In case you haven’t heard, the Democratic presidential primary race is, in fact, in full swing. On Wednesday, MSNBC and The Washington Post hosted the fifth Democratic primary debate in Atlanta, which was moderated by a panel of all-female journalists (for the first time this election cycle and the third time in U.S. history, might I add), and consisted of ten candidates. Truthfully, this debate didn’t really tell us much more than we already knew, and the tone was relatively civil (key word relatively). What made this debate different then, was that some candidates — notably Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker — had some moments that were actually pretty funny. Who knew the current state of U.S. politics could get a laugh out of anyone?
All this humor may just be because the candidates have done this whole debate thing quite a few times by now, and they might be a little more comfortable on stage. But for some, there might have been a little more at stake in landing the joke. According to journalist Lisa Lerer, who provided live commentary for The New York Times during the debate, this is particularly true for Sen. Sanders. His voters tend to overlap with Biden’s, at least in terms of identity (mainly that they are white men). According to Lerer, Sanders’ humor may make him seem “more collegial,” or as I like to call it, “hip with the youths.”
This is not to say that the debate didn’t hit on some serious topics. In fact, this debate in particular seemed to hit on more policy topics than usual (they talked about climate change — crazy). Candidates also discussed health care, abortion, race relations, foreign policy and, of course, impeachment. But most of all, the candidates spent a whole lot of time talking about the elephant in the room, or rather, the donkey on the stage — electability. And who's more electable than a candidate that knows how to laugh? It reminds us that they’re human (except for Tulsi Gabbard. I’m still convinced she’s a robot).
OK, I do understand that there are way more important factors than the ability to crack a joke. The question of whether a more moderate stance is necessary to beat President Donald Trump, for starters. But truthfully, I just needed a good transition. So without further adieu, here’s our list of five ‘laugh out loud’ moments from last night’s debate.
- “I wrote the damn bill”
To absolutely nobody’s surprise, we didn’t have to wait very long to get to everyone’s favorite conversation topic: Medicare for All. Sen. Elizabeth Warren received the first question on the topic, explaining why she believes her progressive stance will not at all hinder her ability to beat Trump in the general election. After Warren, the moderators turned to Sanders, who was already chomping at the bit to get a word in. When the moderators finally turned to him, he responded in typical Bernie fashion by saying, “Thank you. I wrote the damn bill,” capitalizing (Haha get it?? Because he hates capitalism??) upon one of his most famous catch-phrases and sending the audience into a fit of laughter (OK, it wasn’t that funny). Sanders’ jokes didn’t stop there, though. Later, when Biden was providing Kim Jong Un with a less than favorable description (more like a roast), Sanders chimed in with a witty aside — “But other than that, you like him.” Oh, Bernie. If he’s not the nominee, I personally hope that he pursues a career in stand-up.
2. The Klobuchar ex-boyfriend anecdote™
Klobuchar was also on a role in Atlanta on Wednesday night, and like Sanders’ “I wrote the damn bill,” all of her material was not new. While discussing her thoughts on expanding voting rights and her fundraising for her original Senate campaign, Klobuchar noted that she raised $17,000 from ex-boyfriends, an anecdote she has been telling for a long time. She followed up by pointing out that “it is not an expanding base.” For Klobuchar, whose national polling numbers are pretty much stuck around 2%, maybe a laugh or two is what she needs to remind the public of who she is in the first place, although it’s highly unlikely that her performance will lead to any major changes.
3. Steyer actually got a compliment (and it was about his money, not his tie)!
Tom Steyer has been a little bit of an oddball in the Democratic primary thus far. He decided to join the race in July, which is pretty late. He is also a billionaire who supports a wealth tax. Most importantly, as was pointed out in one of our 2020 Fever pieces, Steyer never fails to disappoint with his signature red, plaid tie (which he wore on Wednesday night, of course). But tonight, this strange, strange man received a compliment — and it actually had to do with his money, which is objectively hilarious. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang took several seconds out of his allotted speaking time (which was already not that much) to compliment Steyer on his spending on efforts to combat climate change, which garnered quite a few laughs. Not only was this exchange amusing because of its strangeness, but it was also pretty wholesome.
Out of all the comedic moments that went down on Wednesday, this was by far the one with the most media coverage. Before we get to the punch line, I’ll set the scene. When talking about black voters, Sen. Cory Booker started by saying that he has “a lifetime of experience with black voters,” being that he’s been one since he was 18. Then, he moved quickly into a criticism of the former Vice President, who recently said he was against marijuana legalization. And now the part we’ve all been waiting for, arguably the night’s best line yet — “I thought you might’ve been high when you said it!” The crowd went wild. For a moment, one could forget that they were watching a presidential debate. What a world we live in.
5. Closing statements
This debate’s closing statements were … weird, to say the least. There was Sen. Tulsi Gabbard with her robot-esque retort that used the word “aloha” at least a million times. Who knew that a word meaning “love” could sound so threatening coming from that woman’s mouth. Plus, at the very end, there was Biden. While his speech urging the country to stand up and use their power for good has been a common theme throughout his campaign, last night’s ending seemed a little eerie. Biden got so riled up during his last few words that he was basically screaming with his eyes incredibly wide. It was so jarring, in fact, that the audience didn’t even know what to do when it was over, taking a long pause before offering their applause. It was a pause so incredibly awkward that the only appropriate response was to laugh.
Thumbnail courtesy DonkeyHotey on Flickr.