Friday, May 27, 2016

Why the Sanders-Trump debate might actually happen

In yesterday's post, I expressed skepticism that the Sanders-Trump debate would happen.  Now, here's the opposing case.

In 2000, Hillary Clinton ran for the vacant Senate seat from New York.  Her original opponent, Rudy "9/11" Giuliani (hat tip to Joe Biden) had to drop out due to health reasons, and former Representative Rick Lazio stepped in, so to speak.  During a debate between Clinton and Lazio, um, this happened...



Yeah, that didn't play well.  Invading your opponent's personal space like that might just look awkward when the candidates are both men.  But, it is a bit more cringe-inducing to have the male candidate invading the female candidate's personal space.  Lazio's stunt has since gone down in history as one of the all-time great blunders in televised debate history.

What does this have to do with a Sanders-Trump debate?  That gender issue.  It could play as very, very bad to have the first female presidential nominee get brushed aside so that her general election opponent can debate one of the candidates she vanquished in the primary as that candidate pretends that he's going to be the nominee.  Would Trump do this to a male opponent?  Certainly.  Just because he is misogynistic doesn't mean he isn't an asshole to men too.  Bernie?  Probably.  He's so wrapped up in his delusions and denial that he isn't capable of rational thought, if he ever was.  So, this isn't really about gender.  But that doesn't mean it won't have the same cringe-inducing optics as the Clinton-Lazio debate.

Why does this make the Sanders-Trump debate plausible rather than completely implausible?  Remember my reasoning from yesterday's post.  I argued that the Democratic Party would burn the Bern to the ground in order to stop the debate.  What if Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and the rest of the party apparatchiks actually want the debate?  If the whole thing turns into a Rick Lazio moment for both Trump and Sanders, it kills two birds with one stone.

Of course, that presumes the birds die.  It could be the kind of thing that hurts Sanders, but if open misogyny can hurt Trump, he's already toast.  Remember this moment?


And then he won the Republican nomination.  Maybe the general electorate will be different, but even if so, it isn't clear that pulling a Rick Lazio will have any effect on Trump's campaign, given what he has already said and done.

If I had to put odds on this, I'd put the chances of the Sanders-Trump debate below 50%.  But this year...

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