Tonight marks the final Democratic primary debate before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 2, and things couldn’t be much more muddled. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are fighting, Joe Biden is openly lying about his Iraq War record and the current president seems pretty eager to start a new war in Iran.
Tensions are high, and with only six candidates on stage tonight, attacks should be all the more pointed. Tonight is bound to be more entertaining than all debates before it, if only from a political kabuki infighting standpoint. If ever there was a debate worth watching, it’s this one. And given how messy things are going to get, keeping a drink at hand couldn’t hurt.
Here are the drinking rules for debate number seven.
Take a Drink If …
Bernie Sanders says he thinks a woman can win the presidency. CNN may not have fabricated the anonymously sourced story about Sanders privately telling Warren a woman couldn’t win. But the night before its nationally televised debate, the network’s timing is suspicious at best. Expect this story to be addressed fairly early.
Elizabeth Warren reaffirms her friendship with Sanders. Warren and Sanders’ respectful dynamic may or may not change tonight. But either way expect Warren to repeat how good of a friend Sanders is, whether it prefaces praise or an attack.
Any candidate refers to Iranian general Qassem Suliemani as a “terrorist.” There’s sure to be a whole lot of Iran talk tonight, and because we’re dealing with Democrats (and CNN), terms matter more than actual opinions. If you don’t call the bad guy the right thing, you’re also bad. This openly sucks but falls in line with the consistent right-wing framing we’ve seen across the majority of the first six debates. In fact …
Drink if any of the following terms or phrases are used in reference to Suliemani: bad guy, evil man, American blood on his hands, responsible for American deaths, imminent threat, deserved to die.
Joe Biden is attacked on his Iraq War record (and subsequent lies). Biden’s been trying to skirt around the fact that he voted for the Iraq War back in 2003, so this is bound to come up. Finish your drink if Biden repeats the defense that his vote for the use of authorization in Iraq was to get Saddam Hussein to comply with UN inspections or whatever the fuck John Kerry said a couple days ago.
Pete Buttigieg is asked about his anti-trust policy advisor who still works at Wells Fargo. Reporter Dave Dayen just broke this story today, so it’s a longshot it gets into the discussion. But we’re leaving this here just in case.
Amy Klobuchar attempts a terrible joke/bad pun. Probably the best staple rule we have. Klobuchar offers next to nothing as a candidate but beltway reporters and opinion writers swear she’s the most electable. Maybe it’s because her jokes suck. But by god, she’s gonna make ’em—and you’re gonna drink.
Any candidates not on stage gets mentioned. Following Cory Booker and Julián Castro’s exits from the primary, the field is getting more sparse. Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard and Michael Bloomberg didn’t qualify. That leaves just six (!) candidates on stage tonight, and untold more likely watching at home ready to be name dropped, accidentally or intentionally.
Iowans or a specific Iowa city (besides Des Moines) is mentioned. The Des Moines Register is co-hosting the debate, so it feels unfair to include Des Moines in this rule. But they are in Iowa, and we’re trying to get you through this. So drink.
The term “electability” is used. Everyone hates this word and you should too.
The idea of Democratic “diversity” is discussed. With Booker and Castro dropping out, there are two less candidates of color in a field that feels like it’s getting whiter by the week. It won’t get deeper than the use of “diversity” as a stand-in term, but drink nonetheless.
Finish Your Drink If …
CNN references its own stories and/or reporters. Keep your bottle and ice handy.
Trump tweets during the debate. This is a staple rule, and one that requires you to follow along with Twitter just in case.
Tom Steyer does anything remotely memorable. Booker was our poster boy for this staple rule, but since he dropped out the buck passes to Steyer, who despite spending more on advertising that every candidate on stage combined has yet to have any real impact on the discourse.
Chug The Entire Bottle If …
A candidate says or does something that makes anyone change their mind. Ostensibly, debates are supposed to serve as an exchange of ideas to help voters differentiate between candidates. In reality, they’re political theater designed to drive up excitement and television ratings while being marketed and covered like sporting events because that’s precisely what they are. And the nerds and pundits that fawn over every word already have concrete political beliefs and know who they’re voting for. It’s a dog and pony show, and most sane people need at least some alcohol to bear. But if this happens, tilt the bottle back and empty it.