"Good Enough" Isn't Good Enough

JACOB DENNINGER: In the wake of the third Democratic primary debate, which took place in Houston on September 12, the media consensus seemed to be that Joe Biden was good enough.

This consensus was on display in an analysis article titled “Joe Biden has his best debate night — and that might be good enough” written by CNN’s Stephen Collinson. “Joe Biden was as good at Thursday night’s debate as he’s been the entire campaign,” Collinson wrote. “Biden was sharper, traded jabs more easily with other candidates, and was stronger on policy...than ever before.”

I don’t disagree with that. The first 30 minutes of the debate was the best I’ve seen from Biden so far this year. It was certainly better than the first debate, which will be remembered for Sen. Kamala Harris’s well-executed takedown of Biden on the issue of school segregation. 

But while Biden may have been better than he was in the first two debates, he still wasn’t good. In this and every other debate he has had difficulty remembering what he is trying to say, tripped over facts and figures, misspoken frequently, and given rambling and incoherent answers. 

Biden’s “record player” answer in this debate was a case in point. He was asked “What responsibility do you think that Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?” His response was one of the most rambling and incoherent answers I’ve ever heard. 

Biden started his answer talking about institutional segregation and redlining, then jumped to education and school psychologists. From there, he implied that poor parents don’t know how to raise their children, and recommend parents put a record player on at night. Then, after the moderator tried to cut him off, Biden started talking about Venezuela. During the entire answer, Biden interrupted himself five times and misspoke five times.

Biden was ridiculed for mentioning record players, an outdated technology, but his inability to form a coherent sentence, much less a coherent answer, is even more worrying. And it’s not just this answer. Biden’s performance in every debate has been bad.

Yet because Biden was so bad in the first debate, he is getting credit for being “better.” And because he is the frontrunner, his bad performances are being called “good enough.” For example, in Collinson’s article, he wrote that Biden’s “solid but unspectacular showing could be enough for the former vice president to win the Democratic nomination and maybe even the White House.”

Bad debate performances may well be good enough for Biden to win the Democratic nomination. As long as he is “good enough” and doesn’t completely implode onstage, he may be able to hang on to his current lead.

But I highly doubt bad debate performances will be good enough to win the general election. Donald Trump is a unique and formidable opponent, and Joe Biden just hasn’t been good enough to face him on a debate stage.

Jacob Denninger is a sophomore in the College and prospective government major from Massachusetts. He is supporting South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg for the 2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination.

Marie Swain