Leave it to the City of Big Shoulders to finally host a superb Democratic debate. On the historic grounds of Soldiers Field in the city where police fired upon trade unionists at Haymarket Square and 4000 Pullman Car workers struck, the AFL-CIO provided a good forum to hear the Democratic candidates out on worker protection, free trade and pensions. The authenticity of the questioners really stood out.
Let me put it in the vernacular; in short, the AFL-CIO kicks YouTube’s ass. I know we’re all supposed to kowtow to the primacy of the Netroots and the internet saavy. But I just can’t. I’m sick of the snideness and the snarkiness. I appreciate hearing the plain but powerful words of people who work for a living.
As far as the politics of the night go, I thought Hillary Clinton shined when it was her time to respond to a questioner from the audience and she went back and answered questions from several of the questioners whom had been ignored by the other candidates, including the wife of fallen miner. It was also an opportunity for the long-serving members of the Senate — Chris Dodd and Joe Biden — to highlight their years of experience and advocacy for the trade union movement. Even Dennis Kucinich had a nice movement when he voiced a mulit-clause paean to labor.
Despite Obama’s homefield advantage, I felt his performance was his worst yet. While he didn’t have a gaffe on a par with those of his prior debates, he seemed entirely uncomfortable. Most answers were incredibly awkward. For a generally verbally fluid speaker, his comments were filled with pauses, halts and uhs. I honestly don’t understand it, other than he might genuinely not know how to connect with blue collar folks.