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Pennsylvania Democratic Debate – Live from Rove Junior High School

I watched last night’s Democratic Debate and I was wondering what the candidates’ plans were to address global warming, our failing schools, ending the occupation of Iraq, the falling dollar, a housing market crisis, the erosion of our manufacturing base, loose nukes in former Soviet republics, catching Osama bin Laden, protecting the people from tainted drugs and poisoned toys, tightening the gap between rich and poor, reining in golden parachutes for poorly performing CEOs, upgrading our communications networks, repairing our crumbling infrastructure, healing divisions between the races, working together with Republicans, investigating and holding accountable our current administration for torture and other crimes against the Constitution, seeking inclusion of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered in legal equality, scrapping the ridiculous War on Drugs, finding that anthrax terrorist from 2001, rebuilding at Ground Zero, revitalizing the American farm economy, funding research for stem cell treatments, expanding our commitment to research and space exploration, bolstering American unions, fixing our relationships with our allies, and combatting the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Instead, for the first hour I got:

  • You said voters were bitter!
  • Your pastor once said, “God damn America!”
  • A guy you once served on a board with said he didn’t plant enough bombs in the ’60s
  • You said you were pinned down by sniper fire
  • Tiffany said you were talking shit about her to the football team in the cafeteria after fourth period!

(Whoops, sorry.  mixed up my ABC Debate Criticism list with my Complaints Last Overheard When I Was In Junior High list.  Easy mistake to make.  To be fair, after the first hour of those highly important issues, they did cover some of the inconsequential items in my issues wish list in the second hour.)Hooray for Barack Obama maintaining some cool during all of this and especially when he turns to George Stephanopoulis’ Drudge-inspired Weather Underground question with, “See, this is exactly what I’m talking about…”

Maybe ABC has subscribed to that notion that the media is “in the tank” for Obama and therefore they needed to pepper him with tough questions about the things other people said or did.  Maybe they secretly want to keep Clinton in the race so they can sell more political ad time.  If so, I predict their plan is backfiring.

Obama has been smart to make this a race about change and to highlight how people are “bitter” about seeing no improvement in their lives, decade after decade, Republican or Democrat administration.  At first I was concerned that Hillary sticking it out and attacking Obama would fracture the party.

Now, however, I think this has unfolded perfectly.  We’re witnessing the first successful third party campaign.  Barack has positioned himself to run as the third party against the Republicans and the Republicans-Lite, as the people-powered outsider against the red corporate money whore and the blue corporate money whore.

And every time these meaningless tabloid fluff questions get asked, Barack brings it back meta, saying, “This is what I’m talking about” and pointing out that this “gotcha” politics is the exact Washington insider system he’s running against.  (Most perfectly noted when Obama talked about all the Rovian smear that Hillary Clinton has endured and saying that she learned the wrong lessons from it – when confronted by dirty politics, Clinton’s chosen to become better at it, more dirty, rather than rising about it.)

I think this is what is resonating with Americans.  We want to believe that there can be solutions through government, that we can work together to solve huge problems, that somehow We the People still do matter, even though most of our last names aren’t “Inc.” or “Corp.”  This debate is the Jon-Stewart-on-Crossfire moment of the campaign, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Barack Obama ends up winning Pennsylvania because of it.

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