Warren debated (eviscerated?) Bloomberg the way she would debate Trump—and yes, it matters
If debates won presidential elections, we’d be gearing up for President Hillary Clinton’s reelection battle today, AND watching the Republican primary between Ted Nugent and Roy Moore. In all three 2016 debates, Clinton utterly decimated Donald Trump. She was prepared. He winged it. She was in complete command of the facts, and he did the Trump thing and made shit up as he went along. She was poised and self-composed, while Trump was creepy as hell. Remember him stalking Hillary around the stage?
Of course, as is unfortunately all-too-common these days, the prepared woman was felled by the boorish, unprepared white guy, even though she won what should be the ultimate democratic measure: the popular vote. Our society still unfairly advantages white men. But that’s no reason to fear a woman candidate.
As I’ve noted time and time again, no white male has reached 63 million votes in a presidential election. Hillary Clinton got 65 million. Barack Obama, a black man, got 69 and 65 million in his two elections, respectively. When our nominee looks like our party’s base, more people vote. And before you trot out the Electoral College, a male Democratic nominee will face an even more difficult time getting to 270 in the Electoral College if he gets fewer than Obama or Clinton did.
In any case, if debates are so irrelevant to our hyper-partisan and polarized presidential electorate, why should we care who is up on stage facing Trump? Because the way we win is by maximizing base excitement. Republicans have it easy—their white, older, male base always votes. Our young, female, black and brown base is more likely to sit an election out. There are more of us, for sure, but we have to work harder to get us to the polls.
So consider this: We’re going to need to motivate young voters, female voters, black and brown voters, and—this is critical—disaffected voters from whichever wing of the party lost out in the primary. So we either have to bring Bernie Sanders supporters home, or we need to reassure the moderate center wing of our party that our nominee isn’t going to bring the whole edifice crashing down.
And as we’ve learned time and time again, you don’t motivate cerebrally. You motivate by hitting emotional buttons. Hillary crushed Trump in their debates, but she did so intellectually, with facts and figures and reality. That made intellectual liberals (like most people reading this piece) happy, but did little to inspire and motivate disaffected Bernie supporters as well as the politically disaffected and apathetic (which is mostly our potential voters).
What we saw yesterday, in Elizabeth Warren, was a sneak peak at how she would handle a sleazy, corrupt, arrogant, old, white, rich a-hole. She didn’t shy away from facts and figures and reality, of course. She’s Elizabeth Warren. But she also used righteous, fiery indignation and a relentless doggedness to light up the stage—and the internet—with a fighting spirit that may have single-handedly revived her candidacy.
Yes, yes, yes. People will get the vapors over a woman showing passion. It’s not allowed! Supposedly. But this isn’t about making the Beltway politico set happy. It’s not about making Trump supporters or Fox News happy. It’s about showing our side that we have a candidate that isn’t just competent and capable and oh-so-incredibly smart, but one that is also committed to practical change and will fight to make it happen, no matter the roadblocks.
In other words, this October’s presidential debates won’t change a single mind. What it will do is signal to our less-committed voters whether it’s worth making the time to engage electorally and vote, and it will signal to the somewhat-committed voters whether it’s worth getting off their asses in the weeks before the election to knock on doors and make phone calls. And it will signal to the disaffected backers of other candidates whether it’s really worth sitting out and giving Trump another four years to destroy our country and planet.
We saw every candidate take swipes at Bloomberg last night. Which one of them would you rather have reprising that role against Trump later this year?
Ideally, the one that elicits this response:
Elizabeth Warren rn pic.twitter.com/HbrrAFVNRx— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) February 20, 2020
P.S.: Last year, the guy who played Trump during Hillary Clinton’s debate prep had some thoughts on the matter, which you may find of interest as well.