Debate Dynamics

* We all saw the debates, even if we didn’t all view them through the same lens. That’s the nature of partisan politics and “debates,” which are really performance art for a casting call of candidates and monetized, show-business optics for the networks. We’ll never see a Lincoln-Douglas sequel. A few takeaways:

* Some elements of the punditocracy have been fantasizing about a Kamala Harris-Pete Buttigieg ticket. One that would galvanize progressives and rally the party to a historically big, nation-saving turnout. No, it won’t happen. But as long as there are pundits and fantasizers, why not really double down to go after the menace that is Trump? How about a Harris-Obama ticket? He could legally do it.

No, it won’t happen, but all options–including trenchant warfare–should be under consideration when so much is at stake–and so much more damage, domestically and globally, would be done by a 2020 Trump re-election .

* Two and a half years ago, Joe Biden was one of the most powerful people in the world. He had been vetted by Barack Obama and given an eclectic portfolio that prioritized global strategies and domestic politics. That Joe Biden has to show up later this month in Detroit. If he’s still around.

* As noted, these are not really debates. Too big a field, too much of a premium on performance. Sen. Kamala Harris, an impressive candidate by any measure, underscored that reality with her calculated, orchestrated confrontation with Biden.”I know you’re not a racist….” was unnecessarily insulting as she literally pivoted in his direction for a multi-minute lecture on school busing for integration. It was effective; it was game-changing; and it was pure performance ploy–with an enabling NBC split-screen capturing all the juxtaposed drama.

* Julian Castro still bears an awkward surname for an American presidential candidate. But his “Marshall Plan” reference for Central America makes eminent sense–and should continue to resonate. Not unlike its post-war namesake, a Central American version would be an investment and an exercise in enlightened self interest–not some give-away to those playing Uncle Sam for a “sucker.” Asylum seekers are fleeing horrific violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and, worst of all, Honduras, the murder capital of the world. Hell, we still don’t even have an ambassador in Tegucigalpa.

* It was somewhat revealing, but hardly surprising to hear several candidates work in some Spanish in a Miami debate that was also carried by Telemundo–not far from a border detention center. Even NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio–until he went too far. “Hasta la victoria siempre.” Never a good idea to quote Che Guevara in South Florida. Ay, Dios, Guillermo.

* John Yang got the memo; he just ignored it. Entrepreneurs don’t wear ties anymore.

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