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The Democrats’ open mic night in Atlanta

Candidates liven up debate with comedy bits

November 20, 2019

11:18 PM

20 November 2019

11:18 PM

Fear not everyone — there are only seven Democratic debates left this cycle.

As if the prospect of a fifth in six months wasn’t exhausting enough, the Atlanta bonanza kicked off after 11 hours of impeachment hearings. No wonder the spin room was more muted than usual.

Host Rachel Maddow opened proceedings with an impeachment question, making the huge assumption that most viewers had watched them (they hadn’t). Of the senators running, only Bernie Sanders didn’t take the bait. ‘We should not be consumed by Donald Trump’, he said, ‘we can deal with Trump’s corruption, but we also have to stand up for the working families of this country.’

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Much of the night appeared like business as usual. We watched a short-circuiting Joe Biden stumbling over his words, and making a baffling reference to repeatedly ‘punching at’ the culture of violence against women. We saw Kamala the cop-in-chief jangling her jail keys at ‘ a criminal living in the White House’. There was a Tulsi v. Kamala foreign policy throwdown, where the Hawai’i congresswoman criticized the ‘Bush-Clinton-Trump foreign policy doctrine’,  careful not to decry St Barack of Obama. (Harris, bitter for Detroit, hit back at Gabbard for spending ‘four years full-time on Fox News criticizing Barack Obama.’) And in the rare snatches that he spoke, we bore witness to Tom Steyer staring down the barrel of the camera, discussing housing shortages and climate change, and promising to ‘declare a state of emergency on day one’ of his presidency.

But after a lethargic day, the people needed to be entertained. It was generous, therefore, of the candidates resort to doing bits.

Bernie got the first laugh of the night when he was finally invited into the healthcare conversation: ‘thank you, I wrote the damn bill,’ he cracked, before leading into his stats and numbers routine

Then Amy Klobuchar, the next Joan Rivers, described how she ‘raised $17,000 from ex-boyfriends’ for her first campaign. In trying to contrast himself with the current president, Pete Buttigieg cried ‘I don’t even play golf!’

Andrew Yang, who has always been funny, said his first words to Putin would be ‘I’m sorry I beat your guy’. With the best received line in the room, Cory Booker chided Biden’s marijuana comments, ‘I thought you might have been high when you said it’.

Even Sleepy Joe managed to stay focused long enough to partake in a double act with Bernie. When Biden recounted how Kim Jong-un referred to him as ‘a rabid dog that needs to be beaten with a stick’, Bernie cut in ‘but other than that you like him’, which Joe managed to repeat.

The left are frequently characterized as mirthless dullards, which made the jokes tonight particularly refreshing — even the terrible ones.

Perhaps it’s the tedium of these repetitive debates setting in — with another in Los Angeles before the year’s end — but tonight’s stand-up routine was almost worth staying up for. It’s hard to believe many people managed to, though.


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