David Hoppe

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:: Dems play Vegas, the Cubsí fearless process

by David Hoppe

I missed the first part of the Democrats’ presidential debate Tuesday night. The Chicago Cubs had just beaten the St. Louis Cardinals for the third and deciding time in their Divisional playoff series and a vicarious champagne-spray of elation got the better of me.

The Cubs, as everyone knows, have been more or less awful for years. The last time they made the playoffs was in 2008, where they were unceremoniously swept by the Dodgers.

This year’s team, a veritable children’s crusade of young talent, has been a revelation. These guys have bought into the “fearless process” promulgated by their infectiously hip manager, Joe Maddon. Maddon says you should never let pressure get the better of the pleasure in what you’re doing. And so his players really play. They’re a joy to watch.

Be that as it may, my trembling hand finally took hold of the remote and switched to the Democrats on CNN.

Anderson Cooper, CNN’s impeccably tailored boulevardier of current events, presided over the Dems’ gathering. For this assignment, falling somewhere on a telegenic scale between covering Hurricane Katrina and New Year’s Eve on Times Square, Cooper sported a natty pair of eyeglasses (the better to project seriousness with).

I’m not sure what the debate’s Las Vegas setting was supposed to convey — a gamble on the country’s future? The glitzy staging seemed, at times, to overwhelm the assembled candidates.

And an odd assemblage it was. In keeping with Vegas practice, the five Democrats — Clinton, Sanders, O’Malley, Chafee and Webb — bore a curious resemblance to the kind of aging pop acts that often reunite for a last hurrah at Caesar’s Palace or the Mirage (opening act, Carrot Top!).

Clinton, of course, played the band’s lead singer. This made Sanders the prickly lead guitarist. O’Malley was the rhythm player whose songs always got short shrift. As for Chafee and Webb — they came off like a couple of burnt out cases, the drummer and bass player who’d forgotten what city, or even decade, they were in.

Without the Cher-like draw of a Donald Trump, this Democratic contingent drew fewer viewers than their Republican rivals. But at 15 million-plus, this was still the most-watched Democratic debate ever.

Unlike those Republican events, which have come off like a weird conflation of zombie speed dating and a middle school food fight, the Dems did manage a certain collegiality. Whatever their differences, the candidates made it clear they were actually thinking about how government might work to address real world problems, as opposed to making people feel more pissed off and afraid than they are already.

Clinton showed she could still hit some high notes. Sanders fired off a few eloquent riffs and, in giving the back of his hand to media obsession with Hillary’s email accounts, showed he could harmonize with the best of ‘em. O’Malley played with authority —  sign him up for a solo album someday.

One member of the band was missing: Joe Biden. As per Joe Maddon, Biden appears to be weighing pressure versus pleasure, trying to figure out if a run is worth it. If I were him, I’d forget about it. If the process ain’t fearless, the outcome’s bound to disappoint.