Last night we witnessed a fairly civilized debate between the two remaining viable Democratic candidates in the race for president (Rep Tulsi Gabbard has not ended her candidacy, but only has two delegates and was not on the stage). Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are seasoned politicians , and so the debate was heavy on policy, although it did get heated several times. Because of the corona virus pandemic currently sweeping the globe, the organizers decided that there would be no audience. No applause, and no one to pander to. There were few soundbites and the conversation at times seemed substantive — but mostly it was attack and defend.
I drew some highlights and picked up on comments that to me seemed to be indicative of the debate. Visually, it was rather boring and static. The two men were further apart from each other than usual — again, because of the corona virus — but that didn’t stop Bernie from grandly gesticulating as he is want to. Biden, a man who stands fairly still during debates (I’ve been watching him through every single debate), quietly used his body in expressing himself this time. While Bernie often took up space using both arms, Joe shifted back and forth, bending his elbows and sometimes demonstrably leaning back as he listened to and looked at Bernie’s statements. Cameras were held on both men most of the time, so when one was talking, I could watch the other’s facial expressions. Both men would smile (or grimace) from time to time at the (to them) outrageous statments coming from the other man. Bernie’s face betrayed more responsive reaction than Joe’s, in the end.
Bernie is down in the delegate count, so he entered this debate the underdog. Joe offered a few olive branches that Bernie really did not accept. Perhaps because he is the underdog, I heard attacks from Sanders, and very few from Biden who attacked mostly when on the defensive. In essence, they both want the same things: health care for all, equality for Americans, help for the poor, accountability for the rich. Biden showed that he knows how to work with others — and has done so for his entire career — to make it happen. Bernie is known as someone who does not work particularly well with others, and his “revolutionary” ideas are just that, ideas. They sound great, but they cannot be accomplished on his scale in our democracy .
In my twenties, although I did not actually call myself one (no one asked ), I was a socialist democrat. When I was in college, I traveled with other classmates and professors to the Soviet Union (and of course drew my trip). I was curious. I had read Marx and wondered about how his ideals did or did not work. During my travels to the USSR and Eastern Europe, my eyes were opened bigtime, as I saw how ideals had been perverted by the dictatorship of the Soviet regime. Even after college, although I was not a fan of the USSR, I drew cartoons for the Guardian and The Nation, left wing newspapers in the US. I knew a few lefties, but generally did not like to hang out with them because of the dogma and self righteousness I would sometimes encounter. It felt too much like a religion, and I was not a joiner.
The first time I voted was for President, I registered as an Independent because I did not want to be a part of any party. Ever since then, I have voted Democratically in every election, but never joined the Democratic Party…until 2016 because I wanted to vote in the NY Primary vote for Hillary Clinton.
In 2017, I was invited to travel to Cuba as a member of a jury for a cartoon competition (and of course, drew it). It was fascinating, and the Cubans are incredibly welcoming people. But I saw for myself the decay and poverty that Castro’s failed “socialist” system had caused.
I understand Bernie’s ideas, and if I were twenty again, I would probably have been his supporter. But his ideas — on his scale — are not viable; after having watched politics for over 40 years, I know that now. What I saw on stage last night was a clear representation of that. We need a leader right now who will help us right now to defeat Donald Trump and set the country right again. Sanders is not that man, Biden is. Sanders has shown himself to be a devisive figure and does not work well with others; Biden is calm and collected, has been on the world stage, and he is a collaborator.
This difference was most clear to me when Sanders spoke in response to Biden’s claim that he would rejoin the US in the Paris Climate Accord on day one. Sanders replied, , “ Okay, rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. Fine. Who cares?” He went on to explain the gravity of climate change, all of which is true. It is beyond serious. But by dismissing the PCA in such a flippant way, I believe Sanders showed his true colors: don’t need to collaborate, I know what’s best, and no one else does. I believe this attitude does not get anything done.
Biden made news by promising to have a woman on his ticket as Vice President and to nominate the first black woman to the Supreme Court. Sanders appeared to be taken off guard and said he would “most likely” have a woman Vice President on his ticket, and then said there are some progressive women out there (paraphrased).
Both men tried to play gotcha on past voting records, and we know they both made unpopular decisions in the past due to either their constituents or their religious upbringing. But because of the current crisis around a pandemic, this debate in the end was about the NOW.
The last two drawings below to me show the essense of the debate. The first one shows a snippet from each man’s long answer to the last question of the night about the corona virus.
What I heard from each final speech sums it up: The pragmatist vs. the dreamer. Two men who seek to help, have the same beliefs, but who see the methodology differently.
This drawing below is my own interpretation of the entire debate. That’s not to say that Biden doesn’t have dreams for America, I know he does. And that’s not to say Sanders doesn’t seek to work on the now, I am sure he does.
But for me, what we need is help: leadership, collaboration, hope. Right now.