Dave Barry

Dave Barry: Democrats arrive and Miami’s climate changes. It’s policy pollution!

Beto O’Rourke speaks in Spanish during the first Democratic debate

Democratic presidential candidate former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) spoke in Spanish during the first primary debate for the 2020 elections at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami on June 26, 2019.
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Democratic presidential candidate former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) spoke in Spanish during the first primary debate for the 2020 elections at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami on June 26, 2019.

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Democratic debates in Miami

Ten Democratic presidential candidates, including Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, participate in the second night of debates at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami.

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Miami faces many daunting challenges. We have hurricanes, rising sea levels, overdevelopment, hellish traffic, lunatic drivers and air so humid it’s like breathing whale snot. We have bionic mosquitoes, hallucinogenic toads, termites that can chew through concrete, cockroaches the size of adolescent gerbils and snakes the length of municipal buses. We have alligators lurking on our lawns, lizards lounging on our ceilings and peacocks pooping on our cars. We’ve had bales of marijuana wash up on our beaches and bags of cocaine fall from the sky. We once had a live shark on the Metromover. For a while we even had O.J. Simpson.

So we Miamians have dealt with a lot. But never have we faced a challenge like the one we are facing this week: The largest mass of presidential contenders ever to descend upon an American city.

Nobody is certain exactly how many of them there are, but the estimates range into the dozens, and they are putting serious pressure on our fragile ecosystem. As a local meteorologist explained: “Every single one of these people is constantly emitting policy positions. When you concentrate this many presidential contenders in one place, you have a massive quantity of policies being expelled into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. It’s not a coincidence that since these people arrived, Miami has been hotter than Satan’s jockstrap.”

The reason all these candidates are here, of course, is the big Democratic Debate at the Arsht (Gesundheit!) Center. It’s actually two debates, taking place over two nights. Even then, there is room for only 20 candidates, so they had to qualify to participate based on their performance in polls, fundraising, the egg toss and the swimsuit competition.

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Dave Barry

This means some declared candidates did not make the cut. These include Steve Bullock, the governor of Montana; Seth Moulton, a congressman from Massachusetts, Wayne Messam, the mayor of Miramar; and Harvey Heckman, which is a name I just now made up, but because I am mentioning him in this column he will probably soon be polling at least as well as Steve, Seth and Wayne.

These debates are the first big Democratic event of the 2020 presidential election, in which Florida will play a crucial role, because we are a “swing state,” defined as “a state that is totally incompetent at holding elections.” If states were “Godfather” characters, Florida would definitely be Fredo. We have NO idea how to count votes. Anybody can win here. In 2016 at least two Florida counties, as far as we can tell, went for Vladimir Putin.

So the stakes are high, which is why this week the political eyeballs of the nation are turned toward Miami. The next Democratic presidential nominee will be one of the people participating in these debates, unless my man Harvey starts to gain traction. That is why these debates are so important, and that is why all of us, as concerned citizens, should consider it our civic duty to watch all four hours of these debates unless something more entertaining is on, for example “Bob’s Burgers” (the Toon Channel).

If you’re unable to watch the debates, but you would like to know where the Democratic candidates stand, here’s a detailed breakdown of their individual positions on various key issues:

HEALTHCARE: For.

THE ENVIRONMENT: For.

HUMAN RIGHTS: For.

JOBS: For.

YOUNG PEOPLE: For.

IGNORING THE QUESTION THAT THE MODERATOR ACTUALLY ASKED IN ORDER TO TELL AN INSPIRING BUT UNRELATED ANECDOTE, IDEALLY INVOLVING A YOUNG PERSON: For.

SUDDENLY BREAKING OUT IN SPANISH SO EVERYBODY KNOWS YOU SPEAK SPANISH ALTHOUGH FRANKLY YOUR ACCENT IS PRETTY TERRIBLE: For.

WORKING PEOPLE: For.

BIG CORPORATIONS: Against.

THE RICH: Against.

FLOGGING THE RICH: For.

PAYING THE FLOGGERS A LIVING WAGE: For.

Does any Democratic candidate really “stand out” from the crowd? I would say yes, one does: Andrew Yang. I am not making Andrew Yang up: He’s an actual candidate, appearing in the Thursday night debate group, and to my knowledge he is the only candidate who is tackling what I think we can all agree is the single greatest menace to America today: robo-callers. According to Yang’s website, as president he would set up a special number where you could report unwanted robo-calls; if a robo-call company generated enough complaints, the federal government would “issue significant fines.”

I think that’s a great policy. My only suggestion would be to change the words “issue significant fines” to “drop the robo-call people from helicopters.” But my point is, Andrew Yang is somebody you might want to take a hard look at. I think he’d make a great ticket with Harvey Heckman.

Perhaps you think I’m exaggerating how obscure some of these Democratic presidential contenders are. Well perhaps that is because you were not with me when I walked into the Arsht (Gesundheit!) Center Wednesday evening, and an usher, who happened to recognize me as a beloved local humor icon, came up and sheepishly whispered, “I just asked a presidential candidate for her credential.”

“Who was it?” I asked.

“I don’t know!” she said. “She said ‘I’m running for president.’”

The usher pointed to the person, whom I was able, thanks to the Internet, to identify as Marianne Williamson, who is in fact one of the 20 Democratic debate qualifiers. Williamson is a “spiritual teacher” who has been on “Oprah.” Her campaign website states: “Our task is to generate a massive wave of energy.” The website doesn’t explicitly state that we should use this energy wave to vaporize robo-callers, but I like to think that is the purpose.

Overall I think Miami did a fine job of hosting the debates. As the 2020 Democratic campaign plays out, we can say it all started here, no matter who ends up with the nomination — whether it’s one of the established favorites, like Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren or Walter Mondale, or an exciting newcomer like Harvey Heckman. Which is a name I am seeing mentioned more and more lately.

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