The three Democrats running for president gathered on stage Saturday night for a debate that hardly anyone watched. As it turns out, more Americans would rather watch the eighty-second airing of Elf than tune in to watch a bunch of out-of-touch Democrats argue about global warming’s impact on terrorism on the Saturday before Christmas. So, given that you likely couldn’t bring yourself to engage in the drudgery of another Democrat debate, we’ve broken it down into the night’s winners and losers for you:
- Debbie Wasserman Schultz: The Democratic National Committee’s decision to host three of the four debates before the Iowa primary on Saturday’s is one of those amateurish tactical decisions that most party leaders would think about for about thirty seconds before dismissing it out of hand. But not Schultz! No, she pressed on with the idea in a desperate attempt to preserve Hillary Clinton’s frontrunner status and minimize any gaffe-making opportunity. But in return, she deprived the party from getting all the publicity and press that comes with having tens of millions of eyeballs watching the candidates spar. It also predictably created a valid argument that the party is anointing and protecting Clinton, furthering the unflattering narrative that normal rules just don’t apply to her.
- Bernie Sanders: As it turns out, anger and outrage tend to form a pretty thin platform on which to run a presidential campaign. As National Review’s Jim Geraghty once described Sanders, “He’s the party guest whom you instinctively don’t want to talk to, who begins shouting immediately, who grabs your lapel and spits a bit as he jabs his finger into your chest for emphasis.” In the beginning, that seemed like passion, now it just seems like he’s yelling to cover up for a lack of substance. For instance, when asked how to solve the heroin epidemic he said that doctors have “got to get their act together.” When asked how he would stop lone wolf terrorist he said that the “goal is to crush and destroy ISIS,” but when pressed as to how, could only say “my plan is to make it work.” When asked how to help the middle class he simply said, “we tell the billionaire class, ‘they cannot have it all.’” These aren’t answers, no matter how loudly Sanders shouts them.
- Martin O’Malley: Nothing in the debate changed the fact that he’s still Martin O’Malley, which means he has little to say, a scant number of followers, and a meager amount of dollars. As if to add insult to injury, he was booed for poking fun at Clinton’s age and he was told to “calm down” by Bernie Sanders. In short, he was overmatched by the other candidates and the situation, which, sadly, is typical of O’Malley during this race.
- Hillary Clinton: Sure, Clinton had the best night among the three candidates on the stage, which typically qualify her as a “winner,” but in this case, that’s a bit like saying she was the best Steven Seagal movie. They all suck. Time after time Clinton found herself tripped up over softball questions, like how to define the middle class; unable to provide anything but insipid pablum on tough questions, like how to bridge the divide between civilians and law enforcement, and thoroughly stumped on how best to navigate the politics of other questions, like whether the Affordable Care Act was working. But worst of all, she committed one of the cardinal sins of this election cycle: Agreeing with Obama’s post-Paris policy on ISIS. “We now finally are where we need to be,” she said, seeming to indicate that President Obama’s Oval Office speech had addressed her lingering concerns. If that’s true, she literally may be the only one.
- DC-area Take Out: Washington employs a lot of bloggers, journalists and pundits, all of whom had to work long hours on a Saturday night to cover a debate that no one watched. I imagine lots of late-night tacos and pizza were consumed in order to fuel the creativity needed to make something readable out of something unwatchable.
- Martha Raddatz: ABC’s chief global correspondent proved to be the only person in the building willing or capable to go toe-to-toe with Clinton. In so doing she also revealed just how thin Bernie Sanders’ foreign policy knowledge really is.
- Donald Trump: Every candidate on the stage used Donald Trump as their presumptive foil, often in rather extreme ways. Martin O’Malley labeled him a fascist, Bernie Sanders declared that we must stop Trumpism, and Clinton called him “ISIS’s best recruiter.” Trump was likely feeling a little like Obi Wan Kenobi: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could ever imagine.”
- Sleep: As Glenn Rush wrote about the less-than-thrilling debate, “The underlying Democratic consensus, coupled with the DNC’s dubious decision to schedule its debates during the let’s-get-cocktails-time on a pre-yuletide Saturday night, made for a less-than-scintillating evening in front of the tube.” In other words, an insomniac’s dream.