Since some of you will no doubt be watching the first Democratic presidential debate tonight, Lambert has graciously agreed to host a special feature to allow readers to come and discuss the fracas in real time. He’s said live blogging is not that stressful (personally, I’m of the opposite school, but he is a very fast typist, and I suspect that makes a big difference). But what I thought instead might be as fun for readers was for him to curate tweets, with him putting up some of the best-pre-debate takes, to put up a fe that really were colorful and apt as the exchanges are underway, and then to do a wrap of the best summations. In other words, we’re hoping this format will encourage our incisive and often funny readers to chat among themselves, particularly since debate is a form of sports for thinking people.
One of the things to watch out for is pundits moving the goalposts for expectations after the debates, particularly if Bernie or any of the other Clinton challengers make a dent, or if she goes more wobbly than she ought to on the matter of those e-mails or WTF exactly was State thinking re Syria? Even if the underlying facts are terrible, a pro of her seasoning should have several levels of well-honed deflection to get her past these obvious points of vulnerability.
Despite Clinton being in a much weaker position than any of the experts expected her to be now, she is still the front-runner and still far more practiced at big spotlight events than any of the other candidates. So if she merely holds up, or if Bernie fights her to a draw, she’s effectively continuing to lose ground, because she should perform better than that. I’m bothered by the subtext of a Bob Kuttner article at Huffington Post on the debates, in that it’s almost entirely advice to Clinton, meaning she’s the Democratic Party product that needs to be protected. For instance:
Clinton needs to get out of a self-infecting cycle of bad publicity, in which everything she does is dismissed as calculating and contrived, even when it represents creative movement on issues. Sanders merely needs to take care to come across as fighting for the forgotten American on the issues, as he nearly always does, but not too radical in his personal style.
I hope Sanders does well, because it helps move the Overton Window in our direction and it will put the punditocracy in a difficult position. They’ve tried ignoring Sanders. It will be hard to continue to do that, and implicitly dismiss the demands of that endangered species, the American middle class, if he comes out of the debates with an uptick in his poll ratings. It would be instructive to see what the next minimization strategy turns out to be.
Suggestions re drinking games also encouraged.