Two nights, four hours, twenty candidates, zero issues: so ends the first round of Democratic presidential primary debates about nothing. The first round starred Elizabeth Warren and a spate of inevitable also-rans. Moderator Savannah Guthrie began by noting that 71% of Americans and 60% of Democrats believe the economy is doing well.
“What do you say to those who worry this kind of significant change could be risky to the economy?” she asked.
The question forced each candidate either to admit that President Trump has handled the economy well or else to deny the reality of record high markets and record low unemployment. Unsurprisingly, they all chose the latter, exposing themselves as shameless liars from the very first moment.
For the rest of the debate, the candidates tried various gimmicks to capture voters’ imagination. Beto O’Rourke and Cory Booker attempted unsuccessfully to speak Spanish. Julian Castro coined a new euphemism, “reproductive justice,” to describe abortion, a procedure that stops reproduction through the unjust killing of a baby. When Castro then endorsed extending abortion rights to “trans-females”—that is, biological males—Booker saw his opening.
“We do not talk enough about Trans-Americans,” declared Booker, “especially African-American Trans-Americans.” The tortuous descriptor appeared to refer to black Americans confused about their sex, a group estimated to constitute 0.025% of the population. Finally, we were getting to the issues people care about.
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