What we saw on Tuesday was a smart and productive policy debate. I'm not sure what the hell last night was, but a policy debate it wasn't.
I remember last night as pretty much three hours of everyone accusing everyone else of racism and the like, responding with deflective whataboutism in each case, and generally avoiding any actual discussion of what they intend to do as president. It was like spending three hours on Twitter: I could FEEL myself losing brain cells as the whole miserable affair drudged on! I literally learned nothing new about where any of the candidates stand.
What happened last night is exactly how everyone else stereotypes today's left to be in the worst way; it was similar, I think you could say, to how politics work at America's elite liberal arts universities, with the differences that 1) no one got fired, and 2) it was older people who should know better acting that way.
Don't get me wrong, with Trump calling for members of Congress to be deported to countries they weren't born in because of their skin color, yeah I'd say racism is a worthy topic of discussion in these debates. Tuesday's dialogue around topics like the question of slavery reparations (which I am very much for!) demonstrated a much more constructive way to have that debate though.
I also think it's fair game for candidates to call each other's records into question, but when so doing reaches the point of supplanting nearly all platform discussion and largely takes over the whole "debate", it becomes the perception of the viewer that all of these people are phonies and posers and don't have any plans to improve their lives. I think that's the general impression that most people outside the bubble walked away from last night with (assuming they bothered to watch the whole thing).
Furthermore, on the infrequent occasions that the candidates did actually manage to discuss what they intend to do as president, it may not have been in Spanish this time, but it was still usually in a language I couldn't understand that involved throwing out a bunch of numbers that mean nothing to me.
It's a telling thing that I liked Andrew Yang's performance the best of all the candidates, considering that he still had exactly one solution to all of America's problems on offer. One was still more than what many of the candidates offered, in my observation, and he offered it in English. He also stood out to me for not involving himself in the aforementioned, and I hate to use this cliched expression but there is no better one, circular firing squad. He even briefly voiced his annoyance at the, appropriately termed, "planned attack speeches", or at least I think that was his wording of it (it was the essence anyway), toward the end. He also just showed himself to be the most human and relatable person on the stage despite being from the business world. He talked about suicide rates and rates of anxiety and depression being at an all-time highs, drug addiction being epidemic, about the needs of women enduring sexual harassment at their workplace, about women's work often not even being recorded as socially impactful, about average life expectancy falling in this country: all issues that actually affect my community. I don't remember any other candidate talking about any of that. He had one overly simple solution for all of it, but he at least has a human spirit and accepts that people don't have to be perfect, unlike everyone else on the stage. It was refreshing. I hope he gets a boost in the polls as a result. He earned it.
A proponent of the whole nature and tone of last night's debate explained to me that "it's about accountability". No it wasn't, it was about a bunch of hypocrites opportunistically pimping off Kamala Harris's magic moment against Biden in the first debate round in far less intellectually honest ways! Biden emerged from this probably relatively stronger, if anything, in that the fact that he was able to fight back so many attacks to a draw will probably impress some voters about his ability to fight back Donald Trump's inevitable character assassination game in a debate with him! No one outside the Democratic bubble will like whatever the hell it was that happened last night (because it WASN'T a policy debate) and none of it will affect Joe Biden's clear frontrunner status. Nothing like that should ever happen again. Worst of all four debates so far. Easily.