The first Democrat presidential debate of the 2020 election is now history. Full disclosure; I didn’t watch it. My wife and I are staying at my parent’s house, and politics is a subject I tread on very lightly here. Knowing that it would be difficult if not impossible to watch the debate without making comments, we wisely decided to binge watch the third season of Zoo instead.
Which was probably apropos as from the descriptions I have heard from both sides, both nights of the debate was pretty much a zoo in and of itself. Then again, what can one expect when there are 20 candidates vying for the office?
The media, as it did last election cycle when the Republicans presented them with 17 candidates, decided that 20 candidates on the stage at the same time was unmanageable, so they broke the debate into two groups of 10 each. However, unlike the 2015 Republican primary debates when they separated the 17 candidates into two groups and ran them both back to back on the same night, this time they elected to host each group on back to back nights instead.
It took a hearty voter to wade their way through a solid four hours of debate in 2015. Voters in 2019 had it much easier.
In both cases they did put the “most viable” candidates in the second batch, so that you could skip the warmup circus if you wanted. However, the way they did it this time, viewers could watch both sets in prime time. Before, depending on the scheduling and the time zone you happened to live in, either one set was too early for some folks to watch or one set was too late.
The media would probably say they learned from the first experience and that the new format was in response to the problems mentioned above. However, there were five Republican primary debates in 2015, and two in 2016 that still had enough candidates to follow the two-group format. Surely it didn’t take that long to figure out that it might be better to run them over two nights in prime time rather than back to back on the same day. More likely the schedules were set up to achieve exactly what they wanted; limited viewership by all but the most dedicated Republican primary voters, due to viewer fatigue and scheduling issues.
This time around, the cynical part of me says, they were trying to maximize exposure; making sure that as many people as possible got the chance to witness, for two consecutive days, the bash Donald Trump fest that they were sure would result.
Unfortunately for them, they were disappointed. There were very few, if any, direct attacks on Donald Trump the first night. Ditto the second. This led MSNBC host Joe Scarborough to apologize to viewers Friday on his “Morning Joe” show, for the “disaster for the Democratic Party” that aired on MSNBC on Wednesday and Thursday night. In fact, he went so far as to say that “my only hope is people were not watching.” Because, you see, far from being an unbiased media type, Morning Joe is an unabashed shill for the Democratic Party.
His problem with the debates? The candidates were criticizing each other instead of Donald Trump. He likened the debates to “trench warfare,” whereby the candidates were supposed to be ready in their trenches, bayonetted guns in hand, “ready to charge Donald Trump,” and instead “they all turn their guns on each other and shoot each other, and everybody is yelling at each other all night.”
If it sounds to you that Joe Scarborough is hardly “fair and balanced” when it comes to Donald Trump, you would be correct. In fact, I would characterize Joe Scarborough’s “coverage” of Donald Trump as “fairly unbalanced” since before he was elected. But that is fodder for another article.
I think Joe Scarborough missed the whole point of the debate, at least from the candidate’s point of view. From Joe’s point of view, and likely from the point of view of MSNBC itself, the mission is getting Donald Trump out of office by whatever means necessary. That has been their focus since he was elected back in November 2016. To them, this means that all the candidates should selflessly ignore each other and focus like a laser on what an evil, horrible, awful man Donald Trump is instead of spending time differentiating themselves from their fellow candidates.
Somehow, Joe and undoubtedly others, expected some sort of calm, scholarly recitation of each candidate’s objectives, with all the histrionics reserved for denunciations of Donald Trump, Republicans, and anyone racist and bigoted enough to vote for him. You know, something all right (read "left") thinking people can agree on.
But it’s a primary debate. All 20 of these people are running to become President of the United States, although you could argue that some of them are there running for vice president, some sort of eventual political appointment, or other personal or political reason. At the end of the campaign there can be only one. Unless there is an anointed candidate out there (like Hilary was supposed to be the last time) and all the rest are just window dressing, the first step for them is to win the primary. In order to do that, they have to differentiate themselves in the minds of voters from the others that are also running. And to do that, they have to debate each other, not Donald Trump, because they are running against each other, not Donald Trump.
If they don’t differentiate themselves, why should the voters care which candidate wins? Why have debates at all? Why not just have a lottery and move on to the Trump and Republican bashing?
It is also a popularity contest with the voting public. They have to grab as big a percentage of the polls as possible. If they don’t, their funding will dry up and they will be done. This first debate itself could winnow down the 20 to some lesser number based on that polling data. Running for president is expensive. The money has to come from somewhere.
(As an aside, it is ironic that while the left takes so much pleasure in bashing the rich, big corporations, and “special interests,” this is exactly where the bulk of their funding for political campaigns comes from. With the possible exception of Bernie Sanders.)
So, while Morning Joe might have liked to see the candidates reserve their firepower for the “big guy” and not spend so much ammo on each other that simply is not realistic. Perhaps Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden don’t need to worry about that so much; perhaps those who aren't "really" running (i.e.; have little expectation they will win) don't have to worry about each other and can concentrate solely on Trump, but the others, particularly those currently polling less than 1% certainly do if they expect to stay in the race. It simply is not realistic to believe otherwise.
Morning Joe had other problems with the debate as well.
For example, he criticized Joe Biden for sticking closely to the rules and not focusing more on issues. In fact, he called Joe Biden’s performance “one of the most disturbing debate performances” he had ever seen. Because hey, rules are made to be broken, right? Ends justifies the means. Who but a loser actually cares about rules anyway? The objective is ridding the planet of Donald Trump.
He didn’t like Sanders either, who he described as “yelling all night” and not prepared for the debate. He accused him of “basically giving the same debate performance this year that he gave four years ago.” Well duh. Where has Morning Joe been for the last four years? Did it ever occur to him that perhaps Sanders gave the same debate performance because Sanders is Sanders; he hasn’t changed, he believes the same things he did four years ago, and has been saying them and delivering them the same way every year since the last debates? In fact, he was doing so before the 2015 Democratic primary debates! May as well ask him why he gave the same debate performance in 2015 that he would have in 2011, or 2007, or 2003 had he ran in those years.
I guess you could say that Morning Joe has gone on record as disliking both of the current Democratic front-runners.
And finally, he criticized Democrats for effectively spilling the beans on their progressive agenda, to include decriminalizing border crossings (effectively an open-borders policy), and providing free universal health coverage for “undocumented immigrants” (i.e., illegal aliens).
Not that Morning Joe disagrees with these policies, and not that the candidates haven’t been saying these things all along. What he disagrees with is that they said them publicly on stage during the debate with millions of voters watching. In fact, when asked by an NBC moderator if the candidates would support a national health care plan that would provide free coverage for “undocumented immigrants,” all of the Democratic candidates raised their hands.
It isn’t the message, it’s the optics. Morning Joe is worried that whichever Democrat emerges from the pack to win the primary, they won’t be able to beat Trump with that focus, because in reality most Americans would be opposed to providing free healthcare (at their expense) to everyone in the world who decides to up stakes and move here.
This is one reason why Trump won the first time; most Americans are opposed to many of the policies that progressives desperately want to enact. They may not say so if asked, because to do so in today’s society can be suicidal if your views are made public. But in the privacy of the ballot box? That’s another story.
Many Democrats would be opposed as well, if they paid attention to what their party truly stands for and where they want to take the country. Which again, is why Morning Joe objects to the presidential hopefuls admitting these things on TV in front of God and country. Wouldn't want to clue in those Democratic voters who still think their party is the party of FDR, or Kennedy, or even Bill Clinton as to what their party actually stands for these days.
The only way the progressive left, which has taken over the Democratic Party, can be successful in their desire to be elected and lead America down a radically different path is to mislead and downright lie to the American people concerning what they really want to do once in office. And Morning Joe knows that.