February 23, 2020

How To Summarize a Presidential Debate


As you know, it is far easier to crap on something someone else has done than to offer something of value oneself. I have complained about this previously because I think it plays an important part in why we can't have nice things. Even though I've never been a positive person by nature, I find that the near-constant barrage of negativity I encounter on social media grows tiring enough that I think about how I can do something different. I think about that even though I know that this is another case where something different is unlikely to be popular. It is in that "spirit" that I'd like to offer some praise to a blogger I recently discovered: Bob Felton at Civil Commotion.

Shortly after the last Democratic debate in Las Vegas, I was feeling ambivalent about whether I wanted to write a post sharing my impressions. As soon as I ran across Bob's post (i.e., The Debate), I knew I'd be writing about it instead of writing about the debate. I've written about many presidential debates since I've been blogging, but I've never found a format I liked until reading Bob's post. It was brief, simple, and to the point; however, it seemed to convey pretty much everything that needed to be conveyed. Why must I continue to make it harder than this? I'm not saying that my impressions of the candidates and their performance mirrored Bob's perfectly, although they were close. But really, it wasn't his impressions of the candidates that got my attention as much as it was how he communicated them.

As soon as I read Bob's post, one thought went through my mind:

The next time I write a post about my impressions of a presidential primary debate, I need to remember how effective this was. This is what I'd want my post to look like.
Thanks for your post, Bob. It was a much-needed lesson in how to communicate what needed to be communicated in an effective manner.

Some Quick Thoughts on the Debate in Las Vegas

Since I have been asked, I do have a few thoughts on the debate in Las Vegas that I'll share below. I'll group them a bit differently than Bob did in an attempt to reflect how I am now thinking about the remaining candidates.

The Progressives

I found myself applauding Elizabeth Warren's take-down of Michael Bloomberg even as I worried that some viewers might regard her as excessively mean for doing it. Unfortunately, I'm not sure Warren has a clear path forward unless she is willing to do that to Bernie Sanders. She has had little success winning over moderate/establishment voters, and that leaves her competing with Sanders for the more progressive voters. Sanders is the one in her way, and it seems that most progressive voters prefer him. I suspect that her demolition of Bloomberg helped Sanders more than it helped her. As much as I like Sanders, I still have a hard time imagining him being able to defeat Trump in the general election. Then again, he may have a better chance of doing so than many of his competitors. I suppose my main concern is that a President Sanders would have little chance of getting much done in office.

The Moderates

With Bloomberg and Joe Biden both turning in awful performances and Biden's electability argument looking like it might collapse around him unless he wins big in South Carolina, the moderate lane featured a strong performance from Pete Buttigieg and an adequate but not-particularly-satisfying performance from Amy Klobuchar. She did much better in the previous debate and came across as more desperate in Vegas. Of course, it may be that I just find myself tiring of her repetitive talking points. I didn't think either Buttigieg or Klobuchar did themselves any favors in their squabble, but he performed better overall. Perhaps he has a viable path ahead if Biden underperforms in South Carolina.

The Losers

Ugh. Did Bloomberg not prepare for the debate at all? He gave me no reason at all to think that Trump wouldn't mop the stage with him. And Bob was right on the money about Biden. At this point, I am having real trouble figuring out who Biden might still appeal to. He's coming across as increasingly out-of-touch, and it isn't always clear that he's fully oriented to his surroundings. It is still early enough that he could turn things around, but it does look like he is going to need a decisive victory in South Carolina. If Biden does win the nomination, he's going to have to pick a solid VP who voters will trust to do most of the work.