Musings on the second debate

This debate was rowdier than the first with more occasions where speakers ignored the limits on time and moderators’ efforts to pick responders.

So here are my summary reactions followed by more substantive comments.

Those who gained: Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Andrew Yang,

I knew something about the first before the debate and had a pretty good impression of Buttigieg but not so much about Harris. But all did well in answering questions, in that they were articulate and clear, particularly Buttigieg. I knew nothing about Yang but his call for giving every person $1,000 per month funded by a value added tax was interesting and deserves more attention. Gillibrand’s responses were also largely on point, refreshingly wonky at times, and seemed less canned.

Those who lost: Joe Biden, John Hickenlooper,

I am not a fan of Biden and tried to not let my bias influence my judgment but I really felt that he seemed flat. I did not know much about Hickenlooper and his distancing himself from socialism turned me off. I really do not know why Williamson is in the race at all.

Those who remained the same: Bernie Sanders, Marianne Williamson, Eric Swalwell, Michael Bennet

As I said yesterday, this is a tricky category that requires elaboration because staying the same in my estimation did not mean that I viewed them as the same. As with Warren yesterday, I already had a high regard for Bernie Sanders and that view remained unchanged because he was strong last night. I knew little about Swalwell and Bennet but their performances did not inspire me to know more.

Buttigieg using the children in cages to call out of Republican hypocrisy on religion was a clever way to highlight the fact that he himself is religious without sounding like he was pandering to the religious.

It seems like the pundits have seized upon Harris’s remarks aimed at Biden’s inexplicable touting of his close relationships with segregationist senators. I understand his desire to say that he thinks he can work in a bipartisan manner and with those who disagree with him. But why pick on stone-cold racists and segregationists to make your point?

Harris’s attack on his opposition to court-ordered busing also hurt him. Another big hit on him that may get lost in the noise was the one by Bennet who pointed out how Biden and Obama agreed to make the Bush tax cuts permanent in a disastrous deal with Republicans that was a total victory for the Tea Party nutters. Biden also did not help himself when he was asked what his first agenda item would be upon being sworn into office and he replied: “The first thing I would do is make sure that we defeat Donald Trump.”

I though the discussions about socialism (especially the picture painted by Hickenlooper) and whether private health insurance still had a role under the candidates’ universal health care plans needed more clarity. None of the candidates, even Sanders, is calling for an end to the capitalist system. What is being advocated by democratic socialism and Medicare For All is that no should need to buy private health insurance to receive basic health care. If people want more bells and whistles in their health care, private plans will undoubtedly step in and fill the need, as is the case in pretty much all the developed countries that have universal health care. It was Buttigieg who made this important point. As Sanders said, the function of the health care industry in the US is to make huge profits and people should not be at their mercy.

I have to say that I hate it when moderators ask the candidates to pick just one thing that they think is the most important. There are many important things that need to be done simultaneously and rank ordering them is a waste of time. I also hate it when candidates are asked to raise their hands to reply yes or no to questions that require nuanced responses. Sanders challenged the premise of some of these questions but I wish all of them did so and put an end to this practice.


  1. polishsalami says

    Marianne was the big talking point on Twitter. She’ll put New Zealand in its place, at last.

  2. says

    Understanding that I have no say in any of this…

    While a Warren/Harris ticket would be amazing, the reality of misogyny would mean it would be doomed from the start. That, and the senate should not be ignored and losing two good senators would be a disaster.

    Right now I’m leaning towards the best tickets being Warren/Castro or Harris/Buttigieg (though his disastrous handling of the police in South Bend means that if there is a better choice go for it).

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    None of the candidates, even Sanders, is calling for an end to the capitalist [health care] system.

    I didn’t watch the whole thing, but in one excerpt I saw, I could’ve sworn the question was “who would put an end to private health insurance”, with Sanders and Harris putting up their hands. And I think it was Harris who made the point that nobody should be making a profit over a fundamental right. Did I get that wrong?

  4. brucegee1962 says

    I thought Williamson’s strategy last night was brilliant. For a modest down payment in setting up a campaign infrastructure, she was awarded with a huge audience who might buy her books. I was surprised she didn’t actually hold one up when she gave her website address.

    I’m guessing that many of the candidates know they aren’t going to win, and are just hoping to get their names out there for potential cabinet posts, VP picks, and maybe a future shot down the road. But Williamson’s strategy will work even if Trump wins in 2020.

    The barrier to get on stage seems so low these days, I’m surprised more entrepreneurs and authors don’t sign up for the platform.

  5. mnb0 says

    @2 MarcusR: in the same way I like it how you remind me what fools those people were who became disappointed with Obama . And then with Clinton. And who knows, again from 2020 on.
    Trump or no Trump, I’ll refuse to back any Democrat candidate who doesn’t explicitly promise to stop drone killings. Anyone who will vote for such a candidate because “anything better than The Donald” in my eyes is a helpmate of a war criminal. Thus far that includes PZ Myers.

  6. vucodlak says

    @ Rob Grigjanis, #4
    Ending the capitalist healthcare system requires ending for-profit medicine altogether. No more for-profit hospitals, no more drug companies, etc. Otherwise, universal healthcare becomes unsustainably expensive. Ending private insurance is a just a good first step.

    @ mnb0, #6
    Yeah, they’re all equally as bad as Trump. I mean, who even cares about the concentration camps, right? Or the cavalier attitude towards nuclear war?

  7. Rob Grigjanis says

    vucodlak @8: I was just trying to find out of I heard right: Do Sanders and Harris want to end private insurance?

    I did a bit of digging, and it looks like the question was a bit vague. Harris thought they meant her own coverage.

    So, it looks like only de Blasio, Warren and Sanders want to end (most?) private coverage.

  8. deepak shetty says


    in my eyes is a helpmate of a war criminal.

    You might need to book an appointment with an optometrist.(And I’m mostly a pacifist)

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