I don’t have live television in my home, because I refuse to subject myself and my family to the 24-7 outrage machine of TV news and politics. So firing up YouTube and watching the debate last night felt like the equivalent of a teetotaler suddenly downing a bottle of everclear. I felt like throwing up, and now I feel hungover.
The debate itself was a series of temper tantrums, meltdowns and freakouts, predictably incited by Donald Trump, who toggled between fantastical lies and white supremacy. Joe Biden began the event looking like he was bored, and only came to life when he took Trump’s bait and started defending private insurance, echoing the cynical “law and order” mantra and distancing himself from a Green New Deal.
In trying to fend off the inane argument that his public option plan would "end private insurance and create a government takeover of health," Biden responded: "It does not. It's only for those people who are so poor they qualify for Medicaid they can get that free in most states, except governors who want to deny people who are poor Medicaid.”
Biden's public option plan — which he’s refused to campaign on, but which the health insurance industry is vilifying — is technically supposed to be available to anyone, but that significant detail was nowhere to be found in the debate fun house, even as millions of people out in the real world are losing their private health insurance.
Biden improved as the debate went on, trying to fight through the chaos and make decent points about the pandemic and climate change. His best moments of the night were when he finally bothered to briefly mention his own economic proposals — and his plan to start making billionaires pay a little bit more in taxes.
Of course, Biden and his return-to-normalcy campaign don’t talk much about these things because both parties have colluded with their donors to try to make politics about anything other than economic class and corporate power. Elections are now purely wars over culture, etiquette, norms and personal story — and today’s debate about the debate is focused on decorum rather than on millions of people’s lives being ruined by a pandemic, an economic crisis and out of control climate change.
While polls show more people believe Biden won the debate, the big winners weren’t anyone on stage. It was racists who were yet again emboldened by the president, and even more so, it was villains who are systematically bankrolling elections, buying Supreme Court seats, pillaging the country and scorching the earth.
They got off scot free after the financial crisis, they got off scot free as they’ve pandemic profiteered, they got off scot free last night in a debate that mostly refused to focus on the material well being of millions of people, and they are getting off scot free this morning as the debate analysis revolves around decorum…