Rolling Stone is pleased to announce the rules for the… wait, which Democratic Party presidential debate is this? The fourth? Fifth? Fiftieth? Has the field grown or shrunk since last time? If I “strangle myself” like Jeffrey Epstein, will I still have to hear about it? Is there any way out, for any of us?
The 2020 Democratic presidential race is already a historic mess, with an overlarge field (former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick recently became the race’s 28th entrant) and signs of extreme panic within the party at the prospects for the general election. Said panic is the obvious subtext of tonight’s debate in Atlanta, as the “pre-game” coverage will surely focus on the following themes:
- former Vice President Joe “Bleeding Eye” Biden — who back in September claimed “details are irrelevant in terms of decision-making,” after a string of maladroit campaign appearances — is a “wobbling” front-runner who might be a public relations nightmare as a nominee;
- after nearly a year of support, the party establishment seems to have soured on Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. The entrance of Patrick as well as possible candidate Michael Bloomberg, along with lots of off-the-record whining by “anxious” Democratic donors, suggests party Brahmins can’t stomach the idea of something like a wealth tax entering a general election discussion;
- a third high-polling candidate, Bernie Sanders, still annoys party and media leaders enough that he will get lots of pithy, condescending questions from plutocrat appendages like MSNBC moderator Andrea Mitchell;
- the candidate the party clearly wants to win, Pete Buttigieg, will be fawned over in an all-out effort to convince voters he’s the “momentum” candidate; look for Pete to become a “target” of questions designed to make him look like the candidate the other candidates fear.
There are many other storylines tonight, including the notion that low-polling candidates need to make a “move,” as the time has run out on “excuses” for not being high in the polls. Look for Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard to be a target of questions about her secret Russianness and Assadness, while New Jersey’s Cory Booker, Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar, and former “top-tier” candidate Kamala Harris of California will probably have to do something outrageous – like leap across the stage and bite a piece of Biden’s face off – to score what commentators call a debate “moment.”
While we wait for all this, we drink. “Useful Idiots” co-host Katie Halper and I won’t be live-chugging on video tonight, but I’ll be playing along on Twitter. The rule for this evening:
DRINK EVERY TIME:
- A candidate or moderator says “Quid pro quo,” “bribery,” or “Burisma,” or says something supportive of the Bolivian coup;
- Someone invokes Barack Obama’s reference to being rooted in “reality” with regard to Medicare for All, the wealth tax, etc.;
- Buttigieg says something craven to try to repair his relationship with black voters;
- A candidate says, “Let me be clear.” Double-shot if this is followed by an unclear statement;
- Rachel Maddow mentions Russia, or (hat tip to @sarahelabance) blinks more than 10 times per question;
- Kamala Harris engages in trademark cringey-laugh. Double-shot if it comes with a hand on a hip and a prosecutorial side-eye;
- Tulsi Gabbard says “soldier” or “regime change wars”;
- Bernie says “billionaires”;
- Biden says “Look,” “Listen,” or “the United States of America.” Double-shot if he says “America” twice in the same sentence, e.g. “Americans are the best hope of the United States of America”;
- Warren tries to sound homespun or (h/t to @sunglassesgir1) touches her face mid-answer. Double-shot if she does the #Lizholio gesture;
- Andrew Yang goes more than 20 minutes without being called upon, or makes a woke-uncomfortable comment;
- Klobuchar makes a clearly planned, not-funny joke;
- Tom Steyer says something that sounds like he doesn’t have a billion dollars. You may drink each time you find yourself asking who he is;
- Cory Booker, favorite son of tony Harrington Park, New Jersey, mentions the flying of bullets in his neighborhood;
Check in with me at @mtaibbi this evening. We may add one more rule – like for instance “existential threat” – by start time. Drink responsibly!