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Dem Debates Round 5: Dull and Dazed?

The November 20 Democratic primary debate was particularly dry and monotonous, but Camille, Abigail, and Elaine are here to break it down for you.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

What We Liked

Camille: I didn’t like this debate.

Abigail: The audience was lowkey dry and I thought that was funny.

Elaine: I liked the comments under the recording of the debate that MSNBC posted on YouTube. A few good ones: “For people who can’t afford the 2 hours, below is a summary of the debate: Thank you Senator Warren. Back to you Senator Warren.” “Booker is the curly fry found randomly at the bottom when you order regular.” “Took me like 40 minutes to realize that this isn’t the SNL parody.” “When did Vin Diesel turn to politics.” And my personal favorite: “OMG, Steyer does not blink! SNL was not lying lol!” I also liked Steyer’s red plaid tie, a rare fashionista in the world of politics.

What Was Not-So-Liked

Camille: This was perhaps the most boring debate of the election cycle. There were no significant moments of heated clash, which is literally the point of a debate. It seemed like most of the candidates were running for VP instead of President, and should just drop out now. Furthermore, MSNBC is extremely biased in the questions that are asked. They clearly favor candidates like Warren, asking questions that allow her to elaborate on policy proposals, but they ask candidates like Yang narrow, clownish questions such as “what would you say on your first call to Putin?”

Abigail: MSNBC needs to be more equal in the amount of time they allow each candidate to speak. Yang, Steyer, Gabbard, and Klobuchar were largely ignored in the first thirty minutes of the debate, despite some polling higher than candidates such as Booker and Harris. There’s a certain level of responsibility media outlets must carry when they’re part of the facilitation of the democratic process; MSNBC isn’t fulfilling that responsibility.

Elaine: I agree with what Camille and Abigail have said; the lack of real policy debate made the debate dry and unengaging, and it seemed like all of the candidates were just trying to make blanket statements about why they should be elected rather than explaining the nuances of the policies that make them unique. In addition, MSNBC can’t seem to run a fair debate, seeing as about half of the candidates went completely ignored during the first half-hour of the debate. Many of the questions posed by the moderators weren’t substantive and didn’t dig at important policy differences between the candidates.

Joe Biden

Camille: Full disclosure: I am not a Biden fan. Biden’s gaffes make me cringe in every single debate. This debate was not immune to his inability to speak fluently and purposefully. From the moment he literally did not know where his thought was going: “Let's start talking civilly to people and treating – you know, the next president starts tweeting should – anyway” to the moment when he talked about violence against women by saying we should keep “punching at it and punching at it and punching at it.” Another notable moment is when he said that he was supported by the “only African American woman that had ever been elected to the United States Senate.” Although he insisted that he had said the “first” black female senator, he was wrong. With all of this said, I believe Biden could have redeemed himself with a laugh or acknowledgment that he understood what was going on in the room, but he continued as if nothing had changed since his statement. Finally, his closing statement was uncomfortable to watch. I understand that it was supposed to be inspiring, about standing up for American values and actively creating change, but the delivery was poor and awkward. The repetition and yelling were like that of a crazy old uncle.

Abigail: Biden’s performance in this debate was probably the worst of them all. Not only did he come off as incoherent and almost senile, he also lacked the traditional “patriot spark” viewers are used to seeing from him. I also didn’t hear many policy proposals from Biden; he acts like he’s the only option for voters, but doesn’t actually offer anything of substance. Additionally, I feel that his high percentage of voters comes from the Obama era, and his appeal to them is rapidly deteriorating. I don’t expect Biden to be the frontrunner any longer.

Elaine: Joe Biden’s time to bid for president has passed. He’s too old, and he’s lost his ability to make something out of nothing during these debates. None of his answers had any substance or policies, and the incredible number of gaffes just made me cringe. He’d lose his train of thought in the middle of an answer, or he’d make mistakes where he said that only one black female senator has been elected, or saying “Blafrican Americans” when he began to say blacks but then tried to switch to African Americans in the middle. I’m honestly sick of his trying to latch onto the Obama legacy all the way into the Oval Office.

Elizabeth Warren

Camille: It seems like the Warren hype is over. Candidates did not come for Warren as they did in the previous debate, and she did not have any standout moments. I don’t have any huge takeaways from her performance tonight.

Abigail: Warren had every question spoon-fed to her yet still failed to create her usual breakout moment. She more or less rambled about healthcare and didn’t shine a brighter light on her more interesting policies (ex. antitrust on tech giants). Although this may have just been the tone of the entire debate last night, I do want to see Warren bounce back with more energetic moments.

Elaine: I’m not the biggest Warren fan but I don’t strongly dislike her either. In the past four debates, she’s generally done pretty well, and her numbers have steadily grown, which have been reflected in the other candidates’ attacks on her. During this debate, even though the moderators heavily favored her and kept calling on her to respond, she didn’t say anything memorable or anything horrible that would hurt her.