Pictures And Words 

So in addition to my brilliant analysis of the debate last night, Bill Turque of the Post and Lou Peck of Bethesda Magazine also have some thoughts as well. And Kevin Gillogly has a great set of photos from the event posted here.
Both reporters stressed the generally agreeable tone of the debate and the lack of sparks between the candidates. Turque:

On the issues, the only major differences between six of the seven Democratic primary candidates at Tuesday evening’s 8th Congressional District forum were in degree, not kind.

Dels. Kumar P. Barve and Ana Sol-Gutierrez, state Sen. Jamie B. Raskin, former news anchor Kathleen Matthews, former White House aide Will Jawando and ex-State Department official Joel Rubin all supported an aggressive response to the attacks in Paris, but only in concert with allies. They deplored Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s request that the federal government bar the settlement of Syrian refugees in the state, and they called for a humane path to citizenship for all immigrants now on U.S. soil.

There was agreement on the need for campaign finance reform and for putting an end to the unlimited independent spending by corporations and unions allowed under the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Not a shaft of daylight appeared among the candidates on paid parental leave, pay equity and protection of Social Security benefits — core issues for a primary electorate that is dominated by women ages 50 to 70.

Peck made the same point while focusing on the relative absence of conflict.

In a debate filled with appeals to female primary voters but which produced little in the way of verbal fireworks, the seven candidates for the Democratic nomination for the 8th Congressional District faced off Tuesday night at a crowded event sponsored by the Woman’s Democratic Club of Montgomery County.

In comparison to the sniping that dominated much of the Democratic candidates’ first forum six weeks ago, the third debate of the campaign—held in the meeting room of the Bethesda Chevy Chase Rescue Squad—was a largely civil affair. The only candidate-on-candidate criticisms of the evening came from David Anderson of Potomac, a former university professor, who repeatedly attacked two leading contenders, former Marriott International executive Kathleen Matthews of Chevy Chase and state Sen. Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park, as representing “an establishment orthodoxy” with regard to national family policy.

The fact is that there are certain unwritten rules to be obeyed in Montgomery County politics. First, obey what David Anderson called the “progressive orthodoxy” of the county. Yes, there are moderates and even some conservative Democrats in the primary electorate, but the zeitgeist is decidedly more left than that. In the end, however, and paradoxically, it is likely to be moderate and (relatively) conservative voters who end up deciding this election if it is even remotely close. But wandering publicly off the progressive reservation is likely a suicide mission, because progressive voters are the most engaged and also the most vocal of all voters. As David Anderson found out last night.

Second, while a certain amount of “attack dog” politics is OK, it is not to be done by candidates and it is not to be done in public. There’s a long tradition in Montgomery County of the Watergate-inspired term “ratfucking,” which generally means any political dirty tricks or sabotage. It is done, but always quietly and out of the spotlight. No fingerprints. Direct assaults by candidates on other candidates bring down criticism on the ratfcker (as Charles Pierce so daintily uses the term), not the ratfckee.

So if you’re looking for fireworks of that sort, my guess is that you’re going to be disappointed. To the extent I become aware of such ratfuckery, which I would say is likely at some point, I will share it with the class as seems appropriate. Sometimes giving it more attention only encourages the practice. But we’ll see what happens.

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