~ a preimagining of the March 15th Democratic debate, in light of the coronavirus pandemic ~
(A personal note: I think Joe Biden is a terrible candidate, and I would have preferred almost any other Democratic candidate to him, and the fact that — once again — the Democratic establishment has put forward the “inevitable” candidate is dispiriting. I desperately wanted Warren to get it, and would absolutely prefer Bernie to Biden, but I don’t see any way that Bernie can get the votes he’d need. Maybe that will change as we get further into the pandemic. But as of March 14th, 2020, below was what I saw as the best path forward.)
The March 15th Democratic Debate. Washington, DC.
A low-lit platform, a podium on each side of the stage.
Blue curtains flank the outside of each podium. A blue curtain spans the stage between them.
Stage left, Joe Biden. Stage right, Bernie Sanders.
No moderator. No audience.
The stage lights come up.
My fellow Americans. Good evening.
You’ve tuned in tonight in order to see a debate between myself and Vice President Biden.
That debate is not going to happen.
Because of the extraordinary — and unprecedented in the modern era — global pandemic declared by the World Health Organization, and because of the absolutely hamfisted response from Donald Trump to confront it, we have a crisis on our hands.
We hope that each of you watching this is at home, practicing social distancing, washing your hands, and doing your part to protect our most vulnerable citizens and to flatten the curve, to prevent overwhelming our medical capacity.
Democrats, Republicans, Independents. Viruses don’t care about your political preferences. Beating this will take all of us.
To our fellow Americans who are fighting this virus, or who have already lost someone to it, our hearts are with you. I lost my son before his time. Even having been through that, it’s impossible to find the right words of comfort. We are sorry.
To our friends around the world who are struggling under the incredible burden this pandemic has laid on your communities, you have our thoughts, our prayers, and our commitment to support you through this time, and afterwards as we all unite to rebuild.
And to our nurses, our doctors, our police officers and fire fighters, our teachers, and the millions and millions of Americans who are helping to combat this virus and to care for your fellow Americans — from the very bottom of our hearts: Thank you. You are part of what make America great.
Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has sown division among Americans. He has abdicated his responsibility to be the Commander in Chief for all Americans.
He has, instead, worked to further his own interests. He has embraced a petty divisiveness. He has rejected the expertise of scientists and doctors. He has, only, a short-sighted focus on himself. We cannot continue down that path.
Make no mistake: The terrible choices made by Donald Trump will cost thousands — and possibly hundreds of thousands — of American lives.
This debate was scheduled to take two hours. We have roughly 10 minutes of information to share with you tonight, and the balance of the time will be used by a panel of doctors and scientists to give you necessary information to help you prepare for the coronavirus.
We have Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer, whom President George W. Bush appointed to lead in fights against infectious diseases, and who was on the National Security Council as the Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biothreats before Donald Trump’s administration fired everyone in it in 2018.
We also have Beth Cameron, who led that same office during the Obama administration, and Don McNeil, a New York Times science and health reporter who focuses on Ebola, malaria, SARS, bird and swine flu, and covid-19. And we have a face many of you have known for years, and who you’ve seen more of in the last few weeks, Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the National Institutes of Health.
The information they share could save your life, or the lives of people you care about.
Please, follow their advice.
This pandemic is going to take everything we have. When facing a crisis of this magnitude, it is imperative that we unite against our common enemy.
As we’ve done so many times before in this country, our strength will come from that unity.
We must work together. We’re going to talk about how we’re going to do that.
Joe Biden and I are up here tonight — not debating one another, but working together — as a reflection of that unity.
I especially want my supporters to hear what I’m about to say.
Regardless of how you’ve voted in the past — Democrat, Republican, Independent — and regardless of who you’ve supported in the Democratic primary, we all must work together on this.
In order for us to be unified, to heal the division that will otherwise cause our destruction, and to overcome one of the most serious threats we’ve faced in our 244 years as a nation, I am withdrawing, effective immediately, from the race for President, and am throwing all of my support behind Vice President Biden.
Furthermore, if you are one of the millions and millions of Americans who have supported me, worked for the advancement of my platform, or donated money to my campaign, I am asking you to do the same, and support his candidacy.
Join me in supporting Joe Biden and his Vice Presidential pick — who you’ll hear more about shortly — as they run in 2020.
And this Tuesday, if your state is holding a primary, do not go out and vote. Stay home, and do not spread the virus further. You can have the virus and show no symptoms for two weeks, but still be spreading the virus to the people in your neighborhood, to the people in your community, and to the people you love the most.
I never thought I’d say this, but the worst thing you can do — for yourself, for your family, or for your country — would be to go into your community to vote on Tuesday. Do not do it.
Senator Sanders and I have disagreed on a number of points in our many years of public service, but we are united in this: Working together will be essential.
He and I, and our teams, are working together to develop a unified platform that will work well for all Americans.
I am grateful for his support, his sacrifice, and his dedicated service to our country.
And to all supporters of Senator Sanders, please hear me on this: Whether it was healthcare, or loan forgivenness, or climate change, or systemic reform, I know you chose to support him for a reason. It would be naive to think we could find the perfect compromise, but I promise you: We will do our very best to do right by you.
You’ll hear some more of his positions from me in time, but one point of Bernie’s that I’ll commit to right now: On day one of my administration, I will order the Justice Department to legalize cannabis, expunge marijuana convictions, and develop a program to invest in communities that have been unfairly targeted by drug laws.
That was an easy one, but there will be more themes from his platform that you’ll see me talking about over the next several months. But they don‘t matter at this particular moment in time.
Especially as we fight through and win against coronavirus, a lot of our beliefs — around healthcare, and insurance, and employer-sponsored sick leave, and infrastructure, and the role of government in helping prevent situations like this — are going to be challenged, and will evolve. Even now, it’s hard to know what things will look like on the other side. And the more time we spend debating one another, the less time we’ll have to do the important work of preparing for this healthcare crisis.
But know this: We, in the Democratic party, are committed to working together — with one another, with all of America, and with the entire world — to overcome the challenges in front of us.
I am looking forward to working with Vice President Biden over the next eight months, and helping President Biden after that, as we develop a platform of unity.
As I’ve been campaigning over the last two years, I’ve repeated the phrase “not me, us”. The entire time, I’ve been saying that it’s not about me. It’s about all of us.
I’m happy to report that Vice President Biden is one of us.
For too long, government in this country has only benefitted the wealthy. He is going to work to change that.
In order to do that, though, I must repeat — we need your help.
We have seen that Donald Trump’s decisions do not help most Americans.
Donald Trump promised a tax cut that would help American workers. Most Americans actually saw no benefit whatsoever, while taxes for corporations and billionaires went down. He said businesses would be able to pass their tax breaks on to their workers as higher wages. None of those benefits for working Americans materialized.
In November, vote for Joe Biden. He will fix that.
Donald Trump promised to fix America’s failing infrastructure. The proposals he has put forth are insufficient. He says his 2018 proposal committed 1.5 trillion dollars to infrastructure. In fact, only 13% of his propsal was funded by the government.
In November, vote for Joe Biden. He will fix that.
Donald Trump promised to build a wall along the border with Mexico, and that he would make Mexico pay for it. In reality, and thankfully, he has failed to do that. What did he do, though? He threw a tantrum when Congress didn’t include funding for the wall, and he shut down the federal government for 35 days. He is a disgrace.
In November, vote for Joe Biden. He will fix that — not by building a damn wall, but by helping our neighbors fleeing from violence with diplomacy. With humanitarian aid. With helping them to thrive in their home countries.
And we will never separate children from their parents and put them in cages again.
It is time to unite.
Tonight we’re talking about unity, and about addressing the crisis in front of us. To do that, America needs stable leadership. When there’s so much uncertainty about the covid-19 pandemic coming towards us, it’s helpful to know as much as possible.
Tonight, I’m going to do something that doesn’t usually happen until July or August. But these are days that require new thinking, and new approaches. Tonight, I’m going to announce my running mate for the 2020 race.
I know what it takes to be Vice President. Most people don’t know exactly what a Vice President does. I do. It is a tough job.
I wanted to pick someone who I knew would fight.
Someone with tenacity. And grit.
Someone with both the imagination and intelligence to tackle some of the hardest challenges we’ll have to face, and the operational expertise to get it done.
I wanted someone with whom I wouldn’t always agree, and who wouldn’t always agree with me. Good leaders don’t surround themselves with sycophants and yes-men, but with smart people who challenge them in all the best ways. I wanted someone who would make me a better person, a better President, and a better American.
I’m thrilled to announce that I have found all of that, and more, in my selection of Vice President. I’m honored that she has agreed to run with me. And I’m happy to have her join us here and now.
Ladies and gentlemen. My Vice Presidential pick: Elizabeth Warren.
The blue curtain between them parts, opens. The curtains move to the back of the stage.
Behind the curtain, a third podium.
Standing behind the podium, a smiling Elizabeth Warren.
Thank you, Joe, and good evening, America.
Although I would have preferred for this announcement to come under better circumstances in the world, I am so glad to be here with you, and for you, and to support Vice President Biden.
As it was with Senator Sanders’ supporters, I was fortunate to count millions of you as the very reason for my campaign when I was running for President.
I am here, and am asking for your support again.
As a part of this administration, I will work to bring a calm, collected, intelligent response to the medical crisis in front of us, and to work on fixing the many, many problems that we — as a country and a world — face.
The only way we will get through this is if we are unified in our purpose, in our resolve, and in our mutual support for one another.
Join us, America, and vote for Biden/Warren in 2020.
We’re going to take a quick break.
When we return, we’ll talk more about the coronavirus crisis, and how we will be a campaign for all Americans.
And afterwards, we’ll have scientists, doctors, and other experts who will help give you clarity around how to prepare your family and community for coronavirus.
If you have family members who aren’t watching this, I hope you’ll let them know, so they can watch, and prepare.
Please stay with us.
There are three groups we want to reach out to, specifically, tonight, as we talk about being united in this campaign.
If you’re a Republican, I know there’s a good chance that you’ve felt forgotten about.
You’ve heard about the economy improving, but if you take a look at your paycheck, if feels like it hasn’t changed in years. Maybe it’s even gone down.
You’ve seen jobs in your community disappear overseas.
You feel that your voice isn’t getting heard in Washington.
Well, I hear you. And I want to hear more.
As soon as the CDC deems it prudent, we’re going to deploy listening teams around the country, with a particular focus on states and areas where we Democrats haven’t done as good a job as we should have at hearing from you. I, myself, have gotten heated on the campaign trail, and done a poor job listening. I apologize for that. Through these listening teams, and through Senator Warren’s and my own time talking with you, I intend to do a better job at hearing from all Americans.
Our goal with these listening teams is not to campaign, or to convince you to vote for us in November.
Our goal is to listen.
We want to hear from you.
And we will work to build your feedback and ideas into our policies and proposals.
We are for all Americans. Not just a few.
Democrats. This is very, very important.
If you are a Democrat, or otherwise want to see a Democrat in the White House, it is essential that you vote in November.
Running against an incumbent, like Mr. Trump, puts challengers at a disadvantage.
Let me say that again: Running against an incumbent, like Mr. Trump, puts challengers at a disadvantage. The Biden/Warren ticket needs your vote.
In states like Texas, and Iowa, and Ohio, that have gone Republican in the past, we are at a disadvantage. The Biden/Warren ticket needs your vote.
In battleground states, like Florida, and Pennsylvania, and Michigan, and North Carolina, and Arizona, and Wisconsin, every single vote counts. The Biden/Warren ticket needs your vote.
In states like Georgia, and Indiana, and Montana, where Republican legislatures have gerrymandered districts, or where they’ve removed actual voters from voter rolls, Republicans have worked hard to cheat Americans out of having a voice. The Biden/Warren ticket needs your vote.
Even in states that are solidly Democratic, like California, or New York, or Delaware, or Colorado, or Illinois, your vote counts. Your vote matters. The Biden/Warren ticket needs your vote.
To those of you who haven’t made up your mind yet, I’d ask you to take a look at the last week, and how Donald Trump has handled the coronavirus crisis.
We won’t even go deep into his gutting of the programs that had been set up after the Ebola outbreak expressly to prepare America for a pandemic like this. But let’s just jump to this week.
On Wednesday, he spoke in a televised address from the White House.
In his address, he made several significant errors that the White House’s communications team then had to clean up.
Because of his miscommunication, Americans overseas rushed to airports in a panic to buy last minute flights home, scared they would be exiled from their home country in the middle of a global pandemic.
Because of his miscommunication, suggesting that trade between the US and Europe would cease, the stock market crashed nearly 10%, in the largest single-day drop since 1987.
Because of his miscommunication, doctors and hospitals have had to turn away patients who believed they could easily get tested for the coronavirus on demand. The tests were not as available as he said they would be.
He then, on Friday, attempted to salvage things by holding a press conference. A reporter asked him about why he fired the entire National Security Council’s team focused on Global Health Security, and what responsibility he took for that action.
His response was cowardly, weak, mealy-mouthed: “When you say ‘me’ … I didn’t do it. We have a group of people. … I don’t know anything about that. … We’re doing a great job.”
America, good leadership is hard, but it’s not complicated.
- A good leader owns their decisions.
- A good leader takes responsibility when things go wrong.
- A good leader accepts the blame, apologizes, and then lays out a clear path forward.
Donald Trump has done none of those things.
If you aren’t sure how to vote, consider the way Trump has handled the catastrophe in front of us. Ask yourself if you want someone in charge who makes bad decisions, who removes anyone who might challenge his authority or point out his errors, who communicates in ways that make things worse for everyone, and who then denies any responsibility when things go poorly.
Donald Trump has done all of those things.
America, we can’t afford to ignore this. We must fix this now.
As we said at the beginning of this time with you, we had two goals tonight.
The first — to ask you to unite with us as we work together to address the work ahead of us.
The second — to give you critical information on how to prepare for and, in time, recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
We’ll take a break in a second, and then our guests will be on.
We believe the information they will share will save thousands of lives. Possibly yours.
America, we have a difficult few months ahead of us.
Let us unite, as a nation, and as citizens of the world, to do what we can and must.
Please. Wash your hands and take care of yourselves and your families. And vote for Biden/Warren at the polls this fall. (But not this Tuesday.)
You’ll be hearing a lot more from us over the coming days, weeks, and months.
We’re sure you have many questions about our united campaign. For now, please don’t worry about them, and focus on your wellness and your immediate health needs.
There’ll be time for politics later. Don’t worry. We have a plan for that.
There are times in our history when we’ve been called to unity. Occasions when our very survival is on the line. And we’ve answered that call. Every single time.
We need to answer that call again. To be unified in our commitment to one another, and to getting through the next several months. Join us, in answering it now.
God bless you.
And God bless the United States of America.