Who Won the Sanders vs. Biden Debate & How Would We Ever Even Know?
By: Joaquin Flores
Has the Coronavirus cancelled American Democracy? CNN hid the DNC candidate’s debate from the American people in the best way it knew how – it aired it strictly on CNN and has only made Biden-friendly snippets available on YouTube and its own website. If we missed it, we’d never see the real debate replete with Biden’s gaffes. Does anyone even watch TV anymore? Not like that, they don’t: only 44% of American people even have cable, and the demographic is skewed over to the 55+ crowd. This means that CNN’s debate was intentionally aimed at shoring up support among the very over-achieving-yet-low-information voter that characterizes the Baby Boomer and oldest of Generation X cross-section.
How will we ever know who really won the debate if we can’t watch? 56% of Americans don’t have cable, and coverage of the virus garnered more TV viewers. Sanders’ likely voters are often caught in wage-work in the gig economy, and don’t enjoy the Boomer pastime of weekends off. So before the debate even starts, Sanders can’t reach his base and energize them – point for Biden.
It comes as no surprise: CNN’s main goal was to host this debate in such a way that it actually went away. That’s because the more people see Biden, the less they like him. Additionally, the more Biden has to talk, the greater odds that he’ll make another ‘gaffe’.
What’s fascinating was that the DNC leaked a story that the debate may not happen at all. Another version was leaked that it may be more like a town-hall with both candidates sitting down. This ‘weather balloon’ was floated precisely to gauge the public response without taking responsibility for posing the question. The public’s response was that there had better be a debate and that if Joe Biden wants to sit down it’s because he can’t stand up for more than twenty minutes at a time because he has early signs of Alzheimer’s.
There’s no point to veer off into conspirology regarding the timing of the public hysteria on the Coronavirus and the American election cycle. There are varying views about the seriousness of this outbreak in proportion to temperature and scope of public attention on it, and I’m very underqualified to have an opinion on that count. But it would be malpractice also not to mention that this point has not just been raised, but has gained significant traction especially among Trump supporters. After all, a healthy stock market and decent employment figures at least on paper, are Trump’s main electability factors for swing-state voters going into November. The extraordinary effect of this pandemic on the stock market does not match our experience with H1N1 – what Biden in this debate called ‘N … N1H’ mumble. Trump’s tough position on China and the DNC’s cozy relationship with the fast-rising People’s Republic have led to all sorts of rabbit hole theories on what’s really afoot.
Did enough people hear Biden’s flub? Anyhow it’s cosmetic – half point, Sanders.
On the one hand, any global epidemic is a critically good reason why emergency health services at the very least ought to be heavily government subsidized, even if that means working with private insurers.
Sanders sort of made this point – and that’s the problem with Sanders. He’s not a good debater. He doesn’t answer questions directly, and takes too much time to circle back around. When he does finally circle back around as he did in this debate, he doesn’t land them right.
He makes criticisms of his opponent Biden’s fundraising by speaking in vague generalities about money in politics today, without actually concluding that Biden – yes Biden – is one of those politicians that Sanders is quite loosely referring to. That just doesn’t work in today’s low attention span world, but I suspect these wouldn’t have landed well fifty or sixty years ago either. Half-point, Sanders.
Biden responded by flat-out lying about Sanders having nine Super Pac backers. Do you see what you just read there? Even as I report that, it seems to infer that Biden was wrong about the number. See, that’s how it will be reported in media, and still people will come away believing that Sanders has some PAC backers and therefore he is a hypocrite when he somewhat gestures an attack on politicians-and-money-and-we-may-assume-that-Biden-is-one-such-politician. Half point, Biden
Both candidates seemed to make the argument that in such cases where a state of emergency is declared, deductibles should be waved and those without coverage should be welcome anywhere medical services are provided.
Sanders supporters who evaluate objectively must have been outrageously frustrated at Sanders’ bizarre gestures. Sanders speaks as if we can read his mind, read between the lines ad infinitum. He told the televised audience (due to the virus, there was no live audience) that since it’s an emergency, he wants everyone who is sick to go to the doctor and ‘it’s taken care of’. What’s taken care of, the bill? Yeah it’s taken care of once we have to pay out of pocket for it, or what did he mean exactly?
As he continued to nearly ramble, we could then tease out that people should pay it and that since it’s an emergency, we’d … what, figure it all out later? It would take an already well informed voter and an extraordinarily active listener to tease out what Bernie was gesturing at:
Go to the doctor if you are at all sick, and expect them to bill you as they would – but I will use the fact that this is a state of emergency to give an executive order to reimburse all healthcare providers at a rate my government will work out with them, so that at the end of the day, despite what you were sent in the mail, you will not pay one red cent.
But he actually didn’t clearly say this during people’s attention span. His objection to Biden’s solution is that it wouldn’t cover shrink visits for someone having a nervous break-down in response to their spouse’s infection. Because Sanders couldn’t say that the more leftish thing, which is that the emergency response doesn’t cover undocumented immigrants and there are many. Quarter point Sanders
Because that’s what Americans want who are electing a president. The entire mythology around congressional deadlock seems there to hide what may well be the positive side of the kind of executive power creep that we’ve seen with legislation like the Patriot Act. By declaring a state of emergency on, say, the state of healthcare in general, Sanders – if well counseled – could arrange an executive order on that too, and just bypass congressional obstructionism.
That said, he made a number of very good points about society’s priorities and why if we can authorize 1.5 trillion to bail out big business last week, we couldn’t bail out the American people in the time of a pandemic that threatens hours at work, mortgages, healthcare, and rents? Point – Sanders
And yet still saying this all is a pretty good attack on how Trump has handled this, but he couldn’t make that attack directly on Biden. Yes, it’s good to show you can beat Trump, but right now people want to see what’s so wrong with Biden who is otherwise in the lead?
So in truth, Sanders flubbed that too. Biden’s people know that Sanders rambles and that most people are not these incredibly active listeners that are going out of their way to hear out Sanders. Those who do hear him out, realize he’s the one with the right ideas and policies. Biden understands how listeners in fact listen. So, all Biden had to do was say that he agreed with Sanders on a few of the points that were hard to follow anyway. And that’s what Biden did. Point – Biden
Certainly CNN made a spectacle of the virus, and framed the whole debate around it. One thing political scientists and social psychologists know is that emergency crises have a conservatizing effect on the populace. Even as Sanders’ campaign rests not upon broad and lofty visions for an improved tomorrow that builds on the tolerable one today, the Coronavirus hype switches up how we view things. While Sanders speaks to intolerable and unjust problems in American society today, despite his best efforts to seem establishment friendly, his branding is anti-establishment.
So the coronavirus plays very well for Biden because of the fact that he’s seen as an insider that – warts and all – knows how to wheel and deal with other politicians and if he were president right now, as was posed in the debate, could call on his Republican allies in the legislative branch to get ‘something’ done. An openly establishment candidate like Biden uses some progressive-sounding talking points to cover his bases, but is clearly the more conservative candidate. Undecided voters, who also tend to be low-information television watchers and less net-savvy, would tend to go over to Biden as opposed to taking chances on what appears to be a radical with admittedly good ideas. Point – Biden
The timing certainly is inconvenient for whatever modicum of democratic procedure exists within the Democrat Party. We would have otherwise had the debate in Arizona where one of the next primaries is set to take place. With a national state of emergency at play, the debate was far removed from Sanders friendly Arizona, where no doubt thousands of his ardent supporters would have held a media event in the form of a bullhorned tailgate party outside. While CNN would have ignored this, as is their standard practice, and Sanders would have well worked his magic in Arizona and shored up some energy in a state where he’s struggling to keep up. Sanders really responds to a crowd, and is very good at reading and feeling them. But they weren’t there. Point – Biden
The best thing about Joe Biden’s campaign is that the media does all the work for him, and fills in the huge, massive, gaping holes in his logic and even his dementia afflicted basic syntax. Point – Biden
My obligation was to cover this debate and weigh in on the ins and outs, and offer a final verdict on the outcome. I did the same in 2016 and I did so in a way that readers believed was on the balance fair, if not tilted in favor of Trump. The right thing for me to do is disclose my own bias – like 40% of Americans, I’m a socialist. I think then that readers thought I was tilted towards Trump speaks to my fairness. Point – Flores
Of course the debate covered other subjects too, but since you’ll never be able to see it again, and since the rest of the debate conformed to the same pattern we’ve been on about here, we can superimpose this onto the rest of the debate which you might see again in several decades. That is, if CNN’s successor wants to make a full length documentary about how Biden’s massive loss to Trump in 2020 was critical to Trump’s eventually becoming a four-term president after he evoked executive orders and stacked the courts. Last night? For those listening, Sanders actually won big. For everyone else and all other factors in consideration, Biden communicated more effectively and will probably be seen as winning by anyone watching CNN’s heavily edited clips, which is how most people – if they see it at all – will get to see it.
About the Author: Joaquin Flores is an educated in the field of IR and IPE at California State University Los Angeles; previously served as a business agent and organizer for the SEIU labor union; has published internationally on subjects of geopolitics, war, and diplomacy; serves as the director of the Belgrade-based Center for Syncretic Studies, & Chief Editor at Fort Russ News.
The above article (Who Won the Sanders vs. Biden Debate & How Would We Ever Even Know?) was originally created and published by Strategic Culture Foundation and is republished here with permission and attribution to author Joaquin Flores and strategic-culture.org.
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