The Slatest

Debate Night Brawl: Who Was the Most Polite Little Girl or Boy?

A civility scorecard for the Democratic discourse.

The candidates line up onstage for a showdown of manners.
Photo illustration by Ashley Feinberg. Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images.

Of the 87 Democratic primary debates held thus far, not a single one has gone by without at least one candidate reminding us that America isn’t tuning in to watch the candidates bicker. Tonight was no exception.

But, less-enlightened readers of this website might wonder, if we’re not watching the debates for any sort of actual debate, what should we be watching these debates for? Why, to see which potential future president can sit nicely for the longest. If that’s what the American people want, as we’re told, it’s time we start assessing these showdowns based on the criteria that matter most. So tonight, I watched as closely as I possibly could for the following indicators of well-mannered, good boys and girls (as well as their naughty counterparts) to determine who the real winner of the evening was:

-3 points for interrupting a moderator

-2 points for interrupting another candidate

+5 points for reminding everyone that the American people don’t want to see a fight

-10 points for a rude nickname

+5 points for reminding another candidate that, in fact, they do not need to yell

-10 points for being rude to billionaires

+5 points for sucking up to a moderator

-5 points for saying anything that can be interpreted as being critical of the media

+5 points for mentioning a Republican you consider a friend

-10 points for swears

+11 points for pardoning your language and/or French pre-swear

+1 point for heck, darn, shoot, or similar

+5 points for complaining that Democrats are alienating mainstream Americans or Republicans

-5 points for alleging that the system is rigged against your candidacy

+5 points for complimenting your opponents

Imagine our relief and delight when the New York Times/CNN moderating panel used one of our pre-crafted civil-debate points—name a Republican friend—as the literal final question of the night. No questions about climate change, but plenty of opportunity to see how many candidates personally loved John McCain. Here are your Democratic primary contenders, ranked from Goofus to Gallant, just as our forefathers intended.

Bernie Sanders

The Scorecard:

-10 for saying “damn bill”

-10 for saying “damn right”

-10 for calling billionaires corrupt and greedy

-3 for interrupting the moderator asking about his health

+5 for saying he’d be “more than happy” to answer the moderator’s question

+5 for thanking his Democratic colleagues for their well-wishes

-2 for interrupting Biden, before murdering Biden

+5 for being friends with John McCain

The Total:

-20, a very naughty boy

Elizabeth Warren

The Scorecard:

-3 for telling the moderator to let her finish

-10 for saying people shouldn’t support billionaires

-3 for interrupting the moderator

-3 for interrupting the moderator again!

+1 for “shoot”

-3 for steamrolling the moderator while murdering Biden

+5 for being friends with Charles Fried

The Total:

-16, a fairly naughty girl

Beto O’Rourke

The Scorecard:

+5 for thanking Buttigieg and Gabbard for their service

-2 for interrupting Warren to ask about a tax increase

-3 for interrupting the moderator to ask the same thing

The Total:

0, he’s there

Kamala Harris

The Scorecard:

-3 for interrupting the moderator to talk about reproductive health care

-2 for repeatedly interrupting to ask Warren to tell Twitter to delete Donald Trump’s account

+5 for being friends with Rand Paul

The Total:

0, she’s also there

Pete Buttigieg

The Scorecard:

+5 for saying that Americans aren’t wrong for wanting to keep their health insurance

+5 for reminding everyone that some people voted for Trump and, hey, what about them?

-3 for interrupting the moderator

-3 for talking over the moderator to explain his Supreme Court stance

The Total:

+4, normally a good boy but starting to test his boundaries

Julián Castro

The Scorecard:

+5 for thanking the mods for asking him a question

The Total:

+5, good boy!

Tom Steyer

The Scorecard:

+5 for calling everyone onstage a patriot

The Total:

+5, another good boy!

Tulsi Gabbard

The Scorecard:

+5 for calling Yang her friend

-5 for pointing out that the media champions regime-change wars

-2 for interrupting Buttigieg

+5 for being friends with Trey Gowdy

+5 for wanting to unite all Americans

The Total:

+8, a very good girl!

Amy Klobuchar

The Scorecard:

+5 for telling everyone the real fight should be with Donald Trump

+5 for being friends with John McCain

The Total:

+10, livid she didn’t get picked for hall monitor

Andrew Yang

The Scorecard:

+5 for saying “Preach, Beto”

+5 for being friends with a Republican named Fred

The Total:

+10, equally livid he didn’t get picked for hall monitor

Joe Biden

The Scorecard:

-10 for using “damn” to refer to Trump’s policies

+3 for apologizing for running over time

-5 for interrupting Warren

+5 for talking about working with Republicans

+5 for being friends with John McCain

*BONUS* +15 for hugging Bernie

The Total:

+13, recently picked for hall monitor, wishes everyone could have had a turn

Cory Booker

The Scorecard:

-3 for interrupting the moderator

+5 for calling Andrew Yang his friend

+5 for saying the candidates are being too mean to each other in talking about gun violence

-3 for interrupting the moderator to talk about how much he loves love

+5 for asking everyone to get along

+5 for attempting to befriend every Republican he meets

The Total:

+14, the most polite, well-behaved lad in the land