The first Democratic debate saw 10 largely-interchangeable candidates square off to trade platitudes in a free-for-all plagued with technical difficulties, mysterious shifts into Spanish, and belligerent posturing.
President Donald Trump didn’t seem too worried about being unseated in 2020 by any of the ten candidates duking it out on the first night of the Democratic primary debates in Miami, leveling a characteristically acerbic tweet in lieu of detailed analysis. Others declared him the winner of the debate.
Republican senator Lindsey Graham gave a sarcastic thanks to NBC for the technical difficulties that forced the station to go to a commercial early, and even the left-leaning Daily Show poked fun at the forgettable showing of a large chunk of the candidates, showing them turning into, well, a large chunk. Of mayonnaise.
Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke delivered half his opening remarks in Spanish, opening the door for the rest of the bilingual candidates to do their own cultural appropriating (or “outreach”) and triggering some eye-rolling among spectators – especially the Spanish-speaking ones. One Twitter user joked that “if [Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth] Warren” – a.k.a. “Pocahontas – “rain dances, then the pandering will be complete tonight.”
BETO: I speak Spanish.
BOOKER: I can’t believe you did my thing before me.
DE BLASIO: I have a black son.
BOOKER: I’m actually black tho, Bill.
KLOBUCHAR: …Um, I have an uncle with a deer stand?
WARREN: *don’t say it, don’t say it*
— Jason Howerton (@jason_howerton) June 27, 2019
The candidates tried their best to sound tough without alienating antiwar voters, but some were better at it than others. Every candidate except New Jersey senator Cory Booker – who once told an AIPAC crowd that he and the Israeli lobbying group “text message back and forth like teenagers” – vowed to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, while Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard condemned the warmongering of Trump’s “chicken hawk” cabinet.
Ohio congressman Tim Ryan insisted the US “must be engaged” in Afghanistan, even though he’d prefer to spend that money at home, because otherwise “the Taliban will grow.” When Gabbard pointed out that every country that had tried to “squash” the Taliban had failed, Ryan – who has spent 17 years in Congress – raised a few eyebrows with his response.
“When we weren’t in [Afghanistan], they started flying planes into our buildings!” he declared. Gabbard pointed out that it was al-Qaeda, not the Taliban – but Ryan can be forgiven for making the same mistake the entire US foreign policy establishment did.
Tim Ryan: “If we don’t crush 50 Afghan skulls a day, how will we stay safe?”
— Sen. Mike Gravel (@MikeGravel) June 27, 2019
The biggest geopolitical threat to the US, according to the candidates? “Donald Trump,” Washington governor Jay Inslee declared, to raucous cheers. O’Rourke volunteered climate change, while Gabbard suggested nuclear weapons, and Booker hedged his bets by declaring both nuclear proliferation and climate change were scary.
But the clear crowd favorite among the threats was Russia, which New York mayor Bill deBlasio declared with a smirk “[has] been trying to undermine our democracy and they’ve been doing a pretty damn good job and we need to stop ‘em!” The crowd, most of whom had paid $4,500 for their seats, cheered wildly.
According to Google, Gabbard was the winner of the debate, beating out every other candidate in search frequency. Booker came in a close second, while Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar and Maryland congressman John Delaney were tied for last place.
Ten more candidates take the stage on Thursday, including the two frontrunners, former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.
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