story about being a second-class citizen, that was it for Uncle Joe. I could see the jaws of death closing in for him. The world of celebrity golf tournaments and corporate boards stretched out their hands to him; the ghost of Gerald Ford beckoned. Methinks I saw 2030 Biden, sitting in a train station, gibbering at scared passersby, “you know, I used to almost be President.”
Debates are basically magic shows in the barnyard. We’re there to see the wild beasts perform, figure out if they snap under pressure. You hunker down with your friends to see if the animals will go nuts and gore one of the ringmasters. Each of these apex predators is so well-groomed that memorable gaffes are rare.
Biden made one last night. He’s still stanning for white flight. It wasn’t just that he lied. He did so much worse than that. My God, it was all he could do to not use the phrase “states’ rights.”
I knew he was rhetorically clumsy and bad at running for president. But this was a manifestation from Ripley’s Believe it or Not.
And then, AND THEN, Biden did us all the favor of cutting everyone an attack ad. He dabbed out early, said “My time’s up,” and stopped talking—which for him must have been a Kegel exercise. It’s remarkable. Biden isn’t just rhetorically clumsy. He’s the Bill Kristol or Thomas Friedman of political speech acts. His compass points in the opposite direction of north. His miracle brain comes up with the absolute worst thing he could say…and then he says it. It’s extraordinary.
You know, Biden spent some time defending those Klan Senators the other night. For a while, I assumed he was just cynical in his friendship with the Old Confederate cavalry. But now I’m wondering if they didn’t befriend him out of pity, the way you’d adopt a break-dancing robot that wanted to be human.
With the diminishment of Biden, Kamala Harris is the “winner.” Harris is a cop, a creation of the financial sector, and a neoliberal pretending to be progressive. In the next week, Resistance Twitter is going to start stanning hard for her. They’ll forget how, in 2008, she supported a policy that reported undocumented juveniles to ICE. They’ll forget about her failing to prosecute the foreclosure king. But she ended Biden’s presidential career last night. I’ll give her that.
In fact, the only good thing that Biden did was to bring up Harris’ awkward career as attorney general. “I was a public defender. I didn’t become a prosecutor,” the Vice President said. Zeus-like energies of wrath were pouring out of him. As Carl Beijer noted, Harris was lucky that Biden’s snap got lost in the exchange. While Biden has excelled at channeling white rage throughout his entire career, Harris has had a more niche specialty: locking up people of color across the Golden State. They have a shared skillset: making the lives of marginalized people harder. Honestly, I’m surprised they don’t have a buddy comedy in the works.
What can I say about Mayor Pete, the human resume in search of his next job entry? He spoke well, which is a neat substitute for governing well, which Buttigieg has failed to do. There’s a man named Eric Logan, who was shot by a South Bend police officer under Buttigieg’s watch. Buttigieg oversaw a chaotic town hall before jaunting off to the debates. His constituents were not happy. The issue dogged the Mayor:
HICKENLOOPER: If I can ask one more question: The question they are asking in South Bend and across the country is why has it taken so long? We had a shooting when I became mayor 10 years before Ferguson. We diversified the police force and … we did deescalation training. I think the real question that America should be asking is why, five years after Ferguson, every city doesn’t have this level of accountability.
BUTTIGIEG: I have to respond to that. We have taken so many steps towards police accountability that the FOP denounced me for too much accountability, and I accept responsibility for that because I’m in charge.
SWALWELL: If the camera wasn’t on and that was the policy, you should fire the chief.
BUTTIGIEG: So under Indiana law this will be investigated, and there will be accountability for the officer involved.
As BuzzFeed pointed out, Buttigieg has more power over cop careers than he let on: “And yet, he argued, the firing of individual police officers is something he does not control.” However:
In order to be fired from the force — following an incident and internal affairs investigation — the police chief determines how to discipline an officer. The chief then brings that decision to a local public safety board, which has the ultimate authority to decide what action is warranted, including whether the officer ought to be fired. But mayors have real power over the board.
“The key thing is this: When it comes to the board of public safety, he appoints all them. So the responsibility is through his appointment,” Davis told BuzzFeed News. “[The mayor] can remove [members] at any time. They work at his pleasure. That’s why it’s more of a buffer.”
Let’s speak frankly. Buttigieg was a reservoir for the hopes of white libs who are no longer comfortable with Biden. The people who like Mayor Pete use words like Harvard, Rhodes Scholar, languages, piano, and veteran. Here are some other words they might want to consider: Philando, Sandra, Tamir, and Eric. Buttigieg might be the most articulate man on that stage. Good for him. He’ll have a long run as most-loved TED Talk speaker one day.
As for the rest of the debate attendees, what can be said? Senator Gillibrand enjoyed her time speaking on stage, and also speaking during everybody else’s time on stage. Governor Hickenlooper had potent Sith energies. He seemed intent on warning us about a new age of Dark Science rising, but we were blind fools and did not heed his warnings.
Swalwell got a laugh with his smarmy age-shaming line. Allow me to formally congratulate whatever six-figure consultant came up with that one. I liked Bennet because he reminded me of every polo-shirt wearing Colorado dude I’ve ever known. The intense bro-factor made me just as sure I’d never want him holding the nuclear keys—y’know, just in case some of the guys from Delta Phi started talking smack in the frat’s Facebook page. Did you hear what they said about Chet’s Miata?
Andrew Yang was also physically present.
And so, we turn to the blessed Marianne. Everything that can be said about Our Lady has already been said on Twitter.
Marianne Williamson talks like someone who just dumped Humphrey Bogart
— Alex Shephard (@alex_shephard) June 28, 2019
For the first time in all of human history, Gwyneth Paltrow and I agree on something: the true power of Marianne mindshare. Many Democrats pledge to make anime real. Marianne just did; as someone pointed out, her closing speech was a pre-ass-kicking monologue from the ‘90s Sailor Moon series.
The thing about Marianne Williamson is that you want to view her a meme candidate—an Andrew Yang—but she’s more than that. Meme candidates don’t call for reparations. Meme candidates don’t bring up our history of Central American intervention. Meme candidates aren’t strangely compelling, despite a proven history of unusual beliefs. Most of these candidates believe pretty weird shit, including fairly racist beliefs about Iranians and the Chinese. Why is Marianne’s tweet about swine flu out of bounds, and Biden’s belief about bad ravers considered normal?
I want to be facetious about Williamson, but I can’t be. I honestly find myself honestly rooting for her, and my snarky Maoist heart is about to give up on dialectical materialism and begin spinning deep cuts about auras. It’s absolutely mind-boggling. It’s enough to make me reconsider every very mean and very true thing I’ve ever said about California.
If we do not elect this Khaleesi to some high office, we really are a nation of ratchet sinners and deserve to drown in the boiling seas. My admiration for Marianne is like my love for the Shrek franchise or the band Smashmouth. It began as ironic, but it’s ripening into genuine interest in a way I didn’t expect.
Has she likely used the phrase “we have a dream gap” in private conversation? Sure. Has she probably had dangerous beliefs about vaccines in the past? Oh, God, yes.
But she didn’t spend the entire debate in a defensive crouch. She comes across as completely genuine, whatever the hell she’s saying. That’s the reason she doesn’t appear like a pandering coward or a plotting eunuch like most of these candidates. Whatever people thought Daenerys was supposed to be, Marianne likely is. At the very least, she’s hurt fewer people than Biden, Harris, and Mayor Pete, which puts her high in the moral rankings. The world and the debate stage was a better place for her presence. I honest-to-God like Williamson.
Speaking of what I’d like, you know what I’d have preferred to either of these debates? Four hours of discussion on climate change. Did you know that humans are currently confined to one planet? Did you know the American military, which the American President has control over, is a massive carbon emitter? Did you know that NBC will be unable to sell ad time during a climate apocalypse? This seems relevant to everybody’s interests, don’t you think? Look at all of these candidates and talking heads, talking about our shared future, as if it was a sure thing! Exactly what future are you talking about?