The second of two debates took place last night in Miami featuring the other ten Democratic contenders.
This second debate was more spirited and contentious than the first debate, in part because of the personalities involved, and in part because these ten candidates learned a few lessons watching the first ten the night before. Namely, they learned that interrupting or interjecting gets attention, which is the name of the game with over twenty challengers vying for the nomination.
Here’s a great summary of the performances from NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald:
For what it’s worth, here is my takeaway. Kamala Harris gained the most from the debate. She was sharp and thoughtful without seeming forced or rehearsed. She battled Biden effectively and conducted herself with both grace and charisma. I was also impressed by Michael Bennet’s passionate attack of the Trump administration and the ease with which he distilled Trump’s malevolence into succinct sound bytes. Eric Swallwell also had a memorable moment when he asked Biden to pass the torch, using Biden’s own line from thirty-plus years ago. Kirsten Gillibrand said some great things, especially about her record on issues of equality and justice for women, but she didn’t seem to make the same human connection that Harris made, and that Warren made the night before. Mayor Pete also said some great things, especially around separation of church and state, but his cool and calculating style seems to work better in a one-on-one interview than a debate. John Hickenlooper scored points for his easy-going demeanor but relied too heavily on “Colorado is the greatest in so many ways.” Andrew Yang had some novel and interesting ideas but seemed outmatched by his rivals. Likewise, Marrianne Williamson brought a very unique perspective to the debate but often veered in strange and distracting directions. Bernie Sanders was thoroughly, predictably Bernie, delivering the same angry monotone that we’ve heard often in the past four years. He championed a lot of great ideas and his responses to questions were well polished, but they were nothing we haven’t heard before. Frontrunner Joe Biden took the most abuse from his fellow candidates, and while his performance was adequate and relatively gaffe-free, he spent a lot of time on the defensive and clearly represented a political style and era that may no longer be adequate for our political moment.
It will be interesting to see which of the candidates will be able to fundraise from their performances and increase their profiles. I’m sure there will be more giant debates, but until the pack is thinned these media moments will be painful to watch and lacking substance.
Meanwhile the Supreme Court handed down two consequential decisions yesterday.
One, they ruled that the Federal Courts have no business ruling on cases involving the partisan gerrymandering of state elections. This is a huge blow to Democracy, essentially saying that the Federal Government cannot tell a state what to do when it comes to elections, even if the state is doing something awful and un-Democratic. It’s a huge and abysmal abdication of duty by the Roberts Court and makes the court seem that much more partisan and capricious.
Two, they ruled that the dispute about the proposed citizenship question for the 2020 Census must be returned to a lower court for more fact finding. The Roberts Court essentially said that until the Trump administration could provide a better reason for adding the question than it had already given, the lower court’s barring of the question would hold. This was a small victory for Democracy, but it’s unclear whether the Trump administration will be able to re-litigate and offer different, better reasons for wanting the question to appear in the upcoming census.
I’m traveling to a wedding this weekend and won’t be able to post again until Monday morning, July 1, which is day 893. Enjoy your weekend and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”