Showing all the pride of a stepfather watching his entitled stepson’s spoken word performance at a coffee shop teeming with hipsters, the Democratic National Committee did its best to bury the second Democratic presidential debate under a mountain of college football. Saturday night’s debate drew 8.5 million viewers, which might seem respectable until you compare it to other debates. The first Democratic debate on CNN drew nearly twice as many viewers, 15.3 million or so. The August 6th Republican debate on Fox News Channel drew an amazing – or appalling, depending upon your opinion of Donald Trump – 24 million viewers.
Since we’ve established that you didn’t fulfill your civic duty by watching, please go view it in full now so that you can read this post thoughtfully and in a well-informed matter. We’ll wait.
Haha, just kidding. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Instead, we’ll just give you a rundown of the moment of the night for each of the candidates.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the prohibitive favorite, and the obnoxious conventional wisdom is that she wins by not losing. By this standard, she won.
However, she did give an exceptionally off-putting response to a question about her ties to Wall Street. Bernie Sanders made the point that Wall Street billionaires, who have donated millions to Secretary Clinton and her Super PAC, don’t give out of the goodness of their hearts (not least because their chest cavities have lumps of black coal where their hearts should be), but instead expect something in return.
Secretary Clinton’s response was that 9/11 happened on Wall Street, and, as New York’s senator at the time, she helped them rebuild, and, ostensibly, they’re just showing gratitude. There are many things wrong with this response, starting with the fact that there’s a difference between Wall Street – a physical location in Lower Manhattan – and “Wall Street,” the title for the investment banking industry that, while somewhat concentrated on the literal Wall Street, is spread all over the globe. In LSAT logic parlance, this is equivocation, treating two different things as though they were the same. (On a side note, this is also metonymy. Now you learned something. You are so very welcome.) The other, more pressing problem with this statement is that it’s a gross misuse of a national tragedy for political cover, but, hey, everyone does it, right?
In response to Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, the focus of the debate shifted at the last minute to include more time on foreign affairs and national defense. Senator Bernie Sanders has, of course, focused his message keenly on domestic economic policy to the near exclusion of everything else. It was rumored that Sen. Sanders was not happy with the shift in focus, and he spent his time during the debate trying with varying levels of success to shift the topic back to his wheelhouse.
Moderator John Dickerson asked Sen. Sanders if he continued to believe, as he has asserted, that climate change is the greatest threat to national security, given that ISIS now seems to be attacking in all sorts of places outside its territory. Senator Sanders said that one caused the other, specifically that climate change and its attendant dislocations were the cause of strife in Syria proper and would continue to cause war over diminishing resources.
While this is some keen debate jiu jitsu, it’s a tenuous connection. More than that, the cat’s out of the bag in Syria, and fixing climate change, if it’s even possible, isn’t going to change that. Nice try, Senator. Why don’t you feel the Bern for once?
The other side of the Clinton coin, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is the prohibitive least favorite, and, according to the conventional wisdom, he loses by not winning. Well, by that standard, he lost.
Governor O’Malley’s moment of the night, aside from being a human pop-up ad trying to push traffic to his website, was a strange attempt to ride Donald Trump’s coattails. He called Trump an “immigrant bashing carnival barker.” Ooooooh, take that, The Donald! Well, Trump didn’t take it. He called O’Malley a “failed former mayor” and a “clown.” A carnival barker and a clown? Those things go hand in hand. We smell unity ticket – Trump/O’Malley 2016!