David Roberts @drvox Seattleite transplanted from Tennessee; now blogging for vox.com/ about energy politics. Climate hawk, deficit dove. Not a doctor. Jul. 31, 2019 7 min read

So, did I miss anything tonight?

All right, I'm diving into the transcript. Will be interesting to draw impressions just from the words, with no visuals/sound. My first thought is that Bullock's opening statement is so intensely generic there is almost an uncanny-valley aspect to it.

"Most families when they go to sit at the kitchen table to do their bills..." [drink]

"Whatever our differences, we know that before we are anything else, we are Americans first ..." [drink]

Warren: "We are the Democrats. We are not about trying to take away health care from anyone. That's what the Republicans are trying to do. And we should stop using Republican talking points in order to talk with each other about how to best provide that health care." ✨

Bullock, less than a minute later: "At the end of the day I won't support any plan that rips away quality health care from individuals." 🙄

Not sure how these health care questions would have been different if written by a Republican operative.

Sanders: "Jake, your question is a Republican talking point, at the end of the day. And by the way, the healthcare industry will be advertising tonight on this program -- they will be advertising tonight with that talking point." 🔥

God the moderating is so infuriating. It is 100% devoted to trying to box candidates into saying things that can be used against them later, or getting them criticizing each other. It's a pure search for viral moments. No one can possibly be learning anything from this.

Williamson: "We need to be talking about why so many of our chemical policies and our food policies and our agricultural policies and our environmental policies and even our economic policies are leading to people getting sick to begin with." I mean ... she's not wrong.


Buttigieg: "Of course we need to get money out of politics, but when I propose the actual structural democratic reforms that might make a difference -- end the electoral college, amend the constitution if necessary to clear up Citizens United, have DC actually be a state ..."

"... and depoliticize the supreme court with structural reform -- people look at me funny, as if this country was incapable of structural reform." 💫

What journalistic or educational value is there in Tapper setting up a fight between Hickenlooper & Sanders over whether Sanders is "too extreme"? Who learns anything from that? (Funny story: Sanders is one of the most popular pols in the US & Hickenlooper has barely broken 2%.)

(1) Ryan laments, "already tonight, we have talked about taking private health insurance away from union members ... decriminalizing the border, & ... giving free health care to undocumented workers." Scolds field as too far left, says they should discuss "working class issues."

(2) This is maddening. First, WHY have they discussed those issues? They didn't bring them up, the f'ing moderators did, precisely to get Dems stuck talking about the least popular aspects of their otherwise popular policies.

(3) Second, health care and a sane immigration system are both "working class issues," a case Dems should be building together, not opportunistically demagoguing one another over.

Tapper: "I want to bring in Governor Bullock, talking about whether Democrats are moving too far to the left to win the White House." JFC.

Tapper: "... Senator Klobuchar ... you have said when asked about your primary opponents, 'a lot of people are making promises and I'm not going to make promises just to get elected'. Who on this stage is making promises just to get elected?" JFC.

Oh god I'm to the climate section. This thread may be going NC-17.

Boy, the anti-innovation lobby is taking a beating.

Aaand we're going right to banning cars. What a garbage fire CNN is.

Sanders: "I get a little bit tired of Ds afraid of big ideas. Rs are not afraid of big ideas. They could give $1T in tax breaks to billionaires & profitable corporations, they can bail out the crooks on Wall Street, so please don't tell me we cannot take on the FF industry."

Ryan: "I didn't say we couldn't get there until 2040. You don't have to yell." 🤣

Well that discussion was ... unsatisfying.

I know I said #neverwilliamsontweet, but ... "if you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I'm afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days."

I'm assuming it's too late at night for anyone to be reading these tweets.

"Why are you the best to heal the racial divide in America?" is a very dumb question.

Buttigieg: "So-called conservative Christian senators right now in the senate are blocking a bill to raise the minimum wage, when scripture says, 'whoever oppresses the poor taunts their maker'." I am so here for Buttigieg jabbing conservative Christians.

Overall, that back-and-forth on tariffs was ... not bad? Reasonably substantive. Warren dropped some fire: "Anyone who thinks trade deals are about tariffs doesn't understand what's going on."

Y'all yell at me when I quote her but Williamson is saying some good shit! "I wonder why you're Democrats. You think there's something wrong about using the instruments of government to help people. That is what government should do! All policies should help people thrive."

Klobuchar is arguing against student-debt forgiveness in terms that would apply ANY universal-benefit program; she's basically arguing against universality. And using hand-wavy debt fears to justify it. Feh.

Tapper: "If voters hear the same message from you and President Trump on military intervention, how should they expect you will be different from him?"

Sanders: "Trump is a pathological liar. I tell the truth."


Ryan: "I don't think Presidents of the United States meet with dictators."

Delaney: "Donald Trump is a symptom of the disease. And the disease is divisiveness."

Out of a generally smarmy set of closing statements, Mayor Pete's was the best. No "move beyond left & right" pablum. Instead: hey, let's deal Republicans a giant & crushing defeat. In fact, Pete went after Trump + his enablers several times. Good attacker = good VP material?

My summary, from reading: Warren & Sanders both big winners, smacking away the attacks from "moderates."  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3HMz25LvnY 

Buttigieg had several low-key good moments. Bullock I guess finally had a moment or two? Delaney & Hickenlooper were annoying. Anyway. Thanks to all of you for coming along with me on this largely unilluminating journey through shitty moderating & 30-second soundbites. </fin>

All right, two final thoughts about last night's debate, as a coda to this ☝️ridiculous thread. First: the format is garbage & the moderation is garbage. It is designed to be actively hostile to Dems, to produce attackable soundbites, not knowledge. It has no redeeming features.

This David is right -- the Dems should just organize their own debate, in a format (and with moderators) designed to actually educate voters about their choices. Let the networks come if they want to.

Second: the most important issue facing Dems is the one they talk about least, namely, structural barriers to getting *anything* done. If all those barriers stay in place, all the talk about grand plans is hot air. ONLY Buttigieg is talking about this.  https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/7/30/20748078/pete-buttigieg-democratic-debate-cnn 

All right I'm not gonna obsess over the debate all day, but I keep thinking, who did CNN think this was FOR? Why set up questions to make Dems look bad? Why try to get them sniping at each other? Why cut off any replies of substance? If it was for ratings, it failed. So ...

... why? It didn't serve any pubic purpose, didn't educate or elucidate. Why?

The answer, I think, is the same answer that shapes all MSM political coverage: these people have bad-faith right-wing media critics *living in their heads*. The performance, nay, the whole event ...

... was designed for those critics. "See, we're not liberal! We're 'tough' on Dems! Look how we make them talk about tax hikes! Look how we call them extreme! We're not liberal!" Same dynamic for years & years. Makes for shitty content & the bad-faith critics are never satisfied.

I'll say: with this format, with these moderators, I absolutely would NOT want a climate debate. It would be an utter disaster.

You can follow @drvox.


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