Post-Debate Analysis: Fear and loathing at Texas Southern

ROHAN ARORA, Special to The Denisonian—As many people predicted, the third Democratic debate was a bloodbath, with every candidate attempting to assert themselves as the “most electable” on the stage, especially at the expense of their fellow candidates. In terms of fairness, this was definitely the most well-moderated debate, with everyone picking up a fairly equal chunk of speaking time. Andrew Yang still spoke the least, and it is evident he is making a big push for broader support from what he said in the speaking time he did get. I really like Yang, but unfortunately, I don’t think his campaign is going to go very far.

The home-field advantage was jointly enjoyed in this debate by Julian Castro and Beto O’Rourke– candidates who previously have had decent debate performances. Julian Castro was really seeking to capitalize on this opportunity, and it was evident with how much he was attacking Biden. It definitely paid off, as the headlines and post-debate analysis all reference one of those incidents as a highlight. For better or worse, Castro had the moment of the night. 

The candidate with the best overall performance was definitely Warren, as she was consistently focusing on her policy strengths and did not come off as angry or out-of-touch like Sanders and Biden did, respectively. While there was nothing wrong with Sanders’s performance, there wasn’t anything insanely special about it either– he was overshadowed by Warren these past two debates and doesn’t know how to handle it. Biden had the most speaking time, as usual, and used it to essentially talk circles around the American people; Biden would talk until he had 10 seconds left and then wrap up with his “point.” While Biden is the presumptive candidate and he can be less aggressive than the other candidates, he doesn’t even seem to be trying.

The most interesting moment of the night came immediately after Castro and Biden’s heated exchange when the moderator called on Andrew Yang to speak. Yang’s campaign has been against “dirty politics” from the start, so it’s safe to say he was going to make a point along those lines. He was in the middle of saying “Come on, guys,” when Buttigieg interrupted him and began inserting his take, spurred by what I can only assume was an insanely primal rush of adrenaline and desperation to save his doomed campaign. From there, the desperation train kept on chugging: Julian Castro got the last word on Buttigieg, and Klobuchar made a point about “a house divided”– all while the moderators were trying their hardest to rein in the candidates.  Finally, after Klobuchar finished making her point, Yang asserted himself and got his turn to speak.

This exchange was a mere minute or two of the debate, and yet it could not be a better representation of the whole Democratic primary to this point.  The Democrats fail to appear as if they have any clue how to beat Trump. We are still over a year from the general election, but the window is still closing for the Democrats to figure out their strategy. So far, they have not– the candidates were alternating between grandstanding about how “This is not Trump’s party, we should not be attacking each other,” and trying to get headlines by discrediting their fellow hopefuls. It is this kind of blatant hypocrisy that dissuades swing voters and fringe party groups from switching support. This debate showed me that the Democrats have a LOT they need to figure out before they’re ready to take on Trump– maybe they will prepare properly this time around.

Rohan Arora ’22 is a Philosophy, Politics and Economics major from Edison, New Jersey.

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