As is the case with Broadway actors sweating through eight shows a week, one of the unsung talents of presidential debaters is their ability to toss us lines they’ve uttered ad nauseam with seemingly fresh conviction. And we’ve endured enough of these debates by now to be able to parrot back, a la The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the players’ recognizable speeches.
Bernie (and home viewers): “We… are the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to its citizens!”
Mayor Pete (and home viewers): “Senator Sanders is dividing people with a politics that says, ‘it’s my way or the highway.’ I’m for Medicare for all who want it.”
For the sake of my own health, there’s more to debates and the world at large than the same old talking points. What about the other unsung issues we’ve yet to hear them address? Permit me to ask about my own unsung issues and imagine their responses…
Senator Sanders, the people in my so-called life have long since disappeared and been replaced by robots who call me with offers to clean my carpets or clean out my savings following their bogus threats from the IRS. My emails are no longer from friends but from eBay bots asking how I liked my underwear purchase. On Facebook, the world continues to forge relationships with obnoxious emojis at the expense of human-to-human contact and Harrison Ford is co-starring with a dog that doesn’t exist. How will you as president rein in the world’s growing artifice and bring back actual life to this country?
Imaginary Bernie: “I’m glad you asked that question, Andy. Because you have to ask yourself this question: Why are we the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to its citizens?”
Senator Sanders, what does that have to do with my question?
Imaginary Bernie: “What I’m hearing, and correct me if I’m wrong, is that you are deservedly sick… of hearing from robots. You’re sick of a dog that mugs shamelessly and leaps over mountains with the phony dexterity of a superhero while real dogs like the descendants of Rin-Tin-Tin and Lassie, who evoked true heartfelt emotions when you and I were growing up, remain unemployed or underemployed. And don’t get me wrong. I am against harming animals in the making of a film. But I am also against harming a working dog’s livelihood. The American people are sick… of watching and hearing from robots. And do you know why Americans are sick? Because we are the only country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to its citizens!”
Imaginary Mayor Pete: “Speaking of robots.”
Mayor Pete, you like to robotically remind us that you’ll still be the current president’s age in the mid-2050s and have more of a stake in global warming’s effect on the planet. But that doesn’t mean we boomers don’t care about the planet’s fate as much as you do!
Imaginary Mayor Pete: “I didn’t say you didn’t. What I am saying is Senator Sanders is dividing people with a politics that says, ‘it’s my way or the highway.’ I’m for Medicare for all who want it.”
Imaginary Senator Klobuchar: “Mayor Pete didn’t answer the question.”
Imaginary Mayor Pete: “There’d been no question.”
Imaginary Senator Klobuchar: “You don’t think I knew that? Are you calling me dumb?”
Imaginary Senator Warren: “Listen, all the people on this stage care very much about the fate of this planet. But I know how to fight to get things done.”
Imaginary Mayor Bloomberg: “You’re stealing my catchphrase, Elizabeth.”
Imaginary Senator Warren: “Mike will ‘get it done’? NDAs, sure. Tax returns, I have my doubts. Told you I was a fighter!”
Senator Warren, what will you do to fight against the “music” soundtrack to our lives that’s been thrust upon all of us whether we like it or not? The literal sameness of these, yes, artificial autotuned tunes in supermarkets and drugstores, with the same derivative prelude to the inevitable overwrought chorus exemplifying young love and repetitive “lyrics” that have been mindlessly spouted countless times before. It’s death by a thousand interchangeable cuts of quote-unquote music. In a democracy, shouldn’t we all get to decide what we hear in public arenas?
Imaginary Senator Warren: “What a great question. And look, I see this as our moment in history, our moment when no one is left on the sidelines.”
I kind of feel like my question was left on the sidelines.
Imaginary Vice-President Biden: “It’s my turn.”
Go ahead, Mr. Vice-President.
Imaginary Vice-President Biden: “I meant it’s my turn to be president. I see my time is up.”
Imaginary Mayor Pete: “No, mine is. I’m dropping out.”
Imaginary Senator Klobuchar: “Me too! Gotcha, Mayor Pete.”
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Andy Cowan is an award-winning writer whose credits include Cheers, Seinfeld and 3rd Rock from the Sun. His memoir from Black Rose Writing, Banging My Head Against the Wall: A Comedy Writer’s Guide to Seeing Stars, was acquired in 2019 by The National Comedy Center in Jamestown, New York, deemed one of Time Magazine’s 100 best places in the world. He can be reached through his website, http://www.andycowan.net/