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What will anyone learn from the Detroit debates?

The Democratic circus is heading for the Midwest

July 19, 2019

3:42 PM

19 July 2019

3:42 PM

The DNC are ditching porn stars, yacht rides and Pitbull for rusty motors and the 8 Mile Road, as the Democratic primary circus rolls from one Art Deco metropolis to another. In Detroit as in Miami, 20 contenders will face each other in sets of 10 across two nights. Funnily enough, the debacle will take place in the Fox Theater, though of course CNN will be hosting.

Anderson Cooper breathlessly announced which Democrats would debate each other on which night during an hour-long special Thursday. For all the complaints about Trump turning politics into reality television, the major networks don’t half lean into it.

Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg find themselves shunted to the undercard night with Elizabeth Warren, as they will take the stage on Tuesday July 30. Alongside them will be John Delaney, John Hickenlooper, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, Marianne Williamson and newcomer Steve Bullock, who occupies the slot vacated by the dearly departed Eric Swalwell.

Kamala Harris, meanwhile, will have the chance to inflict further elder abuse on Joe Biden on Wednesday July 31. The line-up that night is completed by Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, Bill de Blasio, Julián Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jay Inslee and Andrew Yang.

Democrats hoping to see media favorite Elizabeth Warren square off against statistical favorite Biden will be sorely disappointed: they will have to wait until September’s debate in Houston after some of the single-digit Dems have succumbed to the summer heatwave.

Instead, we may see a clash of the progressives on Tuesday as Warren’s leftist capitalism lines up alongside Bernie Sanders’s crotchety brand of democratic socialism. That said, don’t expect Sanders to go for the jugular: he had the chance to against Uncle Joe in June, and opted against it. A likelier outcome may be seeing a 1 percent Democrat continue where Julián Castro left off: pulling Beto O’Rourke apart with forks. My money’s on Tim Ryan, he seems mad.

Let’s face it though: we’re only really tuning in on Tuesday to see Marianne Williamson deploy her new debate strategy, which she described to me thus: ‘Well I would try, I’d say things like “ah-ah!” and I need to learn, that’s what my plot has to be for the next time. “I’m talkin’! Did you hear me? I’m talkin’!” I gotta learn how to do that.’ Yes you do, Marianne. Yes you do.

Wednesday offers a big window for Booker and Castro, who both stood out on the first night in Miami, and will hope to steal some of Biden’s limelight. Tulsi Gabbard may also take advantage of her standing to hold Biden’s feet to the fire on foreign policy. Who knows, maybe Andrew Yang’s mic will be on this time and he’ll have a chance to say ‘I want to give you 12 grand a year’ more than once.

With Swalwell gone, the contest for ‘most annoying candidate’ is wide open. Keep an eye out for Bill de Blasio and Michael Bennet seizing this mantle on Wednesday night. Blaz for obvious reasons, Bennet because he’s so boring.

Will the Detroit debates teach us anything we don’t already know? About the 2020 contenders…unlikely. About the shape of the eventual nominee’s campaign…maybe. If Cooper and the gang chair in the same manner as the MSNBC crew last month, we could see another wokeness oneupmanship free-for-all, with candidates reeling off their most pie-in-the-sky ideas for retweets, flying in the face of what the crucial voters in swing states actually want. Who wouldn’t tune in for that?


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