Friday, June 28, 2019

Democratic Party Won the First Debate

Democrats were well served by the first debate. It was civil, no nicknames, no insults, mostly policy and little mention of Trump. It was a useful contrast for Democrats to the first Republican debate four years ago (Megyn Kelly Against free-for-all). He was almost never mentioned except in a well-received reference to him being the country’s main national security threat. There was also no Clinton. Four years ago, she dominated the nomination process. Wednesday night, she was never mentioned.

American democracy needs a reset, and the first debate gave it a start.

Socialism on Defense

Elizabeth Warren, from her center position and receiving the first question, set the agenda on the economy and dominated the progressive wing, but not without pushback. Amy Klobuchar, in particular, but not alone, took on Warren’s single-payer/government run health care.

The debate tone made clear the progressive agenda in its most extreme form will not go unchallenged. Warren and Bernie Sanders can expect a running battle from the middle of the party.

Time to Thin the Herd Approaches

For a few on the stage, they will make only one more debate. Although Congresspersons Tim Ryan and John Delaney got in a few appreciated comments about how the party has left the working class behind, it’s hard to see either of them finding sufficient support for improved polling and financing. Several one-percenters will not make the third debate when two-percent becomes the threshold.

Debates Can Make and Break

As the Juli├ín Castro and Beto O’Rourke exchange demonstrated, a brief exchange can provide a launch for a candidate and it can cause major damage. Castro had been mostly ignored and needed something to highlight his assets in the Democratic base; that is, Hispanic heritage and immigration position. He got his chance taking on O’Rourke in a fiery exchange on immigration. For O’Rourke, it just reinforced the narrative that his campaign was stalled and that down was his mostly likely direction in the polls.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, Castro’s position, which amounts to open borders, was immediately identified by a Trump tweet as a highly controversial and a vulnerable position.

Presidential hopefuls take to the stage in the first Democratic primary
debate, June 26, 2019 | Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Image

Time is Short

In a debate format for 10 participants, time is short – generally 5 to 14 minutes, in about 10 to 14 exchanges. Although authenticity (i.e., storytelling) and passion are praised, sound bites are expected and endless interruptions distracting.

All in all, a good launch for the Democrats.

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