Democrats held their final debate before the Iowa Caucus this week. It was a lackluster affair. No one went full frontal after Donald Trump, despite recent revelations about self-serving timing in the killing of Iran’s General Soleimani and the continued unspooling of the sordid nature of the Ukraine scandal. With the exception of the dust-up between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, candidates on the Des Moines stage also failed to take on one another in substantive ways.
During my work with Intersections, I had occasion to spend some time in Iowa and became familiar with the term, “Iowa Nice,” a way that Iowans have of saying how politeness often masks more hard-edged emotions. Such forced politeness seems to have been the dominant attitude in this week’s debate. Allegedly a proving ground for the ultimate contest between a Democrat and Donald Trump, viewers were left with little new information about how the candidates would perform in the fall.
Even the moderators’ questions in this in this debate-so-white ignored some of the most pressing issues of our time. Mass incarceration, systemic and environmental racism, immigration reform, inner city and rural poverty, affordable housing, police relations were all left unaddressed. These topics would, no doubt, have worked their way into the vanilla discussion anyway, had Cory Booker, Julian Castro or Kamala Harris been onstage.
Against the backdrop of recent polling results and media coverage of the feckless decision-making process that led us to the brink of war with Iran and the continued unspooling of the sordid shakedown in Ukraine, watching the debate drone on led my imagination to wander about the future of the campaign. If things continue to be knotted at the top, look for Mike Bloomberg’s entry into the fray on Super Tuesday to really stir things up, totally unnerve existing preparation and prognostication and throw the process into disarray—leading to, yes, a brokered convention.
Frankly, this is what the Bloomberg team predicted and why he entered the race in the first place. He believed that the current crop of candidates could not compete against a savage campaigner like Donald Trump and that he had a shot—and unlimited resources to back his candidacy up—to give the President a real run for his money. The huge infrastructure Bloomberg has built and the data it has generated so far back up his premise. The question would then become: how do the current top-tier candidates respond to this political earthquake? The answer to that question may offer the most compelling reason yet to choose a nominee to joust with Donald Trump in the general election.
I often wonder why I bother slogging out a blog post each week, and so it is inspiring when I write something that later appears in a major media outlet. It gives me confidence that, somehow, I’m on the right track, in tune with—or maybe even just ahead of—those issues that concern others. I recently posted Deaths of Despair, about devastating trends of self-destruction that have occurred in white communities across the country. This week, award-winning journalists (and marriage partners) Nick Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn addressed this issue in their extraordinary article in the New York Times entitled Who Killed the Knapp Family? I highly recommend this heartbreaking, personal story about one family in Yamhill, Oregon, Kristoff’s home town. It sheds great light on how our current partisan arguments so miss the mark with whole segments of our society. It is a story every one of us should strive to understand.