I watched nearly all of last night's "YouTube" debate among the Democratic candidates, and was left feeling pretty depressed. This is the best we can muster in the party that I actually think has some chance of restoring some dignity to my home country? The most encouraging part of the debate was actually seeing the humour, intelligence and creativity of the citizens writing the questions, which at least yielded some level of interest. I break down the candidates from worst-to-first, after the break.
8. Senator Dodd — Senator Dodd typified my idea of a pandering, spineless politician. He threw around a lot of vague promises but had pathetically little substance (and not much elegance, either). Hopefully he'll drop out ASAP.
7. Senator Edwards — Just seemed completely out of his depth. He seemed to feel that putting on an "I feel your pain" smile and cranking up his syrupy Southern accent to eleven would fool people into not noticing his vapidity. I would've ranked him dead last except for one stirring defence of mandated universal health coverage, which was the only time he sounded convincing.
6. Governor Richardson — A less egregious version of Senator Dodd. He seemed to have a little bit more going for him, and a slightly more concrete vision of his Presidency, but just seemed overwhelmed by this competitors.
5. Senator Clinton — While an excellent debater, Senator Clinton started annoying me immediately by continually referring to the President colloquially as "Bush" (e.g. "The problem is the Bush got us into this mess..."). The office of the President (even when disgraced by its current occupant) deserves respect, especially from those who are hoping to fill it. She had the smoothest presentation, but to me that just says, "same old politics", so it didn't do her any favours in my mind.
4. Senator Obama — I previously had high hopes for Senator Obama as a breath of fresh air to the Democrats, but he seems to have given up a bit of that "outsider" status in exchange for camapaign money (see Senator Gravel, below). Maybe there's still hope, but I see him slipping further and further into the grasp of the existing political machine.
3. Senator Biden — He seems like a bit of a crazy old grouch, but he at least felt like he was actually supporting his platform with some facts, and was willing to stand up to the other candidates where necessary, instead of basking in their love-fest.
2. Representative Kucinich — I always seem to connect most with non-mainstream candidates with no chance of winning. Perhaps this is because they eschew the banalities required for the nomination in favour of actually pursuing their platform. One review of the debate I read made a great point of how, when a lesbian couple asked if the candidates would let them get married, Kucinich hit a home run by saying, "The answer to your question is 'Yes'" while the other candidates tried to find a way to politely say 'No'. Mr. Kucinich also spoke about his disappointment at the Democratic Congress failed to fulfil their electoral mandate and end the war (as opposed to the other candidates who dance around how committed they are to actually ending the war).
1. Senator Gravel — Well, if Rep. Kucinich is out on the fringe, former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel is well and truly on the other side, and awesome as a result. Senator Gravel is (much to my chagrin) polling only 0.5% amongst Democratic primary voters. He is the only candidate, however, who got me excited enough to look up more of his platform, which is a weird mix of things, nearly all of which I love (legalising and regulating drugs, real LGBT rights, universal health care and an aggressive global warming policy). Even more than his own platform, however, his under-underdog status allows him to absolutely tear into his competitors. In all the debates so far he provides a breath of fresh air compared to the packaged tripe of the front-runners. He attacks their reliance on special interest money, the repeated claims by politicians to change the status quo but failure of both parties to actually do so. I hope he stays in as long as he can to keep laying the issues bare to the rest of these chumps.