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An Angry Woman’s Take on the 2020 South Carolina Democratic Debate

The Most Ignored Moments From the Charleston Democratic Debate

I’ll be honest with you, I had no intentions of watching the 10th Democratic Debate, which took place in Charleston South Carolina on February 25th. I, like so many others, am burnt out and disgusted by both the current administration and what I see taking place in my own party.

My plans for the night of the 25th consisted of forgoing my evening cocktail (in the interest of losing a couple of pounds before summer) and curling up on the couch to watch a nice, relaxing horror flick (my favorite genre). Unfortunately, my household disagreed with my plans, so I lost control of the TV and was forced to succumb to two hours of an entirely different kind of horror show: the 2020 Charleston South Carolina Democratic Debate.

democratic debate, 2020 South Carolina Democratic Debate, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders,

4 White Men, 2 Women, 1 Gay Guy & an Angry Feminist

A Quick Summary

While I have painstakingly gone through the transcripts from the South Carolina Democratic Debate in an effort to provide readers with some of the lesser talked about—but important—moments in the shitshow that took place, I totally respect those of you who want to avoid the PTSD symptoms I’m currently plagued with. So, feel free to skip the dirty details after reading my concise summary of the night’s events below.

Summary: Two women and a gay guy were the only voices of reason on a stage otherwise filled with a whole bunch of childish, shouting, pouting, and brawling grey-haired dudes. Still, America is convinced that a super white, grumpy old man is the way to go in our next presidential election.

Dear God! Put all politics aside folks. Every (seemingly heterosexual) white man on the stage that night behaved so poorly that if they were merely kids in the schoolyard, they’d have all gotten suspended or served hours upon hours in detention.

Unfortunately, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Michael Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer are not just kids duking it out on a middle school playground. No, they are the grown-ass men vying to become the Democratic Presidential candidate of choice for the 2020 Presidential race. And unfortunately, their performance on stage that night showed American’s exactly who they are.

Not that it matters…

democratic debate, warren

10 Stand Out Moments from the 2020 Charleston Democratic Debate

Oh man, there were so many moments that brought out the angry feminist everyone has been accusing me of being since my early college years. But the following are the ones that sent me to my booze cabinet for that cocktail I had sworn off earlier in the day.

Rage on the Stage

Let’s begin with the obvious. The juxtaposition of the four ranting men and the two calm, smiling women (and a gay man) all on the same stage really put the true nature of the Democratic party in perspective. If the female candidates (Elizabeth Warren & Amy Klobuchar) had raged or pouted the way Biden, Steyer, Sanders, and Bloomberg did, headlines across news sites would have slammed them for being hysterical, unhinged and unelectable. How Warren and Klobuchar remained composed is beyond me. But if their ability to stay calm and focused amid chaos wasn’t enough to make Americans see them as better candidates than their heterosexual male opponents (it wasn’t), I just don’t know what will.

Our progressive party is still a sexist party.

The Traitor

Early on in the debate, Gayle King addressed Warren and said, “I want to direct this question to you—because Mayor Bloomberg has said he got in this race late because he doesn’t believe that any of you on stage can beat Donald Trump. You said Mayor Bloomberg is not the safest candidate, he is the riskiest candidate. What did you mean by that?”

Warren blew my mind with her answer. She reminded the audience that Trump was soon to arrive in Charleston himself to raise money for one of the most despicable people on earth: Lindsay Graham. While that’s no surprise, my jaw literally hit the ground when she said, “Who funded Lindsey Graham’s campaign for re-election last time? It was Mayor Bloomberg.”


OK, I did not yell those actual words as this news sunk in. I believe I used several choice expletives and asked everyone around me, “Is this true? This can’t be true? How is he running for President as a Democrat then?”

Warren went on to explain, “And that’s not the only right-wing senator that Mayor Bloomberg has funded. In 2016, he dumped $12 million into the Pennsylvania Senate race to help re-elect an anti-choice, right-wing Republican senator. And I just want to say, the woman challenger was terrific. She lost by a single point.”

What the fuck, Bloomberg? What the actual fuck?!

democratic debate, bloomberg

How many women does it take?

Warren wasted no time taking on Bloomberg during the Charleston Democratic Debate. She spoke about her own experience with pregnancy discrimination in the workplace saying, “When I was 21 years old, I got my first job as a special education teacher. I loved that job. And by the end of the first year, I was visibly pregnant.” She explained that the principal at the school gave her job to someone else.

“Pregnancy discrimination, you bet,” she said. “But I was 21 years old. I didn’t have a union to protect me. And I didn’t have any federal law on my side. So, I packed up my stuff, and I went home.”  Turning on Bloomberg, Warren leaned in, “At least I didn’t have a boss who said to me, ‘Kill it,’ the way that Mayor Bloomberg is alleged to have said…”

At this point, I’m cheering Warren’s bold move as workplace gender discrimination and harassment are topics close to my heart that I too have experience with. Warren dug in demanding that Bloomberg’s accusers (there are several) have an opportunity to be heard, and of course, he reacted as any privileged old white guy is expected by brushing it off and pivoting the moment the moderator gave him the chance to.

Moderator O’Donnell asked, “At the last debate, you said some of your female employees might not have liked some of your jokes. Did these women take your jokes wrong? Or were you wrong to make the jokes?” Bloomberg nonchalantly responded by saying he was probably wrong to make jokes, but then quickly bragged that in all of his 40 years only three women had ever accused him of anything.

Only three women.

I wonder how many women have to accuse a man of workplace harassment before accusations are taken seriously. Perhaps Mr. Bloomberg has a number in mind?

Do the F-ing Math Sanders!

I’m going to be real with you. When O’Donnell cornered Sanders with questions about how he planned to pay for the entirety of his Medicare for All plan, pointing out that he can only explain how he’s going to pay for half, Sander’s response floored me:

“How many hours do you have?”

Really Sanders? Medicare for All is the backbone of his campaign and he came to the South Carolina Democratic debate unprepared to answer one of the most important questions about his plan. I wanted to grab him by his lapels and yell, “Give the numbers to Warren, if you aren’t capable of explaining it in the time allotted. I’m pretty sure she can do it clearly and concisely.”

Smiling, Klobuchar shared her take on how the numbers added up, as Sanders huffed and puffed in that angry old man way that everyone seems to find so adorable. “What I think we should do is make things more affordable, offer a nonprofit public option, make sure we’re paying for long-term care better, take on the pharmaceuticals…and do something for the people of America. Instead of making a bunch of broken promises that sound good on bumper stickers.

Fits & Making Faces

Elizabeth Warren pointed out that Bernie Sanders is currently the front runner in the Democratic race. She explained that the reason for his success was that Democrats are progressive, and progressive ideas are popular. She went on to say that she agreed on a lot of things with Bernie but quickly stated that she believes she will be a better President and went on to explain why.

Her explanation included her ability to dig into details, her success fighting Wall Street, and her detailed and well thought out plans. The picture of presidential poise, Warren stood on stage and showcased her resume and her sound strategy for future plans.

bernie sanders, south carolina democratic debates, elizabeth warren

All the while, Sanders stood next to her making childish faces: pulling his lips tight, scrunching his face, rolling his eyes to the ceiling. If my kids acted that way in public, they’d be grounded to their room for weeks.

Unbelievably, you won’t find a single photo of Sander’s childish antics at the Charleston Democratic debate online. (Don’t worry, I grabbed screenshots for you). Just imagine the memes that would have swept across the net in mere moments if either Warren or Klobuchar had pulled that shit? But those ladies knew better, they kept their eye rolls in check and their game faces on.

democratic debates, Klobucher

Caught between brawling boys

You’ve all seen the above image by now. Klobuchar smiling calmly while stuck between Biden and Steyer while they yell at each other over Steyer’s supposed support for private prisons. Look, this image really sums up the whole night and why everyone should be furious at the flagrant misogyny that most of the candidates are completely unashamed of showing and/or leaning into to bolster their campaigns. Later Klobuchar admitted to being afraid that she was going to get whacked or even topple from her step stool.

democratic debate, south carolina democratic debate, biden

Poor little Catholic Boy

Biden’s constant sulking about not getting enough time to speak seriously got on my last nerve. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a grown man whine so much. Neither of the women or Buttigieg cried about it. They just dug in and made sure they were heard. Time and time again Biden got snippy with the moderators who had their own hands full. And when they reassured him that they’d get to him, he sulked, “You keep promising me that, but you haven’t done it yet.”

But what really pushed me over the edge, was when near the end of the debate, O’Donnell had to cut Biden off for time. Biden responded with a sniveling, “Why am I stopping? No one else stops,” and then went on to say, “It’s my Catholic school training.” Puh-leeze!

democratic debate, south carolina democratic debate, biden

White man complains to a black woman about being mistreated

Biden’s crybaby attitude was annoying, but one comment stood out from all of the others. Either trying to make light of his constant moaning or simply embarrassed for the guy, Gayle King addressed Biden’s Catholic school comment with, “Vice President Biden, you’re a gentleman. Good home training. Thank you, sir.”

To which he replied, “Yeah, gentlemen don’t get very well treated up here.”

I was floored. A rich, powerful white old man just complained to a black woman about not being treated fairly on stage at a Democratic debate!

And yet, not a word about this absurdity in the days to come.

Bloomberg & Racism

I don’t want to ignore Buttigieg’s response when addressing racism and discriminatory policies like “stop and frisk.” I was grateful when he used his time to point out the obvious, “I come to this with some humility because I’m conscious of the fact that there are seven white people on this stage,” Buttigieg said. “None of us — none of us have the experience, the lived experience of, for example, walking down the street, or in a mall, and feeling eyes on us, regarding us as dangerous, without knowing the first thing about us just because of the color of our skin.”

Alas, the moment was quickly lost when Bloomberg attempted to try his hand at addressing the same topic. “I know if I was black, my success would have been a lot harder to achieve. And I know a lot of black people, if they were white, it would have been a lot easier for them,” Bloomberg said. “That’s just a fact, and we’ve got to do something about it rather than just demagogue about it.”

Very insightful Bloomberg. Your success would have also been a lot harder if you were a woman who had to put up with workplace sexual discrimination from her boss.

Bang! Bang! Bernie

Sanders’ history with gun control and his stance on ending the filibuster is super disturbing. He has a solid history of dismissing the need for gun control laws and doesn’t support rolling back the filibuster which Warren pointed out, makes enacting progressive laws nearly impossible. “What I’ve seen is gun safety legislation introduced, get a majority, and then doesn’t pass because of the filibuster,” Warren said. “Understand this: The filibuster is giving a veto to the gun industry. It gives a veto to the oil industry. It’s going to give a veto on immigration.”

Buttigieg then pointed out Sanders’ hypocrisy stating, “How are we going to deliver a revolution if you won’t even support a rule change?”

While these are moments from the South Carolina Democratic Debate that really engaged my inner, angry feminist, what disturbed me the most was how our “progressive” party’s misogyny was on display for everyone to see, and still, it somehow escapes being adequately addressed. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: If you are one of the many “progressives” who takes to the internet to complain about the old, white men running the country—and you are planning to throw your support behind one of the old, white male candidates on stage at the 2020 South Carolina Democratic Debate—you either need to stop complaining about old, white men or change who you support.

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Annette Benedetti
Annette Benedetti
Annette is a writer, editor and photographer from Portland, OR. Her work appears in a variety of publications including Bust, Red Tricycle, Motherly and Domino. When she’s away from her desk she can be found teaching women yoga at wilderness retreats, exploring new cities across the states and hiking the trails at Mt. Rainier—one of her favorite places on earth.
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