American politics has sadly become a simplistic cesspool of hot one-liners, tweets, and cable news. And yes, that goes for both sides.
As a former moderate who has been shoved to the Left by the domestic and international disaster that has been Donald Trump, I have been anxiously watching the Democratic debates, and even adopted some favorites – young Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Mayor and Obama cabinet member Julian Castro, who deliver nuanced and well thought out answers to the core issues of healthcare, race, immigration, student loans, and foreign policy.
However, anyone who has not gone radically left has struggled gaining any traction in the polls, and anyone who hasn’t thrown a stinger one-liner at an opponent in the debates has failed to gain any national attention.
After watching the debates in late June and now the two in late July, I have become beaten-down. I watch candidates give stellar answers, even try to actually debate each other – only to be returned with an attack. In June, it was Kamala Harris’ attack on Joe Biden.
When asked about how they would handle race relations, Kamala Harris brought up the fact that Biden was against federally enforced school bussing in the 1970s. She told a heart-wrenching story about how she was one of those kids being bussed to schools in the 1970s, when Biden was rallying Senators against the program.
This moment dominated the headlines after the June debates, and doubled Harris’ popularity. Turns out, she was against federally mandated school bussing as well. Turns out, people don’t care what she was against.
Now, in late July, the theme has been the same. The July 30th debates featured substantive arguments between the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party. And Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the two most popular and liberal candidates in the first debate, seemed to be out-debated as I watched.
But what were the two headlines across U.S. media after that debate (including The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and NBC)? The first was Sanders’ line that he “wrote the damn bill” in response to another candidate’s assertion that he didn’t know what was truly in the single-payer healthcare bill he proposed.
The second was Elizabeth Warren’s attack on John Delaney, a moderate, saying that she didn’t know why anyone would go to the trouble of running for president just to get up on the stage and talk about what’s not possible.
Well, Elizabeth, that wasn’t the case. It’s a debate, meaning candidates debate policy ideas. Unfortunately, these two thoughtless one-liners captured the attention of media and viewers and will likely keep the same candidates at the top of the polling.
The lack of nuance in the Democratic debates (especially in the media coverage following them) directly mirrors the rise of Trump, with his brash, racist, and xenophobic comments garnering widespread attention and even gaining him popularity in the previous election cycle.
Let me be clear: there is nuance in these debates, there are wonderful candidates and great ideas, but no one wants to talk about or cover them. They want to talk about who ‘owned’ who. And that is sadly what is wrong with American politics today.
Perhaps it is Trumpian rhetoric bleeding into the Democratic Party. He continues to tweet daily attacks on just about everyone who doesn’t like him, which is nearly everyone, and the media continues to cover it on a daily basis, giving him the headlines after he says yet another geographical location is rat-infested and unlivable.
Democrats will not defeat Trump by playing his game. The American people will not win by allowing the person who delivers the most burns to run against him. Donald Trump will be defeated by someone who can calmly, intelligently, and patiently debate him until Republicans and Moderates who would consider voting for Trump, don’t.