2020 Democratic
Primary Debate, Night 1
June 26, 2019

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9:01 PM: Lester Holt warns that because of the large field of candidates, not everyone will be able to comment on every issue but each candidate will be guaranteed no less than three minutes to collectively shout animal-like noises in violent cacophony into the void.

9:02 PM: The debate kicks off with questions on the economy as Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is asked whether her plans are something the country can afford. Warren responds by silently pulling out a picture of Scrooge McDuck and slowly ripping it in half as the audience applauds. She sips a beer.

9:08 PM: Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke is asked what top marginal tax rate he’d support and responds in Spanish by asking if we can have class outside today.

9:14 PM: Asked about jobs, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney responded, “I’m very different than everyone else here on this stage as I’m the only one up here that has been accidentally locked in a storeroom overnight because no one noticed I was there, on three different occasions.”

9:15 PM: Washington Governor Jay Inslee is certainly on stage. He makes many hand motions and says some words. He is definitely there and exists and is a person.

9:17 PM: Debate moderator Jose Diaz-Balart addresses the field of candidates by stating that when Donald Trump ran for president he said he’d bring back manufacturing jobs, and asks, what lies will you be making to the American people?

9:19 PM: The debate now turns to the question of healthcare. The candidates are asked to raise their hands if they would abolish private health insurance — Elizabeth Warren and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio do so while most candidates hold up a wait-a-minute finger as they suddenly answer very urgent phone calls and refuse to make eye contact. New Jersey Senator Booker searches the floor for a lost contact lens. Beto O’Rourke sees a squirrel in the wings and runs off-stage.

9:28 PM: In response to a question about jobs, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar holds up her phone and plays an episode of Prairie Home Companion. Regarding private insurance companies, she pulls out a hotdish. “Potato,” she says with extreme conviction.

9:32 PM: O’Rourke seizes the moment to jump in with an impassioned appeal that we, as Americans, must protect the neediest among us — private insurance companies. Bill de Blasio does a Jim from the Office camera spike.

9:34 PM: The field is now asked about abortion. In response, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard reminds the room that she served in Iraq.

9:35 PM: The debate turns to immigration. Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro passionately argues for the decriminalization of unauthorized border crossings. Booker responds, in Spanish, that he also knows Spanish. O’Rourke tries to remind us that he spoke Spanish first tonight. In response, Castro takes out a skateboard, writes BETO on it and snaps it in half. Beto cries. No one is moved by his tears. Jay Inslee is from Washington state and Tulsi Gabbard served in Iraq.

9:49 PM: Lester Holt asks the candidates to raise their hands if, as president, they would rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal as originally negotiated. Every candidate on the stage raises their hands — except Booker, who may not have understood the question as it was not asked in Spanish.

10:02 PM: The MSNBC moderators switch shifts and Rachel Maddow and Chuck Todd take the stage. The mics of the previous moderators remain turned on and the room is filled with the sound of an off-stage Lester Holt ordering Taco Bell delivery and a pay-per-view movie or something, and Beto quickly dives under his podium to hide from the “scary ghost man voice.” Fox News finally has a reason to cover the debate.

10:07 PM: The candidates agree that guns are bad but also are they all totally bad? They’re bad but then also there are guns so, really, a tough call but guns are pretty much bad, mostly, probably.

10:15 PM: Candidates are asked how they’ll deal with republicans. Inslee says we need to get rid of the filibuster. Exactly 37 half-drunk wonks at three different DC area parties gasp and cheer, all other viewers pick up their phones and start scrolling through TikTok.

10:18 PM: Maddow asks Elizabeth Warren if she has a plan to deal with a Republican Senate under GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Warren, smiles, “I do.” Fireworks shoot out of her podium, one sparks Chuck Todd’s tie on fire, he nods at the threatening flame below his chin and agrees it has a point. Elizabeth Warren drops her mic, then goes over to each other candidate and drops their mics as well. She walks off stage as an orchestra (where did it come from?) plays a symphonic rendition of MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.”

10:20 PM: John Delaney throws his mashed turnips on the floor and yells “PAY ATTENTION TO MEEEEEEE.” Rachell Maddow excitedly says let’s play a game to see who can be quiet the longest and suggests John go first.

10:22 PM: The moderators turn the debate discussion to climate change. All of the candidates look at Jay Inslee who gasps, “FI-NA-LLY.” He begins with “the thing about climate change is…” but Chuck Todd’s tie is now entirely inflamed and the orchestra is still disbanding and the trumpet player drops his instrument on Klobuchar’s casserole and it’s a whole thing and everyone just sort of moves on.

10:30 PM: Afghanistan is discussed, which finally gives Tulsi Gabbard, a candidate with less name recognition than others in the race, a chance to showcase to voters who she is by letting them know that she served in Iraq.

10:39 PM: Chuck Todd asks candidates to state in one word what is the biggest geopolitical threat to America. A majority of candidates fail this test by saying “climate change” which is clearly two words. Some say “nuclear weapons” which after fact-checking, we have determined is also two words. Jay Inslee, who literally had one job, says “Donald Trump.”

10:50 PM: Candidates give their closing statements:

DELANEY: “I was locked in a storeroom once. I want that for everyone.”

DE BLASIO: “It matters that we nominate a candidate who is tall.”

INSLEE: “I will literally rebuild our melting glaciers by hand, you absolute fuckers. I hate you all so much.”

RYAN: “I swear I exist and am not a ghost that only you, boy from The Sixth Sense, can see.”

GABBARD: (smiles)

CASTRO: “So, did I win this? I did, right?”

KLOBUCHAR: “I’m not an establishment insider but you can butter my butt and call me a biscuit.”

BOOKER: (nods, earnestly. pauses. nods again even stronger.)

O’ROURKE: “In closing, beat on the brat, beat on the brat…. beat on the brat with a baseball bat.”

WARREN: (runs back onstage with a giant mic, pauses, smiles, drops it directly on Chuck Todd’s head, smiles again, the audience applauds)