Last night was the 2nd in a seemingly endless series of Democratic primary debates. Once again there were 10 candidates on the stage (and 10 more tomorrow night), picked at random (supposedly). There were 2 front-runners (Sanders and Warren), several forgettable white men (Ryan, Delaney, Hickenlooper, Bullock), Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, and Marianne Williamnson once again bringing the woo.
The format seemed designed - and guided by the moderators - to pit the 2nd and 3rd tier candidates against the front-runners. The moderators would go back and forth between Warren or Sanders and the other candidates. They were also attempting to be VERY strict regarding the time limits for answering questions. While in theory that's a good idea, the amount of time allocated just wasn't enough. Most of the time it seemed that the candidates where just getting to their points when the moderators cut them off.
The Forgettable White Men contingent were pushing a more moderate stance on most issues, particularly health care solutions. I tend to agree with them, that rather than replace the ACA, a public option should be added. Once that's in place, then the next step would be to force private insurers to be non-profit. The next step after that would be to simply use the Canadian model. The other option is to put Medicare-for-All in place immediately, and push private insurers into the "add on" market. The problem with that is it ensures a 2nd class citizen tier for those unable to afford the private market add-on coverage.
But I digress... There were some good moments. Elizabeth Warren got the best ad-hoc sound bite when - after listening to one of the Forgettable White Guys espousing a particularly mealy-mouthed position - she proclaimed "You know, I don't understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can't do and shouldn't fight for". Brutal...
Williamson was much better this time around (although still nowhere near the ballpark of "presidential"). She spoke in favor of reparations for descendants of slaves, and castigated the moderates, saying "I've heard some people here tonight, I almost wonder why you're Democrats. You seem to think there's something wrong about using instruments of government to help people. That is what government should do. All policies should help people thrive. That is how we will have peace and that is how we will have prosperity."
There were also divides when the subject of decriminalizing border crossings was brought up. Buttigieg said "We can argue over the finer points of which parts should be handled by civil law and criminal law". I was under the impression that crossing the border undocumented WAS a civil law violation - not a criminal one. Has that changed? If so - it needs to be changed back.
All in all - it was a bit annoying to watch, mainly because of the moderators. It was difficult to get a good sense of where the candidates stood on key issues. Warren and Sanders were given probably half of the screen time. Amy Klobuchar got very little, which is a shame because she came across as very competent when allowed to speak. Sanders has 2 volumes - loud, and louder. It wasn't a complete waste of time, but it was difficult to maintain interest.
Tonight - we get to do it all over again. It will be Biden and Harris, with a larger second-level tier and more women (Booker, Castro, Gabbard, Gillibrand), with Bennet, de Blasio, Inslee, and Yang trying to remain relevant. I hope the moderators are better this time, but the time restrictions will likely be the same. Hopefully, the field is winnowed down between now and September so that the debate isn't just a series of 30 second sound bites.