I actually thought Yang did very well with the little time he had. He packed so much into those 3 minutes. His main mission in running and especially in the first debate was to bring UBI into the conversation and introduce people to the concept on a grand scale. He succeeded in that, though I worry that he may have talked too fast for some people. I understood it. 1000 a month, for every man, woman, and child, so two adults with a kid get 36,000 a year. Yeah, that'll about do it to ensure that you survive whether you've been automated into obsolescence or not. To pay for this, corporations would be taxed at higher rates, loopholes closed so no more Amazon types paying zero in taxes even as they cause the closing of dozens of stores and destroy more jobs than they create. In addition, a value added tax generates additional revenue such that the average consumer doesn't feel much of the brunt of as it's only a couple cents on the dollar for them. At least that's what I made of what he said, which seemed pretty appealing to me, but I think maybe a lot of other people would have needed it broken down further for them, or may have missed some of what he said because of how fast he was talking. Unfortunately, now the media is taking soundbites of the moment where the moderator interrupted him to ask how he would pay, and he didn't hear the moderator and said "What?" and portraying it as if he never thought of how to pay for it, when he explained multiple ways to pay for it. He's obviously given this plan a lot of thought, and knows how it'll work, but no one is giving him enough of a chance to explain.
Williamson was very weird and "power of love"-y at times, but had several good moments and I think surprised a lot of people by seeming like despite the fact that she's just some relatively unknown author, she actually knows a good bit of what she's talking about and it feels like she does belong on that stage. That gives her the appeal of a non-politician, without the turnoff of Trump's eternal sounding like a kid fudging the answer in class when he didn't read the book.
Biden clearly suffered the most out of anyone in either debate, and good riddance, but I think he did hold his ground for the most part, considering how much he was hammered. Taking a soundbite like "my time is up" is funny but isn't going to convince anyone who was paying attention because that was actually him being gracious and following the rules, which I appreciated, even though he's still my last place candidate. But yeah, he took a massive hit, and it's showing up in the polls already, though again, I think he held his ground well enough, and that's showing in the polls as well, as his lead is heavily damaged, but he still has a clear lead, just isn't the runaway favorite anymore.
Harris had a ton of good moments. Like others have said, she was the Castro of the second night. She chowed down on Biden like a ravenous wolf. Most of his worst damage came from her. She was fading, but this performance has launched her solidly back into contender status again. She joins Warren and Bernie in a tier just below Biden, though Biden is about to fall out of that tier and into theirs, at which point he won't recover. Like Clinton, Biden runs on "inevitability", and once that illusion is cracked it's game over for him.
Bernie held his ground pretty well. He's the frontrunner for the progressive wing and debated like it. People say his diversity thing was a dodge, but I thought his response was pretty powerful. Diversity matters, but ideas matter more. Diversity matters in so far as it better informs ideas. The moderators did a good job making sure he addressed everything that needed addressing, and he was ready for all of it. Most importantly to me, he was the only candidate on either night to make it clear that once he becomes President of the United States, he isn't done with us, the People. We aren't just the voters, just names behind him to open the door for him, his engagement with us in his "Political Revolution" is what gets real change to happen. The corruption of our democracy was brought up by several candidates, Buttigieg best explaining why it's the key issue, none of the other issues get dealt with until the game is unrigged. But a rigged game can't easily be unrigged, and while some candidates had a good vision of what to do to fix it (publicly funded elections, money out of politics, etc.) the fact is none of that will happen unless something huge forces it to happen. It's like the old paradox of "you can't get a job without experience, but can't get experience without a job." In this case it's "you can't fix the mechanisms of democracy without using the mechanisms of democracy, but your mechanisms of democracy don't work". The solution? Massive engagement of the populace. Bernie is the only one on either stage to suggest that. Maybe people are so used to him saying "POLITICAL REVOLUTION" that they missed it, but Bernie is dead serious. That's his slogan "Not me, us." As in he intends us to participate in his presidency because Congress won't get anything done if we don't. And Congress will get nothing done no matter who is president, be it Trump, another Republican, or another Democrat, or Bernie. Only a president who engages the people the way Bernie is prepared to will succeed.
Buttigieg did well, but I suspect won't gain much. They came after him hard and he held his ground well. He was clearly prepared to be engaged about several things the moderators and others brought up. His hands were tied a bit by an ongoing investigation, allowing Swalwell to get in a really good punch on him that he legally couldn't respond to. Otherwise he did great, brought up some good points, got a few good one-liner moments, and reached out to the Christian left, something politicians don't usually do but that Democrats really ought to do more. In fact it's a great way for Buttigieg to improve his problems with non-white voters, as the Christian left is very diverse, perhaps even more so than the Democratic party on average.
Swalwell seemed like a joke at first, with his naked appeal to ageism, and canned responses. But when the issue of gun safety came up, the dude just lit up, holy shit. All through the debate, as he seemed like a joke, I said aloud to the screen "why are you even here dude?" but then when he started talking about guns I was like "holy shit, THAT'S why you're here, isn't it?" Getting Bernie to agree to consider gun buybacks was easily the heaviest punch on Bernie of the night, and Bernie's weakest moment, because it was a genuinely good and well considered idea, and while Bernie did well defending against accusations that he's too gun friendly, Swalwell pushing things further and getting him to sheepishly admit that buybacks deserve consideration was powerful. So was his challenge to all the candidates to agree to come up with a similar plan. That no one rose to that challenge was their loss. Bernie should have responded with candor, and said something like "I respect the thought you've put into gun buybacks and gun safety, and your buyback plan is a pretty good idea. I accept your challenge and will look into formulating a gun buyback plan of my own." But instead when asked if he would buy them back he just sheepishly said "y-yup". Swalwell isn't a contender yet, but after tonight, he isn't just an afterthought either.
Gillibrand impressed me. While I found her frequent interruptions a bit annoying, I thought she often had interesting things to say, and while people say she hugged too close to Sanders, I certainly don't find fault in her for being unable to find a spot to the left of Sanders. I thought she did a really good job selling the idea that she wanted the same outcome as Sanders, Medicare For All and a post-private-insurance world, but had what she genuinely felt was another way to reach that outcome that felt like a viable plan politically. Give Medicare everything it needs to compete the private insurers out of existence. She had a few good moments like this, with the "I have a plan, not just a vision" or "I was part of making the laws we're pushing to make this happen" moments, but also a good moment when called for going on the offensive, and electing a fighter who will NOT compromise with McConnell, and actually not rest until we get the results we want. That's important. too many candidates like to talk about compromise, when compromise only works if both parties negotiate in good faith, which the Republicans don't right now. When dealing with an opponent like that, you want someone who will start from a strong negotiating position. That was the moment she earned my respect, and I saw that she wasn't just another Clinton that would settle with giving us scraps, but would fight for the whole chicken to put in every pot.
Bennet came off as a likable guy, more so than last night's Delaney anyway, and had some good points about fixing democracy, but overall did nothing for me and still feels pretty forgettable. At least I know his face and voice now?
Hickenlooper is an idiot. He kept using Republican arguments against Democratic endeavors, and it seemed to fly over his head that the things he wants to do and the things he calls "socialism" are equally socialism in the eyes of hardcore Republicans and we're going to get called socialists either way so who gives a fuck. Also he's into fossil fuels, which makes him an automatic loser on climate. Idiot just does not get it. Like Bernie said, the scientific consensus says we've got 12 years to really get moving on fixing this mess, we don't have time for Hickenlooper's half-measures. Has the most punchable face on the second night's stage.