Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Blogger Candidate Forum: Debate Analysis

Hello Everyone:

It is a rather nice Wednesday afternoon and time for Blogger Candidate Forum.  The tragedies of the past two weeks have drawn attention to the extremely urgent need for sensible gun control laws and away from other issues.  This is not to say that sensible gun control is not important, it is.  Rather than just repeat everything you all have digested on the subject, Yours Truly decided to change the subject and focus on debate analysis.

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Debate night

After two rounds of Democratic presidential debates, one thing is clear, the format leaves a lot to be desired.  Instead of being a focused and thoughtful forum for the each of the candidates to exchange their worldviews, the devolved into shouting matches.  Winners and losers aside, one of the points of these debates is to separate the serious candidates from "the entertainment."  The problem is the new Democratic National Committee's rules, "...2% support in four national or early voting state poll...130,000 unique donor to their campaign, including 400 unique donor from at least 20 states" (; May 31, 2019; date accessed Aug. 7, 2019).  This effectively turns what should be a good first look at potential presidents, has turned into reality show with no change in sight.  Who can we expect in September and October and who will be left out?

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The first group of candidates

There are a group of Democratic candidates who are in danger of missing the debate stage again.  Is your favorite among them?  True confessions:  Blogger's favorites are safe.  The candidates in the danger zone recently got a little more time to make the stage: They have until August 28 ( Aug. 6, 2019; date accessed Aug. 7, 2019) to qualify for the September round.  This means if someone like Wayne Messam meets the qualifications, he could be on the stage.  To date, only eight candidates have qualified for the stage: VPOTUS Joe Biden, Senators Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobucher, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Representative Beto O'Rourke, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg.  Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and businessman Peter Yang are on track to make the stage.  The rest of the field has an uphill battle.

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The second group of candidates

Second debate breakout Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) has met the donor qualification but still needs to garner the necessary 2 percent in three more polls (Ibid).  Recent entry businessman Tom Steyer has received the necessary 2 percent in two out the four necessary polls.  He has not released donor information but he spent nearly $1 million on Facebook advertising, in an effort to meet the donor threshold (; July 29, 2019;  date accessed Aug. 7, 2019).  The additional time should be a relief for Rep. Gabbard and Mr. Steyer.  Whatever progress they make in qualifying for the September debate, will carry over to the October.  This effectively forces candidates to shill for a place on the stage.  Some candidates, like Senator Harris and Rep. Gabbard sent out questionnaires to their supporters, asking them about issues they would like to hear about and anything else.  What happens once they get on the stage; face the moderators and audience?

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Round one debate moderators
The candidates faced questions from the moderators that were loaded with questionable presumptions and bias (; July 29, 2019; date accessed Aug. 7, 2019).  For example, during round one Lester Holt asked the candidates about health care.  It mattered little to him why the United States has the highest medical spending or the how private insurance plays a part in it.  No, he asked both groups of candidates if the supported a "government-run" (; June 26, 2019; date accessed Aug. 7, 2019)--an inaccurate term forced into the national discourse by the insurance industry.  The question quickly devolved into whether Americans can keep their "private insurance," instead of how to fix a broken system (; July 29, 2019) that will cost $36 trillion over the next ten years (; July 31, 2018; date accessed Aug. 7, 2019) and leave 30 million people uninsured (; July 29, 2019).

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Round two debate moderators

Many of the questions in both debates began with the assumption that being a progressive will hurt whoever faces the president in November 2020.  Let us dissect this statement: This infers that some of the bolder policies put forward by Senator Elizabeth Warren--for example--would somehow handicap her if she becomes the Democratic party standard bearer.  Rubbish, according to Senator Warren.  Blogger absolutely loved her response to Washington state Governor Jay Inslee when he tried to make the case for a more moderate agenda: "Go big or go home."  You do not win elections on "I don't know," "We'll see," "Maybe," or "Ooh that sounds like a really uncomfortable sex position" (Blogger threw that one in to see if you were paying attention).

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VPOTUS and Senator Kamal Harris (D-CA)

 The coverage itself took on the aura of sports event, complete with a pre-game show and countdown clock.  CNN reportedly charged advertisers $30,000 for a 30-second spot (; July 24, 2019; date accessed Aug. 6, 2019).  True confessions: Blogger considers debates a sports event.  Regardless, this is the sorry state of contemporary political coverage: Thoughtful questions replaced by memorable "repayable moments" (; July 29, 2019) shown on cable news for a few cycles (Ibid).  Unfortunately, superficiality has always been the norm.  The only difference between then and now is platform.

During the Nixon-Kennedy debate in 1960--the first televised debate--then Vice President Richard Nixon was asked a quote from late President Dwight Eisenhower, during a press conference a month prior.  VPOTUS Nixon, who campaigned on his experience, was asked to give an example of idea adopted by President Eisenhower.  President Eisenhower responded he could not think of any straight away but give him a week.  That immediately became a Kennedy talking point.  In 2004, the (in)famous Dean Scream came in response to a question about raising taxes.  Still pretty memorable.  Yours Truly can go on but YouTube has an excellent archive of "memorable" debate performances.

 The point is this is what these debates have become, performance pieces.  First, a candidate has to shill for a place on the stage.  Yours Truly would like to believe that the Democratic National Committee wanted to make the debates a little more inclusive but in doing so, reduced the candidates to shallow spokes people.  The lack of substantive question in service to creating memorable repayable moments further reduce the forums into shouting matches worthy of reality shows.  Unfortunately, this is the state of contemporary elections. 


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