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US election watch: Knives out

  • Published at 12:25 am February 21st, 2020
Senator Bernie Sanders addresses former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg
Senator Bernie Sanders addresses former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg during his closing remarks as Senator Elizabeth Warren listens at the ninth Democratic 2020 U.S. Presidential candidates debate at the Paris Theater in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., February 19, 2020 Reuters

Bloomberg for his part, took most of her shots on the chin but still looked extremely uncomfortable being schooled by her and the rest of the candidates

Who knew debating was a contact sport? In an extraordinary Democratic debate in Nevada the gloves were firmly off as Elizabeth Warren savaged her opponents and left the stage as the undisputed winner. After being heralded as one of the frontrunners for the democratic nomination last fall, her stock had fallen so far that many were wondering if this debate would be her last stand. It wasn’t. She came out swinging and within the first few minutes called out Mike Bloomberg “a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians”. She continued to attack Bloomberg (and the rest of the candidates) with a ferocity that has not yet been seen on the debate stage on issues of sexism non-disclosure agreements for his employees and his questionable record as mayor of New York. It was a truly awe-inspiring performance.

Bloomberg for his part, took most of her shots on the chin but still looked extremely uncomfortable being schooled by her and the rest of the candidates.He had to defend himself from every single person on stage and many a time responded in Trumpisms. He has the most money, therefore he has the best chance to beat Donald Trump. He tried to keep his focus firmly on the bigger picture of defeating Trump, but the rest of the candidates were having none of it. 

His answers about the unconstitutional stop and frisk policy he championed in New York were shaky at best and never managed to articulate what his vision for the presidency. He was weakest on the issue of sexism and non-disclosure agreements when he ham-fistedly said that the agreements were “made consensually.” It was a this-is-so-bad-I-can-hear-crickets performance from the billionaire and only proves that $400 million in ads might buy you poll numbers but it can’t fix everything.

On stage while Bloomberg resembled a dumpster fire in East New York circa 1980, Joe Biden continued to use his ‘outside voice’ to shout at everyone that he was once Vice-President and did a lot of things. Yes, we get it. His debate performances continue to be erratic, meandering, long on history and short on policy. He is the physical manifestation of the meme, Ok Boomer.

While Biden was busy almost shouting at the mic all night, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg got into a battle that was possibly even more interesting than Warren’sintellectually dismembering Bloomberg. While Bloomberg never stood a chance against the former Harvard Professor, Buttigieg and Klobuchar are more evenly matched. When the former mayor seemingly poked her about forgetting the name of the President of Mexico, she was quick to ask if he was making fun of her. It was wholly unexpected and made him seem like a bully. The attacks continued as Klobuchar questioned his experience and he in turn questioned hers. Suffice to say while Buttigieg might be one of the most eloquent speakers on stage, in Klobuchar he has an opponent that understands every one of his answers has been workshopped with a team that is always looking for the most electable response. 

And then there was Bernie Sanders. If you ever want to meet a candidate that has always offered the least electable answer or policy idea thenhe is your man. His performance was steady and uncompromising as usual but he seemed to get ruffled by the attacks on how he would pay for his proposed healthcare plan. His main line of attack was against Bloomberg for trying to buy the election but was generally softer on everyone else. The reason is that he is leading in almost every poll in the country and the only person he really views as a threat is Bloomberg and his billions. Having long suffered as the politician with the least electable ideas and policies, he is now the front runner and his biggest rival might be the Democratic party itself. Every single candidate on stage aside from Sanders said the convention should play out according to the rules set by the party; even if a candidate wins the most delegates in the primaries but falls short of the total needed to win outright. In laymen’s terms that potentially means a brokered convention to block a Sanders nomination. Democracy at its finest.

Nader Rahman is a freelance journalist based in New York.