Debating is the modern boxing ring. Oxford was famous for its intellectual debates on difficult topics, letting ideas battle it out in an oral arena instead of men in fields of blood.
In the United States of America, presidential candidates have been participating in official debates since the 1960s, although the tradition is much older. In 1858, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas held a series of seven debates against one another, and they were both nominated for president in 1860.
The first general presidential debate was in 1960 between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, but it wasn’t until 1976 when the practice started to become de facto during the campaign season.
And speak of the Devil…
It’s the year 2019, and the Democratic Primary Debates have begun with a whopping twenty-five confirmed candidates running for president in 2020. In case you’re not familiar, that is a metric crap-ton of candidates. For comparison, the Republicans have two. The Democrats have had to spread the debates across multiple nights because there isn’t enough room on stage for all of them at once.
In an ideal scenario, these debates will act as a sieve, separating the good from the bad; the wheat from the chaff. More likely, I think these debates are going to be like crabs in a bucket. They could escape the bucket together, but these uptown pokies will drag each other down out of spite.
The first debate of 2019 was held yesterday, and it certainly seems like the party is saving the best they have to offer for later.
This debate included Bill de Blasio, the despised Mayor of New York, the unheard of Tim Ryan, Julian Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Jay Inslee, and John Delaney, as well as not-so-Native-American Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke (who’s only claim to fame is losing to Ted Cruz in 2018), and former Marine Tulsi Gabbard.
Most of them have pretty similar platforms, it’s hardly worth listing. Pro-universal healthcare, pro-open borders, anti-business, etc. In a highlight of the night, Tulsi Gabbard rebutted Tim Ryan over staying in Afghanistan. “As a soldier, your answer is unacceptable,” She replied, disgusted, to Ryan’s argument for further engagement in Afghanistan.
Incredibly, the most shocking thing about the first night was the level of pandering from the candidates. Three of them, Beto O’Rourke, Julian Castro, and Cory Booker spoke Spanish. They supported seventy percent tax rates on the rich. Warren has promised to cancel student debt. They all fought to be seen as the most pro-woman. It was kind of pathetic. I’m not a fan of Donald Trump’s twitter, but I think he summed it up best yesterday.
What will Night Two be Like?
Meanwhile, the second night of the debate is where the real powerhouses are going to be at play.
Among them will be the unheard of Marianne Williamson, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Michael Bennet, the unfortunately named Eric Swalwell, Pete Buttigieg, and John Hickenlooper, the outsider Andrew Yang, and the frontrunner candidates, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden.
These candidates will have a much wider range of policies compared to night one. Joe Biden, as Obama’s Vice President, could be seen as a return to normalcy in politics, but recent photos of him holding onto and kissing young girls might hurt him despite his huge lead in the polls.
Bernie Sanders is an unabashed socialist, who has supported the idea of letting convicted felons vote and has touted Breadlines as “a good thing”, but his policies are quite popular amongst younger voters.
Kamala Harris is a hybrid of Biden and Sanders, but as a black woman she appeals to supporters of identity politics in a way that two old white guys don’t.
Andrew Yang, however, will be the most interesting candidate to watch. He’s a supporter of Universal Basic Income, anti-identity politics, and pro-capitalism. I predict the second night will be far more contentious (and interesting) than the first.