Who did we see? A gay guy. Two New York Jews age 78. A no-nonsense hard-working Oklahoma woman and a no-nonsense hard-working Minnesota woman. And a working-class Catholic with more hands-on experience than all the others put together.
What did we see? Panic, rather than bravery in the face of an emergency.
What did we hear? Fishermen and fish-wives haggling amidst the fish-stench of a disappointing catch.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
What did we not hear?
Nothing about the rule of law and its awful breach. Little about Bernie Sanders’ broken promise to release his medical records in full. (Not to release is to hide something big; we all know that.) Nothing about high-level Sanders aides extemporizing outlandish Trump-like lies while fully mic’d and with cameras rolling. Nothing about foreign policy! Ideas with all the substance of vape-smoke, promising what cannot happen unless the Senate is won, and no strategy voiced that would win it. This debate was a study in confusion in which Biden came across as the only adult . . . old, worn, everyone’s dotty-uncle, but an adult.
The NBC panel: incompetent. The content of their questions: vapid. Credit where credit is due: Chuck Todd is no better than so-so at his job, but he’s right about the Sanders "brownshirts."
When ABC hosted, those ABC newsfolk kept order. The NBC and MSNBC debates had all the decorum of school-yard dodge-ball. That is to say: Left to themselves, these candidates are disorderly. Like 8th-graders who’ve had too much sugar with lunch. A chorus of “Me! Me! Me! Me! Me!” A disconnect from dignity.
(Have you noticed that dignity is a word heard rarely now in our land?)
They don’t know it, they’d deny it, but, God help them, the model for this behavior is Donald J. Trump. I’ve been watching televised presidential debates since the very first in 1960, and never have Democrats behaved so utterly without aplomb, without flash, without class. Trumpian poofs and goofs. Sanders mouthing generalities, hiding his medical records, and waving his arms. Buttigieg's pretense of relative innocence. Warren as earnest as a wind-up doll. If Mayor Mike stood beside a fire-hydrant who would know the difference? (A dog would know.) Amy just barely restraining herself from kneeing Pete in the groin. Biden wondering where the fuck he is, stuck in a sideshow of amateurs, lights, and cameras, while knowing he would have beaten Trump in 2016 if only Obama hadn’t talked him out of running.
In 2008, 2012, 2016, and now in 2020, bourgeois millennials have proven themselves to possess the political intelligence of hummingbirds. They flutter at the sugar! A slogan will do for a thought. A gesture will do for a program. So long as their feelings are satisfied, they judge the job as done. (My own judgment is: Jettison the brownshirts, jettison the hummingbirds, leave them aside and go all-out and Dems can still win this coming November.)
Given my age, 2020 may well be my last presidential election. So, with my back against the proverbial wall, I evaluate:
Joe Biden, at his best, has been the smartest and most honest of the Oligarchic Democratic Party, the party of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. He’s a faded man, very faded. but still a good Joe.
Bernie Sanders is the most useless of the Senate’s useless suits. If you haven’t got what it takes to examine his legislative record — not the record of his opinions, but what he gets paid to do in the Senate — then you are, by definition, [fill in the blank with your favorite obscenity]. An inspiration to computer-squads of bullies. A millionaire who doesn’t like to admit it. To have three houses and yet pound the table in the name of the homeless is, well, not my sort of president.
Amy Klobuchar is, hands down, the most effective Democratic senator of her generation.
Elizabeth Warren equals (almost) flawless integrity. In a legislative sense, not nearly as effective as Klobuchar; but always, always, always taking the part of people who hurt.
Pete Buttigieg is a good talker, but he’s only the mayor of one small’ish town, with a racist cop situation that has yet to be fully aired, and a record that is largely empty. “Gay” has been judged, by the media, to be the most wondrous thing about him; but that doesn’t change the blank sheet of his qualifications.
Michael Bloomberg — slam him up against the wall and frisk him from his ankles up through his groin and all his pockets and his collar and see how he likes it. Repeat this exercise every day for several years at random times, in front of his children, with no cause but the color of his skin. That’s what he did to people.
On one day I’m for Klobuchar, on another I’m for Warren. I wonder who I’ll vote for.
Klobuchar tends to speak about herself — that is, her record. Hers is, overall, the best record of her generation of politicians. My impression is that Warren speaks of herself mostly because it’s expected. Her record also is impressive, but her preference, always, is to speak of the people, the people, the people. Especially those who hurt. As Carl Sandburg put it, The people, yes, the people.
This morning, my vote is Warren’s.
Michael Ventura © 2020. All rights reserved.
Michael Ventura is a writer who lives in the mountains of Northern California.
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