Welcome to March Madness: Worst Quote of the 2020 Democratic Primaries

An Arc Digital tournament challenge

Berny Belvedere
Mar 18, 2020 · 11 min read

Since it looks like we’re going to be social distancing for a while, and since content providers, Arc included, must be part of the remedy for the prolonged home isolation we’re all going to be experiencing, and, finally, since the actual March Madness basketball tournament was canceled, I figured it would be a good use of my energies to create interactive politically-themed tournaments.

The theme for this first one is: Worst Quote of the 2020 Democratic Primaries. (The next one will focus on the GOP—and specifically Trump—instead.) If anything, participating in this tournament will help remind you of some interesting moments from this past primary cycle.

So I’ll supply the quotes. You supply the votes.

A quick word about how to vote.

This is all about picking out the “worst” quote, but of course “worst” is subjective.

For me, “worst” can involve idiocy, cringe, entitledness, and many more things. It can even, on some occasions, include quotes I kind of like. In those cases, “worst” becomes its opposite—think Michael Jackson’s “Bad” here. Like, I have no issue with Biden telling a prospective voter, “You’re full of shit.” At the same time, such a quote just feels like it belongs on a bracket like this.

You have to vote based on which quote is “worse” to you.

The first two regions—top left and top right—had the candidates who lasted the longest and the latter two regions—bottom left and bottom right—had the candidates who faded away at an earlier stage in the process. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, as the final candidates, got three entries each. Many of the others got two entries each. The rest got one.

Onto the matchups!


(1) Joe Biden vs (8) Amy Klobuchar


At a campaign stop in Iowa, Joe Biden took a question from a hostile audience member. The person suggested the Bidens — including Hunter — have done corrupt things, which is a sore spot for Joe.

In response, the former vice president called him a “damn liar” and later said “look, fat” — this latter insult prompting one of the greatest deflections in modern politics when Biden’s campaign suggested he had tried to say “fact” instead of “fat,” despite the fact that there is no plausible grammatical warrant for using “fact” there and despite the guy being, um, fat.


In an interview with Telemundo, Amy Klobuchar found herself unable to recall the Mexican president’s name. She was asked and couldn’t answer.

Her rival for the Democratic nomination, Pete Buttigieg, hit her hard on this point. To which she replied: “I would say to the mayor, this isn’t like a game of Jeopardy!

Welp. Knowing who Mexico’s president is doesn’t strike me as being a piece of trivia. Especially if you’re on senatorial committees that regularly involve our relationship with Mexico.

(4) Bernie Sanders vs (5) Mike Bloomberg


In a 60 Minutes interview, Bernie Sanders said the following: “But you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad. When Fidel Castro came to office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”

Sure, I mean, let’s say that Ted Bundy paid his taxes on time. That’s good, right? And, well, Hitler must have walked his dog, no? Point is: you can always find something positive to say about anyone — Satan included. But I have to say, for a presidential candidate actively trying to beat back his association with communism, praising anything at all about Castro feels like the exact opposite thing you should be doing.

It would have been best, for Bernie, to push for strong educational outcomes here without gushing about something he liked from a brutally repressive regime.


One of New York City’s greatest charms is hosting a street performer who is actually wearing a speedo but who positions his guitar in such a way so that it simulates that he’s naked. He wears a cowboy hat, so, there you have it: the naked cowboy.

Michael Bloomberg thinks the naked cowboy’s services aren’t needed in every city, and you know what, Old Bloomey’s onto something here. Still, it’s funny that he’s talking about naked cowboys. So this quote makes the list.

(3) Pete Buttigieg vs (6) Elizabeth Warren


Pete Buttigieg is a smart guy. But this is a bit too smart.

Saying things like “the shape of our democracy” probably sends thrills down the legs of Vox writers. But most voters probably wonder what the hell he’s saying. So it ends up sounding pretentious.

I personally thought the quote was fine. It’s more long-winded to say, “the design and reliability of our society’s institutions,” but, then again, it would’ve made fewer voters cringe, so…


Elizabeth Warren’s statement evoked a cabal of monied bigwigs entering into a blood pact to get a puppet leader elected. But the reality is a bit less … dramatic. It turns out that Pete Buttigieg held a fundraiser in a “wine cave” in Napa, California. That’s it.

Warren tried to draw a contrast between herself and Buttigieg—he accepted big donor money and she didn’t. But what gives the quote its richest layer of absurdity is that these donors were never going to “decide” the election. This was a fundraiser. It could have been in a Whiskey Dungeon. Or in a Gin Hangar. Or in a Bud Light Bunker.

(2) Joe Biden vs (7) Tulsi Gabbard


In a tense encounter, an autoworker in Detroit, Michigan, criticized Joe Biden for “actively trying to end our Second Amendment right.”

Biden’s response: “You’re full of shit.”

I don’t actually have anything against what Joe said. My problem is: If you’re going to appoint Beto “we’re coming for your guns” O’Rourke, maybe the guy has a point?


Tulsi Gabbard thinks the Democratic National Committee and the media establishment rigged the 2016 Democratic primary against Bernie Sanders and in favor of Hillary Clinton. She thinks they’re doing it again, though mainly against her this time.


The primaries weren’t rigged in 2016 and they’re not rigged in 2020. Sorry, Tulsi.


(1) Elizabeth Warren vs (8) Bernie Sanders


Here is Elizabeth Warren’s fuller tweet:

Warren wanted to get out from under Trump’s most prominent attack on her. So she took a DNA test. But, amazingly, instead of burying the results, since they obviously did not support her lifelong claims, she published them! She actually thought — initially at least — they vindicated her claims of Native American ancestry. How is that possible?

To be sure, she later walked everything back and apologized. But the damage was done.


This past Sunday, in his one on one with Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders said “Ebola” when he meant “coronavirus” or “COVID.” This happened twice. In the span of about 10 seconds.

I mean, I get we’re all on edge, but, I’ve said coronavirus more times than I’ve said any other word in the past week. It’s not exactly an easy thing to forget. How was “Ebola,” rather than “coronavirus,” the word that was on his mind?

(4) Amy Klobuchar vs (5) Tulsi Gabbard


2020 has had its share of revelations. One thing we learned is Amy Klobuchar can be a verbally abusive boss. Now, the American political tradition has a long lineage of strong-willed tough guys getting voted into office. Hard-nosed politicians. Military men. Buuuuut Amy’s treatment of her staff seemed to go beyond “She runs a tight ship” and enter “She’s kinda sorta really cruel” territory.

How did Klobuchar respond to this oppo? She acknowledged that she’s been a “tough boss.” Which is ever so slightly euphemistic.


Here is Tulsi Gabbard’s fuller quote:

Not sure what’s worse, the attempt to paint herself as anti-war, or the ridiculous conflation of neoconservatism and neoliberalism.

(3) Michael Bloomberg vs (6) Pete Buttigieg


Here’s all the context you need: Michael Bloomberg has financial interests in China.


So Pete Buttigieg, who was doing faaaantastic with African Americans in the race for the Democratic nominee, alluded to Kobe Bryant meaning a lot to people on and off “the field.”

Yup. Except he played on a “court.”

I know, this is nit-picky. I’ve personally made this mistake in the past, despite being a sports enthusiast. But, c’mon, Pete. You’re out here trying to win over the black community. Say “court,” brah.

(2) Joe Biden vs (7) Bernie Sanders


By saying “poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids,” Joe Biden is unhelpfully conflating class and race. The natural comparison was “rich” rather than “white,” since of course there are lots and lots of white people in poverty, and lots and lots of black people not in poverty.

Biden just made a mess of this one.


Look, I’m with Bernie Sanders (and Elizabeth Warren) on Facebook having enormous communications power. But this is a tad much.


(1) Beto O’Rourke vs (8) Tom Steyer


The Springsteen-esque yearning of Texas senatorial loser Beto O’Rourke registering a restless longing to be a candidate for president — more than that, actually, a sense that he was “born” to be in it — was too much to bear. The cringe level is off the charts.


Tom Steyer’s curse — to show unrequited love for a billionaire-hunter who will never love him back — is the stuff of political tragedy.

(4) Eric Swalwell vs (5) Michael Bennet


Here is Eric Swalwell’s fuller quote:

Look, “erase your existence with a weaponized census” sounds like the most impressive thing anyone can ever do. I mean, if I were playing a fighting game, something like Street Fighter, and one of the character descriptions contained that, I’d pick that fighter on the spot.

As an actual description of the Trump census controversy. Not so much.


Sly boy Bennet wanting his kids out of the house for an extra day of the week. I see you, playa.

Honestly, Michael Bennet was one of my favorite candidates. But this was a naked appeal to reclaiming his free time.

(3) Cory Booker vs (6) Bill de Blasio


The power of Cory Booker’s statement is explained well by The Daily Show.

Just fantastic, folksy stuff from Booker.

De Blasio

Bill de Blasio, whom everybody hates, decided to hold a rally for his presidential campaign, which had zero chance of succeeding, in Miami, Florida, with a quote from Che Guevara, the famous tormentor of Cuban people. Astounding levels of competence on display.

(2) Marianne Williamson vs (7) Andrew Yang


Here is the fuller quote from Marianne Williamson: “If you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days.”

Welp. That is some scary stuff.

Initially, I thought the wonks could transcend the dark psychic forces, but no. I was a fool to believe in the reenchantment of the world under the mystic power of the wonks. I expected ancient energies to emanate from their calculators, but it was not to be. The darkness has overwhelmed them.


With incessant clapping breaks and theatrical counterposturing throughout, the State of the Union is already horrible. Yet, somehow, Andrew Yang has suggested a way to make it even more dull than it already is.


(1) Kirsten Gillibrand vs (8) Julian Castro


Here’s the fuller quote from Kirsten Gillibrand:

With one fell swoop, Gillibrand alienated half the voting population as well as everyone turned off by “intersectionality.” That sound you hear is the big tent getting even bigger.

In all seriousness, nothing crashed and burned this election cycle harder than woke signaling. Gillibrand banked her whole campaign on it, and was one of the earliest candidates to drop out.


Um, I think Julian Castro meant “trans male.” Not going to be a whole lot of trans females having abortions.

The whole idea, from the trans community, is that we need to expand our concept of “man” or “male” so that it includes trans men or trans males who can get pregnant and have abortions.

(4) Bill de Blasio vs (5) John Hickenlooper

De Blasio

Bill De Blasio, who in the 2020 race basically functioned as a rabid attack dog against anyone being insufficiently progressive, came to Bernie Sanders’ defense after Pete Buttigieg raised concern over the Democratic Party nominating a socialist to go up against Trump.

After the Nevada caucuses, which was the high point of Berniemania, Buttigieg warned the party not to go for Sanders, and this was de Blasio’s response: “And hey @PeteButtigieg, try to not be so smug when you just got your ass kicked. You know how we form a winning coalition to beat Trump? With a true multi-racial coalition of working Americans: something @BernieSanders has proven he can do + you haven’t. Dude, show some humility.”

Cool, though, um, “smugness” isn’t perhaps the best way to describe Buttigieg’s warning to Democratic voters. It’s clear he thinks Sanders is bad for the party — why is that “smug” to point it out? It’s also a bizarre line of attack, since by all accounts de Blasio is smug as hell. Weird of him to say that to another candidate.


For a brief moment, John Hickenlooper envisioned himself the savior of capitalism. And it was the most adorable thing in the world for him to think.

(3) Beto O’Rourke vs (6) Tim Ryan


It’s one thing to want a mature, substantive debate over guns in this country. It’s another to show the triumphalism of a frat bro at a Fortnite sesh when describing the trampling of a constitutional right.


What makes this comment so hilarious is that Tim Ryan actually thought he should run for president.


That’s it. That’s why this quote is here.

(2) Kamala Harris vs (7) John Delaney


So, okay, these are similar. Obviously Kamala Harris is closer to being right than John Delaney. But for a borderline frontrunner to announce herself “top tier” is far worse than for some dreamer to say, “Gee, folks, I can do this thing.”

The latter is cute. The former is severely off-putting.

The truth is there was hardly any evidence suggesting Harris was ever in the top tier. She always had to go through Biden — her whole plan was to seize South Carolina from him and then win in California. But she didn’t come close to toppling him.

Delaney … well, Delaney brought some much needed realism to the Medicare for all lovefest in the early debates. But he absolutely was a long shot.


(1) Joe Biden vs (4) Bernie Sanders

(2) Joe Biden vs (3) Pete Buttigieg


(1) Elizabeth Warren vs (5) Tulsi Gabbard

(2) Joe Biden vs (3) Michael Bloomberg


(1) Beto O’Rourke vs (4) Eric Swalwell

(2) Marianne Williamson vs (6) Bill de Blasio


(4) Bill de Blasio vs (8) Julian Castro

(2) Kamala Harris vs (3) Beto O’Rourke


(3) Pete Buttigieg vs (4) Bernie Sanders

(1) Elizabeth Warren vs (2) Joe Biden

(1) Beto O’Rourke vs (2) Marianne Williamson

(3) Beto O’Rourke vs (8) Julian Castro


(2) Marianne Williamson vs (4) Bernie Sanders

(2) Joe Biden vs (8) Julian Castro


(4) Bernie Sanders vs (8) Julian Castro

Winner: Julian Castro!

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