Maura Quint’s Presidential Debate Recaps: The One Where Everyone Dunks

2020 DEMOCRATIC
PRIMARY DEBATE, NIGHT ONE
DETROIT
JULY 30, 2019


8:03 PM: Jake Tapper, Dana Bash, and Don Lemon welcome the audience and set up ground rules, stating that they’re going to try a brand new approach to debate where they each serve as something like a “moderator” who asks candidates “questions,” which the candidates then might attempt to “answer.”

8:05 PM: The National Anthem is played to test candidates ability to stand back up if they take a knee, but no one falls for it. Tim Ryan does not put his hand over his heart but this appears to be less of a protest than of acknowledgment that he does not know where his heart is.

8:13 PM: The candidates give their opening statements, collectively agreeing that they forgot to mention during the last debate that Trump is bad. Everyone who is not Senator Bernie Sanders or Senator Elizabeth Warren reminds viewers that they are not Senator Sanders or Warren. Sanders and Warren agree that others are not them.

8:23 PM: Jake Tapper begins the debate by asking about Medicare for All and explaining that all of tonight’s questions were specially crafted from a page of Republican talking points they found lying in the alley behind Fox News.

8:25 PM: Former Maryland Representative John Delaney stakes the night’s first claim to being the most Republican by declaring Medicare for All “bad policy.” Sanders counters with “You’re wrong,” and one of Delaney’s arms falls off. Delaney smiles in confusion. Warren high-fives Sanders.

8:30 PM: Tapper asks Senator Warren that he’s heard she hates middle-class families and wants to hurt them, isn’t that true? Warren calmly picks up a glass of water, takes one sip and then flings the rest of the water in Tapper’s face.

8:34 PM: Former Governor of Montana Steve Bullock, who did not qualify for the first Democratic primary debates, attempts to stand out from the crowd by explaining, “Healthcare is personal. Like, I’m personally very rich and that’s good for me. Thank you.”

8:35 PM: Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar states that she’s different because she is from the Midwest, which is a region of the country the other candidates have probably never heard of. She challenges them to even name one place in the Midwest. South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg starts to raise his hand and Klobuchar throws a large brick of butter at him.

8:37 PM: Delaney attempts to take back the stage by asserting he’s the only candidate in the healthcare business. Sanders interrupts with “It’s not a business,” and Delaney’s other arm falls off. Delaney smiles in confusion.

8:39 PM: Tapper turns to author Marianne Williamson and asks how she responds to criticism she’s received from Warren. Williamson, pulls out some sage, lights it on fire, waves it in front of her and responds that criticism is a negative energy that does not align with her own personal chakras. Tapper explains he really only meant the question hypothetically and would prefer if she didn’t answer.

8:41 PM: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg pauses, arranges the pens on his podium, and narrows his eyes. He begins slowly, “It’s time to stop worrying what the Republicans will say.” A basketball net is wheeled onto the stage next to him and he is handed a ball. “The Republicans will call us socialists no matter what, so we should just support the best policy.” He effortlessly dunks the ball and crowd cheers. Marianne Williamson pours kombucha on his head in celebration.

8:44 PM: Ohio Representative Tim Ryan, concerned he might not be coming across as the most Republican, attacks Bernie Sanders by saying the Vermont senator doesn’t know for sure that Medicare for All will be comprehensive. Bernie sips from his coffee as a stagehand runs out and moves the basketball net directly over Ryan. Bernie calmly picks up the ball, writes “I know, I wrote the damn bill” on it, then slam dunks it in Ryan’s face. The crowd cheers.

8:46 PM: The debate now turns to decriminalizing immigration and candidates are asked if that will encourage more illegal immigration. Buttigieg, still buzzed from his dunk, responds, “I feel like you don’t understand what words mean.” Former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke recognizes a distant call to something his team spent days trying to prep him on and jumps in with, “I disagree.” Senator Warren states that criminalization of immigration is what allows Trump to take children away from their parents. Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper counters with, “Well, can’t we just not do anything you guys are talking about, but just somehow make stuff not be that way?” Warren coughs in a way that sounds vaguely like, “UH, YEAH, THROUGH DECRIMINILIZATION, YOU TOAD.” Marianne Williamson hands her an herbal tea.

8:52 PM: The moderators again ask if we make this country better with free healthcare and free college, won’t everyone come here? Don’t you think we should start some sort of a gulag system so they stay away? Sanders responds, “No,” just as Bullock responds with “This is a really good idea, thank you.”

8:56 PM: The debate now turns to gun violence. The group agrees guns are incredibly bad so we should absolutely immediately take some tiny steps to vaguely address them in some minor way, except for Bullock who, when asked, says, “Hey! look! Something over there!” and ducks beneath his podium.

9:11 PM: As the debate continues, pitting the progressives against the moderates, the now armless Delaney, with incredible pride, slams Warren for her “fairytale economics.” From what seems to be the rafters, a deep voice echoes through the auditorium “FINISH HIM” and Warren reaches under her red jacket, pulls a long sword and slices Delaney entirely in half. Everyone pauses. The voice again echoes “FLAWLESS VICTORY” after which Klobuchar explains that she’s from the Midwest.

9:23 PM: On climate change, Bullock asks, “Have we thought about seeing what the Republicans want to do?” Ryan and Delaney’s disembodied head each scowl at not having suggested that first.

9:40 PM: The candidates are asked if they’d support reparations and give some tepid answers until Marianne Williamson, whose bee pollen shot just kicked in, emphatically expresses that reparations are not assistance they are a debt owed. The stagehand, with some surprise, moves the basketball hoop near her and hands her the ball. She wraps the basketball in a lavender silk scarf and cradles it tenderly. The audience, though confused, cheers anyway.

10:03 PM: As the candidates discuss student loan debt and Bernie explains his proposal, Klobuchar argues that she’s from the Midwest and rich people shouldn’t get free things unless they’re also farmers.

10:29 PM: The candidates give their closing statements:

BULLOCK: I’m running for president to give every American the feeling of being stuck talking to the awkward person at the cocktail party who can’t quite get out a full sentence.

WILLIAMSON: I will heal the country with love and crystals and please don’t google anything else I’ve said in the past.

DELANEY: JFK famously said that if I quote a Democrat you’ll forget I’m a Republican

RYAN: I hope I captured your imagination — captured it and let it slowly die as I whispered to it that nothing can be done to save us.

HICKENLOOPER: What a night. I’ve loved it. I’m laughing, actually. Ask yourself, do you want someone who just talks or someone who’s already given up all their ideals?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, that’s the news from the debate, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above-average.

O’ROURKE: (quietly sings Radiohead’s “Creep”.)

BUTTIGIEG: Was this the loser night? I don’t think so but, was it? Who do I speak to about also talking tomorrow night?

WARREN: (walks to Sanders, clasps hands and they raise them triumphantly.)

SANDERS: (with hand still raised, he nods and yells) Did I mention the 1%?!

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