Tonight’s democratic debate was perhaps the most anticipated one since the first debate many months ago. Not only is it the last debate before the Iowa Caucus, but tension between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns has reached a new level of intensity over the last several weeks with both candidates taking shots at one another. To add to the intrigue, just about two hours before the start of the debate, Bernie Sanders finally released the details to the cornerstone of his campaign, his “Medicare-for-all” plan.
While I’ve hated to see hostilities between Clinton and Sanders intensify, it was inevitable. It’s almost impossible in today’s political world to run a campaign without – at least on some level – going negative against one another.
Though it’s still nothing close to the embarrassing behavior we’ve seen on the GOP side of things.
As far as the debate itself, this was a tough one for me to read.
First I will say, as expected, there were more back and forth exchanges between Clinton and Sanders. I’m not sure I would give either candidate the “nod” as far as “winning” many of these exchanges.
On guns, Clinton clearly got the better of Sanders. While I wouldn’t call him overall “pro-gun,” as far as liberals go – he is fairly pro-gun. It’s clearly a subject that tends to get him on the defensive and stammered a bit.
But as for health care, I think Sanders easily got the better of Clinton. Social healthcare, or “Medicare-for-all,” is clearly what most liberals want. The issue here isn’t whether or not we want universal health care, it’s whether or not getting universal health care is feasible at this point in our country. I think that’s the general argument Clinton makes during these exchanges. It’s not that she opposes universal health care, but it’s something that’s likely to never happen with today’s current political environment, unless Democrats can take back control of Congress.
Sanders clearly gets the better of Clinton on this issue because he’s offering the “end result” most liberals want. Though looking at his plan, the numbers he’s proposing don’t seem to pay for the $1.38 trillion he admits his plan will cost, and I think he relies too heavily on the vague talking point of “eliminating expenses.” I also found it a bit suspect that when the legitimate question was asked about why a health care plan very similar to what he’s proposed nationally failed in his home state of Vermont because of concerns over expenses, taxes and doubling the budget – he blew it off. I think that’s something he needs to answer for and explain what happened. If a very liberal state such as Vermont rejected a plan very similar to his over costs and budget concerns, would he ever expect it to pass nationally? I wish he had addressed that question instead of brushing it aside.
On the economy, clearly that’s Sanders’ “wheelhouse”. He’s obviously to the left of Clinton on some of these issues, but I also think some of his talking points are overly simplified for the sake of applause points. As Clinton pointed out, the shadow banks were just as, if not more, responsible for the Great Recession as the big banks. And as much as Sanders likes to bring up Glass-Steagall, that piece of legislation would have done nothing to address shadow banking and what these institutions did that helped lead to our economy’s collapse. Though I will say Sanders does a great job at rallying liberals to the cause of taking on income inequality and corruption on Wall Street better than just about anyone not named Elizabeth Warren.
Now, as far as international affairs and the Middle East – it’s not even close. While I agree with much of what Sanders says, Clinton is far more knowledgable about the complexities of terrorism and the Middle East than Sanders. That’s to be expected coming from the wife of one president and the Secretary of State during President Obama’s first four years. So, when it comes to addressing terrorism and the Middle East, Sanders is clearly the weaker of the two candidates.
When it comes to Martin O’Malley, I like him, but at this point he’s taking up precious time during these debates when this is now clearly a two-horse race. While I get that he’s getting some experience for a future run (which I wouldn’t mind seeing), I hope after a third place finish in Iowa he drops out. The country wants to see Clinton vs. Sanders.
Now, as far as who “won” the debate. That’s tough, but I would probably give a very slight edge to Bernie Sanders based on how much focus tonight’s debate had on economic issues and health care – the two subjects that tend to bring him the most support and energize his supporters. The questions were geared more toward his wheelhouse. If you’re a Bernie Sanders supporter who’s hoping for a big Iowa victory, you should be extremely happy with his overall performance tonight.
That’s not to say that Clinton did poorly. I think she was more poised than Sanders, confident and handled Sanders’ criticisms fairly well. In each of these debates I’ve walked away thinking, I like Sanders a lot – he’s a fantastic senator – but Clinton is the more “presidential” of the two. Either way, I’d be proud to fight for either candidate in the general election.
Who “lost” the debate? That’s easy: The Republican party. As always, these three candidates showed the country how adults conduct themselves during a debate.
While these Democratic debates are never the “must-see” reality television like we often witness from Republicans, they’re still a great reminder as to just how much better our candidates are than “the other side.” While Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley might not agree on everything, at least when they disagree with one another it’s professional and policy-based. It’s not childish, petty personal attacks like we’ve seen in every single GOP debate.
And like I’ve said from day one, I would be proud to vote for any one of these Democratic candidates. Above all else, everyone on the left must come together when the nominee is selected to make damn sure none of those Republican clowns come anywhere near the White House. There’s far too much at stake to allow a Republican to become our next president and undo all the progress we’ve seen made during these last seven years.
Whether it’s Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Martin O’Malley, we must vote blue – no matter who. Not only for president, but Congress as well. The change we want is within our power. We just have to seize upon the power we have to keep Republicans from destroying this country.