The CNN Debate in Flint, Michigan Proves Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton Can Be Trusted to Lead

While I wouldn’t call tonight’s Democratic debate in Flint one of the most anticipated, it was definitely one of the most important. With Michigan being the big “prize” on Tuesday, if Hillary Clinton were to win the state, she would have a ton of momentum heading into a key swing for Democrats between March 8-15th. For Bernie Sanders, a win in Michigan would be viewed as a huge upset by most experts and serve as an enormous boost to a campaign that didn’t have the greatest of nights on Super Tuesday.

Honestly, I don’t think either candidate did anything tonight that particularly stuck out to me. Both were solid, but not great.

Hillary Clinton performed fine as she has during most of these debates. She’s polished, well-spoken and her answers typically go into much more detail than those of her opponent. I’m not saying Sanders’ answers are bad, Clinton’s answers just usually strike me as more well-rounded and specific. I think her strongest moment of the night came during the discussion about the auto bailout, hitting Sanders on the fact he voted against it. As we all know, with Michigan being a state that’s heavily involved in the auto industry, that’s a pretty big deal to voters in the state. I also think she got the better of him when guns were mentioned and she talked about the “corporate greed” of the gun industry. While I don’t think Sanders is pro-gun – he’s clearly more pro-gun than most liberals. This is still a slight weakness to voters who are passionate about gun violence, which might hurt him in a state like Michigan where a mass shooting just occurred.

Clinton’s weak point is obviously Wall Street. While I think Sanders brings up Wall Street a bit too much, he clearly recognizes that this is an area where he has an advantage, so I understand why he does it. She also appeared weaker than Sanders when fracking was discussed – a topic that’s clearly a hot-button issue among liberals.

For Sanders, he hit his usual talking points well, though I think he struggled at times when it came to racism. I’m sure his supporters will disagree, but far too often he brings discussions about racism back to class and poverty when African Americans of all socioeconomic classes experience racism and injustice in the legal system. At times, this makes him seem more focused on “class warfare” as opposed to legitimate racial concerns specific to African Americans.

Sanders’ strongest point is clearly his focus on income inequality, which is why he pivots back to it so often. I think for Sanders, those who liked him going into tonight were happy with how he performed. That’s one of the pros and cons to Bernie Sanders. What you see is typically what you get. So during each of these debates it’s hard to say what may or may not sway someone who’s still undecided. Nothing he said tonight was all that different from all the other debates. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. He usually gets his message out and does quite well during these debates.

Though I would say his weakest moments of the night came when he blatantly avoided addressing his vote against the auto bailout and his tone toward Clinton on a couple of occasions. Twice there were some slight boos directed at him after he sternly told Clinton, “Let me finish!” in a very condescending way. Those exchanges didn’t portray Sanders in the greatest light.

And, please, I’m begging him – stop with the finger wagging at the moderators.

As I’ve said after watching all of these Democratic debates and town halls, I’ve never been prouder to be a Democrat. After watching the GOP debates with leading candidates making references to their “manhood,” discussions about hand size and petty back and forth attacks that resemble a group of 13-year-olds picking on each other in a locker room, it’s nice to see two candidates stand on a stage and act like adults. As Bernie Sanders said tonight, “When you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to invest in mental health.”

With so much at stake this November, we must make sure that one of these two candidates is our next president. While neither candidate is flawless, on their worst day Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are a thousand times better than any one of the fools running for the GOP.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


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