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The next Democratic debates are July 30 and 31, and we're really excited. CNN is hosting, so you know it'll be ridiculous. We haven't trusted CNN since they gave us holographic pundits in 2008. Last night, CNN selected each night's lineup and even the podium order through a live drawing that lacked the dignity of "Deal or No Deal." America knowingly installed a reality TV star as president so maybe this is all we deserve.

CNN went to great lengths to assure viewers that its farce was on the level. There were multiple camera angles as the "journalist" removed cards from boxes. The cards were two separate shades of blue, because the candidates are Democrats and Bernie Sanders. This somehow took 40 minutes, but there was lots of drawn-out commentary. The suspense was Hitchcockian -- not Alfred but like watching the movie Hitch. Still, "Drawing Names From A Hat" was an improvement from CNN's previous series in this time slot, "Watching Paint Dry With Wolf Blitzer."

You wouldn't know it from CNN's antics, but the next debates are actually serious and important -- even if Marianne Williamson is present. There's an obvious flaw in the process if that flake is coming back. The DNC had a 20 candidate limit for the second set of debates. There are at least three times that many Democrats running, so someone's not getting a rose. Mike Gravel has enough unique donors to qualify, but Williamson somehow also met the polling requirements. Maybe they should've thrown in a written test because Gravel is a former US senator and Williamson is a fatphobic fraud.


The first night lineup is snow white and the seven candidates who aren't Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg. There's more color at Tim Ryan's family reunion. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock will make his first (and probably last) appearance on the debate stage. He's one of what the New York Times calls "moderate pragmatists." These are the candidates from the "Please Don't Hurt Us" wing of the party. The sad streak continued for Other Tim Ryan, Seth Moulton, not making the cut.

All the minority candidates were bused to the second night with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The media has framed this as a "rematch," a potential "Throwdown in Motown." Maybe that's why Biden is so big on pushups lately. Harris is 5 foot 2 and Biden is 472 years old. They'd never be in the same weight class. They are also competing for the Democratic presidential nomination, not a gold championship belt.

The Times described Sanders and Warren as the "headliners" for the first night. It's a Debate Lollapalooza! When does Sonic Youth go on? People who also probably think the moon landing was faked have suggested the drawing was rigged: Sanders and Warren, the two "highest-profile" liberals, are on one night, and Biden and Harris -- who everyone wants to see face off again -- are on the other. That can't be coincidence! However, that's just what it is. Don't force us to defend the "integrity" of CNN's game show programming. From Newscast Studios:

Totally riggedNewsCast Studios

The current theory is that in a post-Twitter world candidates require "viral moments" to "break out." Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who's part of the white flight night, is skeptical that will happen for her.

"I'm not going to have this huge viral moment," Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota lamented last weekend in the back room of a dusty union hall in Waterloo, Iowa — where the wall behind her was emblazoned with the phrase, "We celebrate the past." "I hope I do, but I'm not going to do something crazy just to have it."

A campaign is in trouble when the coverage reads like Steinbeck. Harris was the obvious winner of the last debate's "viral moment." She surged all over the place. And a poll released today had Warren tying Sanders for second behind Biden. Neither lady did anything "crazy." They just kicked ass. We expect they'll do the same during the second debates.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He recently fled Seattle, where he did theatre work for Book-It Rep and Cafe Nordo.

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