Election 2020: Democrats announce their 20 semi-finalists

It's too bad Democratic Party chairman Tom Perez didn't position all 24 Democratic Party candidates for president up on some luminously lighted stage and then called their names, one by one, in no particular order, to come on down and stand on one of the 20 elephant stools for the semi-finals, each contender grasping his or her face with both hands, mouths gaping in surprised joy. Bernie Sanders, come on down!

That how it happens at the Miss Universe pageant, and Democrats have adapted the same set-up, announcing their 20 semi-finalists for the Democratic Party's nomination contest, starting with a pool of 24. Conveniently enough, Rachel Maddow will be there to hug them.

According to NBC News:

The Democratic National Committee on Thursday named the 20 presidential candidates who qualified to appear on stage later this month in the first primary debate of the 2020 campaign.

They are:

  1. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado
  2. Former Vice President Joe Biden*
  3. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey*
  4. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg*
  5. Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro*
  6. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
  7. Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland
  8. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii*
  9. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York*
  10. Sen. Kamala Harris of California*
  11. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado
  12. Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington*
  13. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota*
  14. Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas*
  15. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio
  16. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont*
  17. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California
  18. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts*
  19. Author Marianne Williamson*
  20. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang*

Why do I call this a beauty contest? Because 20 is still too many to conduct a credible debate. Supposedly, the groups will be split up into two sets over two nights. But even ten on the stage for a debate is way too much.

Assuming it's a two-hour debate, that means each candidate will get about 8 to 10 minutes of speaking time, counting for commercial breaks, bumpers, announcer blather and moderator questions. And assuming none of them goes over their alloted time limits.

That's scarcely more time than a Miss Universe candidate gets to answer her randomly drawn question about world peace. And given how Democrats have run things in the past, you can bet some questions will be leaked for tighter, glibber sound bites for some.

What's the value of this absurd specter then? Why, as a beauty contest. Voters will make their choices based on candidate looks and poise, same as the reality-T.V. stars, designers and pop singers do as judges in the Miss Universe pageant, and what happens, happens. It's not really going to be about a debate, it's going to be about looking at the candidates and judging them that way until one of them takes the crown.

Doesn't sound like a serious forum for debate actually. It works fine for a beauty contest, which is about looks, but for Democrats, it just shows how shallow they've gotten.

They dropped themselves into this pickle, of course, because they cheated on the picking of their candidate, putting their thumbs on the scale for Hillary Clinton at the expense of Bernie Sanders. Now they're overcompensating by making the field as wide as possible.

But there's not much there, there - the Hillary-Bernie debates of 2016 were one-on-one mostly, and they were an interesting duel of ideas and perspectives. And just judging them from debater's points rather than content (much the same way we judge how a Miss Universe contestant wears a dress rather than the ugliness of the dress itself) Bernie wore it all better and won those debates, every one of them, despite what in-bed-under-the-table Democratic operatives with bylines claimed.

Bernie gets no such opportunity for that now, he gets to line up with all the other Democratic candidates, and get looked at by the viewers now.

It's pretty goofy. And it's probably not what Democrats meant. But make no mistake - with an overcrowded field of bloviators, the Democratic debate is nothing but a beauty contest now.

Image credit: Base photo - U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Elizabeth Van Patten // public domain. Added montage by Monica Showalter, from public domain sources 


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