The Democratic Debates, Part 8: Live Free or Die


W.J. Astore

Last night, seven candidates took the stage in New Hampshire to joust before next Tuesday’s primary (where hopefully the votes will be counted quickly and accurately, unlike in Iowa).  Showing my usual streak of political masochism, I watched the entire debate; after tossing and turning in the night, here’s my take on how the candidates performed.

Joe Biden: Biden seems to be fading fast.  He came in fourth in Iowa and is slipping in the New Hampshire polls.  In this debate, he came across as angry but unfocused.  He has a “Get off my lawn!” vibe.  Biden’s never done well as a candidate for the presidency (see 1988 and plagiarism), and this time is no different.

Mayor Pete: Buttigieg talks a lot but says very little.  To me, he panders to the audience while simultaneously being disingenuous.  (I was waiting for someone to ask, “Where’s the beef?” when he stopped gabbing.)  For a politician, these are marketable skills, but Democrats are going to need a lot more than this to defeat Trump.

Amy Klobuchar: She had a very good night.  Especially strong was her closing statement.  But another way of putting this is that she was well coached and well prepared.  Perhaps she’ll pull moderate votes from Mayor Pete, which would only be a good thing.

Bernie Sanders: Always passionate, always on message, Bernie had a solid night.  But Bernie’s personal warmth doesn’t translate well in these debates.

Tom Steyer: Steyer had a good night as well, positioning himself for future contests in Nevada and South Carolina.  I’m warming to Steyer because I think he’ll take votes from Mike Bloomberg.

Elizabeth Warren: The more you listen to Warren, the more you realize “I have a plan for that” is not a compelling answer.  Warren has a habit of starting her replies with, “So, look …”  She proceeds to lecture the audience with a “smartest person in the room” vibe.  Lord knows we need competence in the White House, but I don’t think she’s connecting well enough with voters.

Andrew Yang: It was great to see Yang back on stage, since he tackles questions from a different angle than his rivals.  Still, he didn’t get much time to speak, and it’s hard to see him staying in the race for much longer.

Who wasn’t on the stage?

Mike Bloomberg: The $60 billion dollar man, Bloomberg is testing whether the presidency can be bought.  You’ve heard of the golden rule, as in he who has the money makes the rules, so who knows?

Tulsi Gabbard: Tulsi is staking everything on New Hampshire, where she’s held more town halls than any other candidate.  Will her ground game pay dividends?  Due to the high number of registered independents in NH, she has a chance to make an impression.

Final Comment

As usual, questions from the mainstream media, in this case ABC News, were framed to put progressives on the defensive.  Of course, no questions were asked about runaway military budgets, the widening gap between the richest Americans and everyone else, stagnant wages and personal bankruptcies, gun deaths and mass shootings, or climate change.  Even racial issues were ignored until the last third of the debate.  As ever, consent was manufactured by keeping topics and answers within narrow boundaries approved by the establishment.  And so it goes …

41 thoughts on “The Democratic Debates, Part 8: Live Free or Die

  1. I have not watched any of the debates. I felt they would be a waste of time and after reading the “after action” reports that abound everywhere, I think I was right. I enjoyed my sleep far more.

    In the end I don’t think anyone on the stage will defeat Trump. After the impeachment debacle, Trump’s ratings soared and even if he lets out the rest of the internal fascist, so long as the US is not in a recession all will be well with at least an overpowering minority.

    I think the one person (sort of) in the race that might beat Trump is Bloomberg. He has enough managerial credentials to present well to all but the most ignorant of voters and it’s pretty clear he’s not in it for his children, nor his own pocketbook. I think contrary to all the other candidates who are just trying to get noticed, Bloomberg cares about the outcome beyond just beating Trump.

    He’s spending a LOT of money. HIS money. He is also for some odd reason receiving criticism for doing that. I think that is odd and wrong headed: IF he wants to spend his own money, so what? That will mean at least that the usual “power brokers’…those running the super-crazy-money of all colors are not necessarily influencing either his campaign of his presidency.

    I am inclined to think that is a good thing. Especially compared to the alternatives.


    1. Bloomberg’s involvement raises interesting questions. Basically, he’s bypassed the whole primary prcoess (so far), gaining support through massive ad buys.

      One has to assume such support has shallow roots, since it’s based mainly on sound bites heard and seen on TV and the Internet, but who knows?

      To give Trump his due, at least he went through the primary process. He showed up and campaigned (while getting loads of free coverage from a media that loved the profits he drove). So far, Bloomberg is all mouth and money.


    1. I totally loved this from the Counterpunch article: >> It’s why the insufferable MSDNC bully Chris Matthews (the Ted Baxter of cable news) lost what little composure he has when Sanders’ campaign co-chair Nina Turner accurately called Bloomberg “an oligarch”<<<

      Chris Matthews with his over top arrogance, bullies and consistently talks over and interrupts his "guests". MSDNC and CNN are working over time to undermine Bernie Sanders. Mayor Wine Cellar has proven to be a nimble verbal dancer and a completely sold out to Wall Street.

      Turner hit the nail on the head, Bloomberg is an oligarch, among many who with their millions and billions can control the electoral process.

      The favorite whipping boys from the Democratic Partisans is the Koch Brothers (there is only one now). The Democratic Partisans fail, when it comes to calling out their own oligarchs and crony capitalists.


  2. Theoretically I could have streamed this “debate” via Hulu (I “cut the cord” on cable TV just before Thanksgiving), but I was otherwise occupied. But I can still generalize the following: Pete and Amy are out to persuade the Establishment that they pose absolutely no threat to it. And they have youth going for them, compared to “safe as milk” (for the Establishment) Biden. I have to believe Bernie would have played his standard theme, so wealth inequality surely got slipped in somewhere last night? The Climate Crisis (65 degrees F. reported somewhere in Antarctica this week!): This is THE genuine existential threat to humankind, since nuclear war is “merely” a possibility, but further climate catastrophe is guaranteed. I am NOT an admirer of Bloomberg–if we “have to” have a billionaire candidate, I’ll take Mr. Steyer–but I’m sure he recognizes that climate disaster is, on the whole, not “good for business.” I think Trump is quite aware of the climate crisis, but he is bound by the Know-Nothing ideology he has embraced to throw raw meat to his base by calling it a hoax.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Electability” is an old canard used to attack or eliminate candidates who won’t play the game, e.g. Kucinich, Sanders


  3. Who the people may want is irrelevant. What matters is that the Right Person head the ticket. It’s no longer necessary that they get elected. As with any other form of royalty or aristocracy, the continuity of the line is what counts.


      1. No need for apologies. I think I got your meaning, at least in the sense that George Orwell meant in “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism,” the book-within-a-book from 1984:

        “The essence of oligarchical rule is not father-to-son inheritance, but the persistence of a certain world-view and a certain way of life, imposed by the dead upon the living. A ruling group is a ruling group so long as it can nominate its successors. The Party is not concerned with perpetuating its blood but with perpetuating itself. Who wields power is not important, provided that the hierarchical structure remains always the same.


    1. I don’t understand your use of the word “versus,” Bill. From what I understand, Ivanka and Chelsea consider themselves best of friends. They often attend the same ruling-class parties and have the same political differences as do the corporate Republicans and corporate Democrats: namely, none. For my part, I would expect to see them on the same ticket rather than opposing ones.


  4. WHY DEMOCRATS ARE LOSERS1.”Democrats talk about people voting from jail cells.”     2. “Republicans talk about the importance of having borders””C’mon people get serious!!!! It matters what your meme is.”James McCarvilleSent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.


  5. A few telling observations by Caitlin Johnstone:

    “Nobody’s shocked that the Democratic establishment is rigging the election, but some are shocked that they’re being so brazen about it. Don’t be. Remember, there are no consequences for these people: they know they’ll never lose their jobs, and they’re fine with Trump winning.

    If you’re suffering under the status quo, you’re much more likely to care about changing it. If you’re benefiting from the status quo, you’re more likely to care about protecting it and making sure you never become one of those poor suckers who are being crushed to death by it. Establishment lackeys benefit from it.

    All the major power players are perfectly fine with Trump getting reelected; he’s been advancing all their key toxic agendas. Democratic Party leaders are fine with it too; they’ll all keep their jobs, wealth and influence regardless of what happens in November, and they know it.

    Those pushing the continuation of wars, military expansionism, oligarchic corruption, exploitative neoliberalism, police militarization and Orwellian surveillance are the ones to oppose. Those pushing the opposite way are the ones to support. This perspective should be common sense and obvious to everyone, but it’s been twisted by propaganda into a “fringe” opinion. This is the primary obstacle to sanity right now.”


    1. Caitlin Johnstone’s article, “Big Buttigieg Bloviations: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix,” starts off with a picture of the former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, along with an illustrative, if not definitive, quotation:

      The togetherness of our unity is in the democracy of our freedom — Pete Buttigieg

      Normally, Caitlin would call this sort of thing “mouth-noises from a face-hole.” The synonym, “Bloviations,” does get the meaning across, but for my part, I prefer the more direct and effective noun, “Bullshit.” But the following observations certainly get quickly to the point of “Pete” (to the extent that he has one):

      Fun fact: the most dangerous synthetic material ever invented in a laboratory for public consumption is Pete Buttigieg.
      Most politicians are experts at the art of spouting eloquent-sounding bloviations that never actually say anything. Pete Buttigieg is like the Mozart of that art.
      Buttigieg has almost no political history and still has to deal with significant scandals from his tiny mayoral stint. Yet he’s still polling well. Very interesting.


      1. My wife and I were laughing at that quote, Mike. Mayor Pete is a master at stringing nice words together while saying nothing. His motto should be: “less filling, tastes great” (with a sour aftertaste and zero nutritional value).


        1. Thanks for the video, Bill. I especially loved this one:

          “The shape of our democracy is the issue that affects every other issue.” — Pete Buttigeig

          To which the narrator of the video replies: “There is nothing here”

          Like George Orwell observed in Politics and the English Language: “The inflated style is itself a kind of euphemism.”


          1. Yes, Bill. I try never to pass up anything by Caitlin Johnstone, my favorite Australian lady rogue journalist/artist. What a wonderful talent. The picture she painted of a puppet in a suitcase marked “Property of the CIA: Mayor Pete” got something going in my addled brain, and then this 6-6-2 sonnet happened:

            Vacuous Ventriloquism

            The Puppet Pete pronounces vapid vowels
            And clueless consonants joined in a stream
            Of noises imitating “words” which owls
            Would not confuse with English trope and meme.
            His “sentences,” like constipated bowels,
            Refuse to move. “A Laxative!” they scream,
            At ears and minds grown numb from such bland fare
            That any hint of meaning would excite
            Yet from his wooden lips no hint of air
            Just vacuum: empty, hollow, banal, trite;
            Which absence all adds up to “Nothing there.”
            Those fish who see bad bait refuse to bite.
            Still, party prophets promise in a poll
            That Puppet Pete will soon be “on a roll.”

            Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2020

            Thanks for the inspiration, Caitlin.


  6. Our “democratic” races make me think of a track event, only its worse because it seems each hurdle is higher than the one before it. They always say it’s good that the smoke filled room is a thing of the past, but perhaps the only difference is that there is now a rule about no smoking.


  7. Once again ‘thank-you’ WJA for ‘taking one for the team’ by listening to the debate and giving us your impressions. I have very low-tolerance for these infomercials, which rank right down there with vacation time-share pitches in my book, so I appreciate your doing it!


    1. Thanks for the link. Truly disgraceful.

      What these pundits can’t stand is that people are standing up to them on Twitter and other forms of social media. They’re being challenged — and they can’t tolerate it. They think they’re supposed to tell us what to think, and we’re supposed to genuflect and thank them.


    2. “agro social media army”??? What the hell does that even MEAN?? Are Alan Greenspan (spouse of Andrea Mitchell, FYI) and his ilk actually terrified that “Bernie the Socialist” is going to be elected and undertake the dismantling of the Established Order?? Such an undertaking WOULD require an army, a physical army, not an online one. Has this whole nation gone totally nutso??


  8. So many great comments here. I especially like “Fun fact: the most dangerous synthetic material ever invented in a laboratory for public consumption is Pete Buttigieg.”

    From the link from the Intercept:
    The Iron Law of Institutions is: the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution “fail” while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to “succeed” if that requires them to lose power within the institution.

    Just a note from WIKI:
    The iron law of oligarchy is a political theory, first developed by the German sociologist Robert Michels in his 1911 book, Political Parties. It asserts that rule by an elite, or oligarchy, is inevitable as an “iron law” within any democratic organization as part of the “tactical and technical necessities” of organization.

    According to Michels all organizations eventually come to be run by a “leadership class”, who often function as paid administrators, executives, spokespersons or political strategists for the organization. Far from being “servants of the masses”, Michels argues this “leadership class,” rather than the organization’s membership, will inevitably grow to dominate the organization’s power structures.

    Michels argues that democratic attempts to hold leadership positions accountable are prone to fail, since with power comes the ability to reward loyalty, the ability to control information about the organization, and the ability to control what procedures the organization follows when making decisions. All of these mechanisms can be used to strongly influence the outcome of any decisions made ‘democratically’ by members.

    The DNC and DCCC has “the ability to reward loyalty, the ability to control information about the organization, and the ability to control what procedures the organization follows when making decisions”.
    Thus, the rules can be changed to allow a Michael Bloomberg to enter into the debates. Bloomberg as a result of his extreme wealth is a part of the “Leadership Class” and his loyalty was rewarded.

    I guess I should not be surprised how many “Democrats” now embrace Bloomberg as a counterweight to the Trumpet. The ability to manipulate seems so easy. The Democratic Party, the Party of the Working Class, the Party of the People now is comfortable with embracing an Oligarch.


    1. But of course, the Dem. Party as “the party of the working class” has been pure mythology all along. A certain Mr. Obama, on his two-term watch, funneled tons of military-grade gear to police departments all over the country, better equipping them to mercilessly mow down any workers who get too “uppity.” And now the cop “unions” (kind of soils the concept to apply it to the police) in New York City want any public criticism of their conduct to be prosecuted as “hate speech”!!


    1. [Following is not a direct reply to any of the comments here.] David Swanson of WorldBeyondWar just issued these remarks on the field of Dem. POTUS hopefuls: “Bernie Sanders is a million miles from perfect. But he is radically superior to who he was four years ago, to the other Democratic candidates, and to the past 45 presidents. … Why would anyone elect another same-old schmuck? Why is this even a question? A billionaire who buys his way in and lies about his racially targeted sadism? A slimy small-town mayor who backs what billionaires tell him to back? A senator who seems to think Hillary’s only mistake was being too inspiring? A senile former vice president whose bloody fingerprints are on every act of cruelty to come out of Washington for generations? Are you kidding me?”
      Full Swanson comments here:


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