Tonight’s Democratic presidential debate wasn’t as entertaining as the Republican clown shows we’ve witnessed, but make no mistake about it – Democrats just schooled Republicans on how adults conduct a substantive debate.
Believe it or not, presidential debates aren’t supposed to be entertaining. They’re not supposed to be some three-ring circus. What you saw tonight is what a presidential debate is supposed to be about – candidates discussing the issues.
Not to say the debate didn’t have its moments. When Hillary Clinton’s emails were mentioned, Bernie Sanders made it clear that America has had enough of all the nonsense:
“The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails! The middle class in this country is collapsing, we have 27 million people living in poverty… the American people want to know if we’re gonna have a democracy or an oligarchy as a result of Citizens United… Enough with the emails! Let’s talk about the real issues facing America!”
This was followed by a handshake and partial hug between the two opponents – easily the best moment of the night.
Republicans cannot say CNN’s Anderson Cooper took it easy on any of these candidates. He went after Clinton and Sanders right off the bat and there wasn’t really a moment where any candidate ran over him.
If you ask me, Hillary Clinton did great. I honestly thought she might come out a little flat, but that wasn’t the case. While she wasn’t flawless (the email question clearly stammered her a bit), for most of the night she was confident, quick to respond and gave solid answers to nearly every question. Her real test will come in a couple of weeks when she squares off against Republicans concerning the Benghazi hearings.
On the other hand, Bernie Sanders didn’t have a bad night, but I wouldn’t call it a great night. His performance improved as the evening went on, but he really got hammered on the gun issue and fed Republicans a perfect attack line when he publicly admitted he’s not a capitalist. I get that he’s a democratic socialist, but you can’t come off as totally anti-capitalism, which he did at that moment.
Sanders picked things up toward the end of the night, definitely hitting high points on the number of incarcerated citizens and his real strength, income inequality. I think those who like Sanders are going to walk away from this thinking he did great (because his supporters will almost never say anything negative about him), but I’m not expecting his numbers to see much of an increase (maybe a percentage point or two) following the debate.
My “winner” of the night is Martin O’Malley. Now I’m not saying he’s going to threaten either Clinton or Sanders, but I do think he’s going to emerge as the only Democratic candidate besides Clinton and Sanders who’s a lock to be in the second debate. That’s not saying a whole lot, but I could see him as a solid candidate in 2024, or 2020 if Republicans win next year.
Jim Webb probably just needs to drop out at this point. Throughout the evening he kept complaining that he wasn’t being given the same amount of time as the other candidates, but when it came time for him to actually talk about what he stands for, he faltered. He should’ve worried more about being succinct and likable with positive ideas, and less about complaining every two seconds about his time.
Then there was Lincoln Chafee. The poor guy should probably go home and reevaluate how he can serve the country in ways that don’t involve the presidency. He just seems in way over his head.
The bottom line is, I loved this debate. It was an event where adults spoke about the issues and remained respectful of one another; the antithesis of the childish, petty attacks that comprised the majority of the first two major Republican debates.
While we’re still a long way away from election day, there’s one thing all Democrats, regardless of which candidate they support, should come away from this debate feeling: Proud to not be a Republican.
We should embrace the fact that it wasn’t reality TV-level train wreck entertainment like the GOP debates. It was the type of debate the American people deserve.
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