The Death of Democracy in One Debate, New York City Edition

Oh, how merry the Rude Pundit was, having been given a VIP ticket, no less, to sit in the first four rows at a theater at the College of Staten Island to witness the apotheosis of our American democracy in action: the candidates' debate. This would be between Republican incumbent Congressman Michael Grimm, he of the indictment on perjury and other charges and of the threat to throw a NY1 reporter off "this fuckin' balcony," and Domenic Recchia, a Democrat who was on the New York City Council for over a decade and is best known at this point as "that guy The Daily Show destroyed for being a meathead who can't beat a corrupt asshole." (Grimm has also been a Daily Show joke, so...balance.) The race is for a district that includes all of Staten Island and a distinctly non-hipster section of Brooklyn (although Bay Ridge is well on its way).  It's like South Carolina with a harsher accent.

It was a full house, a raucous crowd that had to be quieted multiple times by NY1 host Errol Louis, who totally deserves a network gig. One loud bastard directly behind the Rude Pundit yelled, "Yes!" every time Grimm spoke and kept making a popping sound with his mouth when he was bored by Recchia.

How to summarize the evening? Imagine that the Devil has given you two choices: you can get ass-raped by starving Kodiak bears or you can beat your head against a wall in a room alone, both for all eternity. You might try to logic it out. You might think, "Well, chances are the ass raping, clawing, and biting will hurt a great deal more than the head beating, but, if we're talking long-term, the bears would at least be company." Of course, no matter what your choice is, you still end up bleeding in Hell.

So it was last night as the gut-wrenching reality of the election took hold. Grimm was slick as Ebola diarrhea, looking like a GOP version of The Wire's Tommy Carcetti. He referred repeatedly to having been a Marine ("Semper Fi," yelled the numbnuts behind the Rude Pundit) and to having been an FBI agent for nearly a dozen years. He used well-worn Republican talking points, calling Recchia a "tax and spend" politician, which is a fucking laugh when said by any Republican who supported George W. Bush, who threw away money like he had terminal cancer and chose to die in a whorehouse. Grimm spoke against the Affordable Care Act, attacked Recchia for his lack of foreign policy experience (which one assumes most incoming members of the House lack), promised to cut taxes, and, really weirdly, said he's always there to help his constituents, but "I pray to God you never need my help." Currently, Grimm has no House committee assignments because he might be in jail sometime next year.

The rumor before the debate was that Recchia was going to try to push Grimm to explode. So he was constantly harping on Grimm's indictment over a failed restaurant, Healthalicious (a name for which Grimm should be pantsed in public), and Recchia berated Grimm for not being able to run a business, an argument that worked so well for Mitt Romney in 2012. The sad part is that Recchia supports a higher minimum wage, marriage equality, and pay equity for women and said he would vote for Hillary Clinton for president, but he is such a terrible messenger, such a bumbler at expressing these opinions that he couldn't rationally explain why he had initially accidentally said he was against a minimum wage hike (which made members of the rollicking crowd yell, "No!" in order to get him to correct himself).

It'd be great to have a regular-guy liberal in Congress, but the sadder part is how firmly Recchia has his nose planted in Michael Bloomberg's anus. He couldn't go two minutes without mentioning how he worked with Bloomberg, constantly referring to the independent-since-2007 Bloomberg as a Republican. It was a demonstration of how he could work with Republicans, he claimed, which might have worked if Bloomberg were still Republican and that Republicans in Congress were more like Bloomberg.

This could go on. There were absurd moments, like when neither candidate could name the last book they read or the last politician they donated money to. There were compassionate references to Staten Island's Liberian population in the time of Ebola. There were constant cheers and boos from the audience. There were references to 9/11 and to Superstorm Sandy. There were slams on NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. It was entertaining as hell, to be sure. Who won? Who the fuck cares? If it were the Rude Pundit's district, he'd vote for Recchia because who the fuck else is there to vote for who even vaguely has a shot?

What's so frustrating here is that this should have been a slam dunk for the Democrats. There's simply no reason that the DNCC shouldn't have found a strong candidate to wreck Grimm. Instead, they got Recchia, and that has kept Grimm not only in the fight, but will likely keep him in office. This race, like so many around the country, demonstrate that there is no national strategy by the Democrats. They are merely hoping to eke out victories wherever possible instead of creating a movement based on a cogent message. Candidates all over abandoned the president because the Democrats have always been afraid of defending him.

And you know what's even more depressing? This whole election is a goddamn cosmic joke by some wizened trickster god of politics because, unless the turnover in Congress is massive one way or another, nothing will fucking get done for the next two years, at least. Republicans have abdicated their duties, and this debate, with its bullshit useless arguments, never addressed that enormous fucking gorilla in the room. This is how democracy dies, one worthless election at a time, a slow accretion of poisoned bodies forming an insurmountable mountain for Progress to climb.

At the end of the debate, a Democratic operative who was on the Rude Pundit's left leaned over and whiskey breathed, "You know the old saying. People get the elected officials they deserve." The alcoholic is right. We deserve this. We let it happen. And we don't have leaders who would make it better.