FEBRUARY 7, 2020

- - -

8:01 PM: While previous debates have started with the candidates standing at their respective podiums, this one begins by testing the candidates on their ability to respond as their name is called and walk directly to their podium without the assistance of campaign staff. Instead, Senator Warren starts a selfie line in the front row, while entrepreneur Andrew Yang goes to the moderators’ table and pulls out a T-shirt cannon. Mayor Pete Buttigieg goes directly to the center podium and claims it as his own despite it being marked BERNIE SANDERS. Senator Amy Klobuchar starts shucking corn. Senator Sanders walks back and forth across the stage with his hands behind his back, businessman Tom Steyer follows him like a baby duck, and former Vice President Biden walks face first directly into a camera and then yells at it.

8:03 PM: Moderator George Stephanopoulos begins the debate by repeating Joe Biden’s own words back to him, which has now been proven, traditionally in these debates, to go over extremely well. Stephanopoulos reminds Biden that he said it would be a mistake for the Democrats to nominate Sanders or Buttigieg, and yet they both did well in Iowa. “So, are Iowans idiots?” he asks. Biden answers that he took a hit in Iowa, and he’ll probably take another hit in New Hampshire. “But that’s what I do,” he says, “hits, just like the Beatles, who were only able to come to the US because of the work I personally did for insect rights, by the way.”

8:07 PM: Turning to Senator Sanders, Stephanopoulos asks, “Trump said socialism won’t work, why should you be the nominee?” Sanders replies, “Because Donald Trump lies all the time.” Stephanopoulos then addresses the other candidates, “I’d like to ask everyone on stage to take off a shoe and throw it at Senator Sanders.” Sanders interjects, “I’m just going to redistribute those shoes.” There is a pause until Klobuchar removes one of her heels and waves it. “Look,” she says, “if there’s one thing I know, it’s how to throw shoes. Senator Sanders and I have often been up against our Republican colleagues in a good toe toss. Senator Cornyn and I developed a whole bipartisan technique to fling loafers at whoever is the Majority Leader, doesn’t matter which party, because I am the only one up here who knows how to get things done.” She puts her shoe back on. Buttigieg throws his shoe at Sanders’ head but misses. He adds, “If we’re not going to pull together, we’re going to be barefoot, which is what is holding back our dreams from the precipice of our feet, and that is what I will change.” Biden takes off his shoe and yells into it, “IF YOU’RE JUST GOING TO LET ME WALK ALL OVER YOU, MAYBE YOU SHOULD VOTE FOR SOMEONE ELSE.” Steyer says, “It’s the economy stupid,” and hands Bernie both of his shoes.

9:33 PM: Moderator Linsey Davis turns to Mayor Pete. “In the town you oversaw in Indiana, a black man was four times more likely to be arrested for drug possession than a white person. How do you account for that?” Buttigieg calmly explains he did the opposite of that. Davis interrupts to point out that it is not Opposite Day, which leads Buttigieg to pull out his almanac, a world globe, and a small encyclopedia to confirm as to when, officially, Opposite Day takes place. Davis then asks Warren if she thinks that’s a good answer. “No,” Warren says. “We have to own up to how race has influenced our criminal justice system. We can’t say criminal justice is the only time we talk about race specifically.” All the other candidates nod in agreement that this is a very good answer, and avoid eye contact so they don’t get called on next.

9:42 PM: Stephanopoulos mentions that Bernie Sanders’ initials are BS. “Isn’t this something the American people should be concerned about?” he asks. Buttigieg says yes, and adds that that Senator Warren’s initials spell “EW!” Klobuchar smiles and says, “Well, one thing I know is Pete Buttigieg’s initials are PB, which is probably because that’s the kind of sandwich he eats in kindergarten every day, which makes sense because if the mayor added jelly he’d make too much of a mess, but I know how to eat jelly, like the jelly that’s made right there in my home state of Minnesota, where grown-ups live and eat jelly, jam, and even good old-fashioned maple syrup without leaving sticky fingerprints all over their debate notes, and that’s the kind of sandwich experience the American people need in their leaders.” Tom Steyer adds that his initials are “TS TS TS TS,” and offers to keep laying down the beat if Bernie would like to freestyle rap over it.

9:54 PM: Stephanopoulos announces that there is a special surprise. “Though he didn’t meet any of the qualifications we’ve made every other candidate go through to be here tonight, he did purchase the remaining portion of our airtime, and we had to either run an hour of awkward ads of him trying to figure out how to eat a burrito, or just let him ask the questions. So please welcome the only person in this room wealthy enough to be considered a real American by the Republican voters we’re trying to woo, Mike Bloomberg.” [Mike Bloomberg stiffly walks to the moderators’ desk. A staffer dressed in black runs alongside him, quietly repositioning his head every 15 seconds to simulate normal human movement.] Bloomberg’s emotionless face is turned towards the nominees, and he speaks: “What is the minimum amount of human money I can transfer to you to ensure my taxes don’t raise?” Bernie responds, “None.” Warren says, “Amy and I are the only ones up here who would definitely say ‘none.’” Klobuchar nods, adding, "I can’t stand money in politics. Maybe that’s because when I grew up, we didn’t have fancy things like credit cards or checks or dollars. We kept a tin full of buttons and beans, and when we needed something we traded those buttons for milk and eggs and an education, and whoever had the most buttons and beans in town got the most stuff, and that’s just how we did things in the Midwest. Buttigieg answers, “If we want to bring about any of the changes we need to create a prosperous future. We must begin by defining that by who we include, not who we reject, and it is in this inclusion that billionaires have a right to the demonstrate the very same patriotism you and I embrace every day, by purchasing whichever candidate and whichever country they feel is the one that best reflects the values of tomorrow.”

10:14 PM: The final question is about childhood poverty and the candidates are asked how they will address this issue.

YANG: Just take a moment and imagine what a 4-year-old would be able to accomplish if he or she had $1000 per month? The Play-doh skyscrapers, the marshmallows for breakfast, the handfuls of one-dollar bills flushed down the toilet til it overflows in some sort of baby experiment. We can have this.

BUTTIGIEG: America has been counting the wrong things. If you have a building with your name on it, like my donors do, the Dow Jones is the economy to you, but that’s not the case for everyone. When I’m president, we’ll measure our economy by the income growth of the 90%, especially that of black people. In Indiana, we worked hard to make sure we took black people out of poverty by putting them in jail. The time has arrived for a different kind of politics, one where we say many words, the kind that inspirations are built upon, in order to put tomorrow’s past in the garden of history and deliver a better future for yesterday’s generation, today.

WARREN: So, do you remember when I first started running and everyone said, “Warren has a plan for that”? This is the thing I had a plan for and still do, but you don’t know because none of you are reading my plans. I replaced half of them with IKEA instructions and no one noticed, but that’s okay because we’re going to build a really nice coffee table either way.

BIDEN: Well, look, I know about childhood poverty because I was in the room when we made this happen. I was there, and I got the bill done. People said to me, “How are we going to make these kids poor?” and I was the one who made that happen. I took the money right out of their little pockets. You can look at my record — it’s right there.

SANDERS: The problem is the same problem with everything else in our country, and you’d think I’d be sick of talking about it by now, but you keep asking me the same question, so I give the same answer — I once ate the same thing for breakfast for eight and a half years, you think I’m going to change on THIS?

KLOBUCHAR: There’s a story about when the president died and they put his body on a train and a local man came out, he was sobbing, and a reporter asked him, “Did you know the president?” And he said, “I didn’t know the president, but he knew me,” and in the Midwest where I’m from, I promise that as president, I will make sure after I die my corpse does a railroad tour of this great nation, and we’ll put a casserole right there in the coffin, with some cheese curds right there for dipping.

STEYER: The America that lives in our hearts is one Donald Trump will never be able to imagine. One where Bernie invites me over to play Taboo. One where Warren brings tacos. That’s the America I believe in, and the one I hope we can make happen as early as tomorrow, if you guys are free. I mean, I know you’re probably busy, but I got pizza rolls.