The TV ratings are in for this week’s Democrat debates. While they did beat out the other reality shows, game shows and sitcoms on TV that night, it wasn’t by much. Part one drew 8.7 million viewers (down from 15.3 million for part one of the first debate in June), while part two drew 10.7 million (down from 18.1 million in June.) That’s understandable: I wouldn’t have watched if it weren’t my job, the same way it was Ed Norton’s job to go down into the sewer every day.
So the bad news for the Democratic Party is that not that many people saw the debates. Of course, the good news for the Party is also that not that many people saw the debates. Because the reactions from those who did ranged from unimpressed to horrified, and word of mouth isn’t helping.
Those of us who have to keep up with politics for a living often forget that most people’s lives don’t revolve around who’s in Washington or who’s up or down in the latest poll, or what innocuous old tweet that’s now politically incorrect has been dragged up out of mothballs to hurl at a candidate like Moe Howard throwing a pie. In short, most Americans have lives. They don’t pay serious attention to politics until after the conventions. These candidates are pitching their appeals to the hardcore base who actually show up to primaries, and in the Democratic Party these days, that means they’re appealing to angry, Trump-despising, blame-America-first, socialist nutjobs.
This is why the debates are bad for the Party’s hopes in 2020. Normally, it would be great exposure so the public can get to know the candidates. But this time around, many in the general public who are just tuning in for the first time are shocked to discover just how mean, angry, strident and far-left these candidates are.
There’s an old saying that most voters want a “happy warrior.” Did anyone on that stage look happy? Elizabeth Warren seems perpetually enraged at such injustices as “white privilege” (like white people who claim to be Native American to get employment breaks?) Bernie shouts and looks like he’s about to turn his sprinklers on you if you don’t get off his lawn. The rest look out at a land where unemployment is at record lows, wages are rising at the fastest level in years, and no major wars are raging, and see nothing but “GLOOM, DESPAIR AND MISERY!!”
Pollster Frank Luntz noticed the level of open hostility on display. The candidates didn’t even attempt to hide it, as they reveled in the idea of punishing businesses and “taxing the H*** out of” wealthy people. Biden would imprison insurance executives who disagree with his health care plan. They would go to war against drug companies for wanting to make a profit on drugs they spent years and millions of dollars developing. To them, corporations are evil, profits are evil, and only the government is capable of exhibiting morality. Luntz said the message he got was that economic freedom is under attack and they’re out to get every CEO and business executive in America.
Luntz said, “This is not just about politics. This is not just about winning the Democratic nomination. This is about changing the structure of the economy in the United States, and they are determined to turn it upside-down.”