Over the past two evenings (as I write this on Friday morning) I watched four hours of not quite boring, but not quite riveting, TV. I speak of the so-called debates by 20 of the Democratic candidates for the presidency.
Rather than these mass opportunities for quick sound bites of their talking points, I would have preferred a series of short — think 15 minutes — one-on-one debates where one or the other could have shown the vision that could defeat Donald Trump in 2020. That format would have taken only a little more time but would have allowed each potential candidate to more fully expound on his or her proposals. The format used did, however, provide some insights into each candidate’s personality and at least a hint of their vision for the country and its problems.
On Wednesday, the whole group seemed a bit more restrained and for the most part didn't talk over one another, and was pretty much respectful of the rules on the time allotted for answers and rebuttals. Although, as expected, there were differences of opinion on many of the issues, the arguments were made civilly and without obvious rancor.
On Thursday, there were near fireworks from the beginning, with much talking over one another, which made both of their arguments unintelligible. Some obvious dislike between several of the group seemed to me to be fairly obvious. Whether that was purely on political stances or was more personal I couldn't determine. All in all though, the second night’s performance had more energy.
At the end of it all, I have come to some conclusions — and, as yet, not as to the one that I would support. A few would do themselves and their — according to the polls — few supporters a favor by simply bowing out now before spending more money on an almost certainly doomed quest. This group would include technology businessman Andrew Yang, California Rep. Eric Swalwell and Ohio Rep., Tim Ryan plus maybe one or two more.
Others who are not so well known and are far behind the leaders in the polls at this point need to find a way to really get their messages out to the public more effectively. A couple of this group came off quite well when quizzed on their knowledge of and visions on the various issues. I would include former Maryland Rep. John Delaney and author and activist Marianne Williamson in this group.
The next group, whose names are more familiar and whose faces you see frequently on the nightly news, need to broaden their appeal to the electorate. Most in this group have focused on a few issues, with somewhat detailed proposals, but need to widen the range of their vision. Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is one of this group who needs to put together a stronger vision in order to succeed. For the rest of those who appeared on stage this week, if they didn't fall into one of the previous categories, default to this level. All need to work on their campaign strategies.
The front runners, according to the polls, Joseph Biden and Bernie Sanders, are as far apart as any two candidates from the same party have been in my memory when it comes to the issues and their proposed solutions. At 76 and 77 years of age, and both still seemingly in good health and spry, I still have to question whether either will have the same level of energy in four years as the do today. It is readily observable from previous holders of the office that being president does age one.
Ideologically, I simply can't buy what Senator Sanders is trying to sell. His brand of socialism simply, to me, doesn't fit into our founding fathers’ vision for the representative republic that they painstakingly worked to form.
On the other hand, former Vice President Biden, at times during the proceedings, appeared to be somewhat befuddled and often referred back to the days long ago when he was a senator in a Democratic-majority Congress. One has to wonder if his days have truly passed him by.
Not eagerly, I await the various pundits' takes on this exercise. I suspect that some will declare one or another of the group a winner and others as obvious losers, but those pronouncements won't mean a thing until the first primaries and caucuses after the first of the year. I guess we'll all have to stay tuned to more “debates” through the summer and fall.