Democrats Just Showed Republicans How Adults Conduct a Debate

bernie-sanders-clinton-debateTonight’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.

Hit me up on Twitter or Facebook and let me know what you thought about the first Democratic debate.

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.


Facebook comments

  • Ben Howe

    Sanders did not say he was not a capitalist. He said he was not a capitalist in the perverted way it is practiced in this country.

    • Cathryn Sykes

      I’ve said this before. We do NOT have real capitalism in this country. Real capitalism depends on free and fair competition….and when the big guys OWN the regulators, the little guys, even if they have better ideas and better products at cheaper prices, have no change to succeed.

  • cruisersailor

    The Democratic Presidential Debate should have only included Sanders and Clinton.

    • Cathryn Sykes

      Not the way we Dems roll, pal. The less-known guys get their shot.

      • Brat Wingz

        Amen, Cathryn. High 5!

  • strayaway

    How disappointing. Hillary did win. Bernie recognizes some major national problems but when his big moment came to introduce himself on stage, he folded. Whereas Hillary could slip slide past tough questions about her crimes and record as Senator and Secretary of State, the much cleaner Sanders often couldn’t wiggle himself out of similar tough questions.

    According to Sanders last night, the press should ignore Hillary’s disappearing emails and although he mentioned there was a problem with how Hillary’s policy worked out in Libya and maybe Syria, he let that slide too. He didn’t criticize Hillary directly for voting for the Iraq war either even though he had enough sense not to. Bernie instead rolled over and piddled.

    Hillary , for her part, was evil incarnate. She said she would go beyond Obama’s (unconstitutional) executive legislative orders on immigration. Her nonsensical reasoning for taking out Khaddafi didn’t offer one constitutional reason for doing so either and she took no responsibility for the mess that ensued. When cornered, she would twist her way into changing the subject to ‘the republicans are worse’. The fawning audience would cheer.

    O’Malley was a snake. The only hat tips to constitutional governance came from Webb and Chaffee and maybe a little from Sanders. I hope Sanders gets serious in the next debate if he didn’t already destroy his candidacy. With Biden diddling and Sanders piddling, Hillary moved ahead.

    • Peter Mrozik

      Don’t be so shy – how do you REALLY feel about Hillary?

    • Creeayshun Sighuntist

      This is what you call ‘sour grapes’.

      • Brat Wingz

        @ strayaway .. Are you jealous your Rep. guys made fools of themselves in their debate while the Dems. actually talked about issues without yelling or being rude?

        Every Dem. candidate was cordial, respectful and acted Presidential. They should be congratulated.

      • strayaway

        No. I was hoping that Bernie would do better though.

  • Tomy kay

    Yes, very civil. Most deceptive politicians are. Well done.

  • merrychicago

    If only there was a little diversity! It seems to be the party of old white men. I know what you’re thinking! “But, but, but Hillary is a woman”. Nope, not falling for that! She clearly wears the pants in her family.

    • strayaway

      Hillary wore a stylish Zhongshan pant suit with a white blouse and a long mandarin long sleeved jacket to the debate. Peering from behind her lectern, the widening gap of her Mandarin jacket revealed a white blouse that had the shape of a man’s necktie. I thought that to be very appropriate without looking mannish. Hillary’s friend, Mrs. Weiner, personally scoped out the debate stage ahead of time and may have contributed to the choice of Hillary’s wardrobe. Huma Weiner’s mother is from Pakistan where women wear pants too if that had anything to do with Hillary’s wardrobe. I think though that Bill can hold his own.