I went to a “watch party” to watch the first round of the Democratic Party debates. It was held at the offices of the Sierra Club in downtown Oakland. I went there to be around some other people and see what they might be thinking and feeling. It was probably around 100 people there, almost all young and maybe 2/3 women. I think all white.
Nothing really spectacular was said at the debate, but my preliminary impression is, first of all, you can forget about John Delaney. He looks like the treasurer (but not the CEO) of a major corporation. Sounds like one too. He could have gotten the backing of the kingmakers of the party, but Biden already has that role locked up, and Delaney has nothing to recommend himself over Biden.
I try to watch these things from the frame of mind of how I think a more “average” person would be seeing it. With that in mind, the ones who made the biggest impression (on me as a middle of the road liberal) were Castro, De Blasio and Booker. Castro just seemed like a decent thoughtful guy. Booker had that hard stare that made you think “now, this guy is serious” and De Blasio talked like a really good liberal. Klobuchar just didn’t really make much of an impression, despite the fact that she had the best one-liners of the night – that Trump’s policy on something or another was “all suds and no beer” and attacking Trump for “conducting foreign policy in a bathrobe at 5 in the morning.” Beto O’Rourke just seemed lightweight.
Global Climate Disaster
Then there was the Washington State governor, Jay Inslee. He really hit hard on the issue of climate change and he got some real cheers from the people in the hall in which I was sitting. I don’t think he’s going to really stand a chance, but if he starts to get some real attention this could really shift the consciousness in the US. In 2016, both parties collaborated to ensure that that issue never arose. (None of the candidates, including Inslee, Sanders or anybody else, ever mention this of course.) The capitalist media helped in this cover-up. Now, a whole layer of young people seems to be starting to become really aware of the issue, but it’s still not front and center. Inslee could help it be there, and that could really ensure the defeat of Trump.
A few other things that impressed me: The number of candidates who used the word “fight”, as in “I will fight for you.” Also, the number of candidates – practically all of them as far as I can recall – who referred to the horrific treatment that immigrants, especially children, are receiving at our border. I think they must do their own polling, and that must show that these are popular appeals. Similar with a few of them who referred to repression of black people in the US.
Of the people I talked with, most of them were Elizabeth Warren supporters.
For the second night’s Democratic Party debate I went to a watch party sponsored by a local Democratic Party club. I wanted to see what they were up to. There were about 50 people there and the average age was late 60s or early 70s. As soon as I came in, I noticed a sign by the sign-up table against US participation in foreign wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Venezuela, Iran… and Syria. “They’ve swallowed the Kool Aid” about what’s happening in Syria as being US regime change,” I thought. Sure enough, the guy at the registration table was a Tulsi Gabbard supporter. I mentioned about how she supports the BJP and Nerandra Modi, but he didn’t know who the BJP is or who Modi is. He also didn’t know that Gabbard supports Israel, chums around with the Addelson family and was a featured speaker at an event of Christians for Israel. He asked me for $5, but I sure wasn’t going to give them any money after that.
On reflection, my suspicion is that they were mainly old ex-members (or possibly current members) of the Communist Party.
As for the debate, one thing is for sure: They are trying to winnow down the number or candidates. Both last night and tonight, they put the main candidates in the center. Tonight they hardly ever called on the most peripheral candidate, Williamson. And she, herself, was clearly not as confident as the others; she didn’t keep interrupting like the others did. When she did speak, at first she was pretty good. She explained that we don’t have a health care system; we have an illness care system. She commented on the rate of chronic illnesses, which she linked to the food industry, chemical industry, etc. Pretty good. But her last statement was pathetic – all about combating Trump with love. I can see how she became the spiritual advisor to Oprah.
The other candidates had clearly studied last night’s debate and learned a lesson: It’s important to get as much screen time as possible. So a number of them just interrupted the others. At one point we were treated to two or three of them trying to talk over the others. It started to sound like a group of unruly 8 year-olds. Harris got off a good zinger: “America doesn’t want a food fight,” she said. “They want food on the table.”
Swalwell really stuck it to Biden. He explained that when he was six years old (in other words, 32 years ago), there was a political candidate who was going around saying that it was time to pass the torch on to the next generation. That politician was Joe Biden. Biden was left with a shit-eating grin on his face. On several occasions, he stumbled around like the tired old has-been that he is.
Who weakened, who strengthened
In general, I think Hickenlooper and Bennett were weakened. Sanders and Harris I think improved their standing while Biden treaded water at best.
Most important: As with last night, all candidates talked about income inequality and attacked the health insurance industry. Another bit issue, again, was the mistreatment of immigrant children. Of course, the hard core Trumpsters couldn’t care less if those kids were simply shot and their bodies thrown in the Rio Grande, but clearly there is a layer of middle America who don’t like to see “our country” behave like this. Overall, the candidates clearly had done their homework as far as what people are feeling. There was some talk about global climate change, but not much. Not a single candidate mentioned that in 2016, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party in general completely covered up this issue. She never mentioned it once. They are trying to minimize thinking about it again, but they can’t escape it entirely.
I talk a lot about whether a presidential candidate has good hair. Of course, it’s partly tongue-in-cheek, but only partly. I do it to make a point: That the general appearance, the aura, of a candidate is what really matters most. So many people comment on the apparent sincerity (or otherwise) of the candidates, for example.
This has everything to do with body language, tone of voice and simply physical appearance. Nobody would take Trump seriously if he were bald. Part of his appeal is that he’s so outrageous, and his hair adds to it. Without it, he’s just a bald old guy. With it, he’d make an
excellent car salesperson for a certain type of buyer. Seriously.
Basically, a candidate for president is like a car salesperson, except what they’re selling is the ideas of the capitalist class. Just like a car salesperson, different candidates have different strategies for selling those ideas. That’s partly based on which audience (or potential customer) they’re selling to and partly based on which kind of car they’re selling – or which part of the capitalist class they represent.