Jonathan Compo suggests three reasons it might be worthwhile to watch the CNN Democratic Debate tomorrow, July 30th.
There was a time when the machinations of American politics appeared tyrannically fixed. Early polls bore through to electoral harvest, and you could make an honest living doing something called “Political Strategy.” That the DNC had edged out Bernie Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton was shocking news in 2016. Remember? Political drama, a few decades ago till 2016 was the drama of wedding planning—seating plans and invitations were laboriously plotted; venues, flowers, cakes and menus arranged with Fenolian precision. There were hiccups, yes. Your cousin Ida was sat only two seats over from the conspicuously carnivorous Uncle Sam—and she’s a vegan. Now, it’s the wedding reception—time’s up; Uncle Sam is smashed and has defenestrated the groom’s pet cat.
For the temperate among us, the debate on the thirtieth will be a welcome return to something like sanity. Watching Senator Warren and Senator Sanders debate, two candidates with significant governmental experience and cogent policy proposals, will be like watching Say Yes to the Dress re-runs.
2. It’s Your First Year Teaching and You Need Practice Quickly Memorizing Twenty Names
You graduated your state university this spring—tuition not yet fully funded—with a degree in early childhood education. You’ve got a job lined up, first-grade teachers are in demand, and school starts next month. You’re clued into and versed in the 21st century school best practice, and your lesson plans are already laminated. You’re standing in the check-out line of your local CSA when you realize, you don’t know the cashier’s name. You come here every week and its always the same hazel-eyed girl, (Dara? Dana?) and you don’t know her name. What good is forty grand and four years’ worth of training if you can’t perform that most basic of teacherly functions, knowing your students’ names?
For the anxious and anomic aphasiac early educators out there, fear not. Ahead of the start of term, the second round of Democratic debates offers a great opportunity to learn a whole class of names. Say them with me: Bernard (goes by Bernie), Elizabeth, Marianne, Tim, Peter Paul (goes by Pete), Beto (Bait-oh!), John H., John D., Steve, Michael, Kirsten, Julián, Cory, Joseph (Joe), Kamala, Andrew, Tulsi, Jay, Bill.
“Oh, it’s just Debbie—okay. Debbie: got it. No receipt, thanks.”
If you are an American of voting age in 2019, I imagine you’re disheartened. Things look not great. Saying hope loudly in 2008 was audacious, now the sound of it is something quite atrocious. It doesn’t seem like there is a big chance of things Getting Better. A debate, that most arranged and performative of political spectacles—the epitome of horse-race politics, of government as entertainment, the stage on which a reality TV star was able to dominate and topple the country—seems an odd box to look in, for that old national virtue. But, maybe, hearing Spanish on that same stage, hearing considered policy ideas and conversation, and not-hearing name-calling, smugness, or any of the histrionics that have of late monopolized our politics, maybe, you’ll find it.