Hillary Clinton vs. Bernie Sanders: A Debate Between Supporters

Manny Schewitz and Allen Clifton recently sat down for a debate about the frontrunners for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Manny is an unapologetic Bernie Sanders supporter, while Allen has made his support for Hillary Clinton perfectly clear. With that said, I figure it’s best to jump right into it and you can decide for yourself who you think won the debate.


We started by asking both Manny and Allen to give us a short opening statement on why they think their candidate is better suited for the presidency.

Manny:
I think both candidates are well-suited to be president. I prefer Bernie Sanders because he supports breaking up the biggest banks (something I’m very much in favor of) and he’s further to the left than Hillary Clinton on most issues in general.

Allen:
My stance from the beginning has been that 2016 might be one of the most important presidential elections in many of our lifetimes. With four Supreme Court Justices potentially retiring in the next 2-10 years, it’s not just the presidency that’s at stake but the power of the Supreme Court for the next 20-30 years. I’m someone who believes that if you’re going into one of the biggest fights of your life, you don’t gamble on long shots – you use the most impactful and effective tools you have to fight with. At this point, not only does Hillary Clinton still lead every potential GOP candidate in basically every poll, she’s maintained that lead for years despite being relentlessly attacked by practically every aspect of the Republican party the entire time.

Sanders has proposed a lot, but big promises with no real plan to fulfill them don’t mean much. If he were to overcome the odds and win the presidency, he’s almost guaranteed not to get any support in Congress. It’s not just Republicans who will almost universally oppose him, but there are many Democrats in Congress who represent more conservative areas of the country who aren’t thrilled about his uncompromising, far-left approach to many of his biggest promises.

Manny:
I really don’t see how Bernie Sanders is far left. President Obama is center-left at the most, and Republicans have refused to go along with him on anything. So I think it’s safe to say that regardless of who Democrats put in the White House, Republicans will oppose that person at almost every opportunity.

Republicans these days wouldn’t go along with George Washington if he was elected, so I think talking about who Republicans would work with is kind of a moot point.

Allen:
He’s a self-described socialist who wants to raise tax rates on millions of Americans to 50%, wants to socialize health care, education and massively cut defense spending. He’s left of Elizabeth Warren who’s left of President Obama. But you also just pointed out that Sanders and his big promises have almost no chance because even a more moderate President Obama has struggled to get much done. If they wouldn’t give in to the more moderate liberal President Obama, they certainly aren’t going to work with an even further to the left Bernie Sanders. But the difference is, and where Obama’s critics go after him the most, is that he has worked on some compromises to get at least 60-70% of what he wanted passed. Sanders is an ideological purist, which is where he’s built much of his support. He’s not going to compromise on these issues because that would go against why some people are supporting him in the first place. It’s not a matter of who Republicans will work with – they’ll oppose any Democrat – it’s electing someone who shows they have the ability to get something done despite that obstruction.

Manny:
So to make sure I understand correctly, it isn’t a question of if Bernie Sanders can be elected, it is a question of whether or not he can work with Republicans?

Allen:
Sanders has not shown that he has the ability to lead. He was in Congress for 19 years before Elizabeth Warren become a senator and she’s done more in 2 years to ignite the progressive push we’re seeing than Sanders did in those 19. I argue that the only reason why Sanders is even known as he is now is because of Warren’s leadership.

Manny:
And Ready for Warren has endorsed Bernie.

Allen:
Sanders can’t get elected because he’s a self-described socialist who’s going to be 75 years old in 2016 in a country where a recent Gallup poll just showed that “socialist” was the least accepted label for a presidential candidate – even among Democrats. According to that poll Democrats would rather an evangelical be president than a socialist. Even many of Sanders’ supporters have said they don’t view him as somebody who can actually beat Republicans.

Manny:
Regardless of who the candidate is, Democrats will win the White House according to this map. Democrats have shown that they can’t be bothered to show up for House and Senate elections, but they will show up for presidential elections.

Allen:
This nation hasn’t elected back to back Democrats since FDR to Truman. I don’t count LBJ since he was basically only president because of Kennedy’s assassination.

Manny:
Then by that logic, regardless of who Democrats nominate, they’re doomed to lose because of history.

Allen:
No, I’m simply saying history is not on the side of Democrats. That means 2016 isn’t an election to “roll the dice” on a 75-year-old self-described socialist.

As for the endorsement of Ready for Warren, that’s meaningless. They were as much anti-Hillary as they were pro-Warren. It’s just an organization which, despite the realities that Warren had said repeatedly she wasn’t going to run, still believed she would. I’m not sure if using them as a basis to show they understand the realities of politics is the best “endorsement.”

Manny:
I don’t think age is that big of a factor. Hillary Clinton is only 6 years younger than Sanders. As far as socialism, President Obama has been called a socialist for the last 7 years and he was elected twice. I don’t see many Democrats, if any, voting for a Republican based on these things.

Allen:
6 years is almost an entire two-terms difference. If elected, Clinton would be younger when she ran for re-election than Sanders will be in 2016. If he won and went for re-election he would be 79 when he started his second term.

Also, there’s a huge difference between Republicans calling President Obama a socialist and Bernie Sanders calling himself a socialist.

Manny:
I don’t think anyone is going to switch their vote to Republican based on the socialist label.

Allen:
According to Gallup polls, you’re wrong. Only 59% of Democrats say they would support someone who identifies as a socialist. Not only that, but the largest percentage of that support comes from people aged 18-29 – otherwise known as the voting bloc that tends to represent the smallest percentage of people who actually vote.

Manny:
And you believe those people would vote for a Republican based on that? Do you think people would vote for someone who would, with the help of a Republican Congress, gut Obamacare, appoint conservative judges, and do everything they can to reverse Roe v Wade and take us to war with Iran?


Allen:
Don’t you think it says something that Vermont’s Governor Shumlin and the state’s Senior Senator Patrick Leahy have both come out and endorsed Clinton? He’s not even getting support from his own state’s biggest political leaders.

Even many congressional Democrats are getting behind Clinton, including liberal New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. It seems those who know him best, and have worked with him the most, don’t seem to be rushing to Sanders’ side to support him.

Manny:
Sure, they don’t want to rock the political boat. The electoral college is stacked against Republicans now. They aren’t going to reclaim the White House any time soon.

Allen:
I think you’re discounting that there are a lot of conservative Democrats in this country who aren’t as anti-Republican as many far-left liberals are. While it’s easy for those of us who work in politics to get caught up in our own bubbles and echo chambers, it’s easy to forget that there are still a whole lot of Americans who aren’t radically left and oppose these more far-left ideas that often get talked about in the “far-left” media.

You keep insisting that the electoral college is rigged against Republicans. Tell me, what’s changed since 2004? This nation re-elected Bush when it could have fixed that mistake in 2004. Why didn’t Kerry win? Last I checked, nothing has changed in the electoral college since then.

Manny:
Florida, Colorado and my home state of Virginia have flipped blue since then. Compare the states on http://www.270towin.com/ and you can see the shift. That’s an approximately 80 point electoral shift.

Allen:
If Jeb is the candidate, he very likely takes Florida – a state that barely went to Obama by less than 100k votes in 2012. Obama also barely won Virginia, a state with a large African-American population. Both of those states could easily swing back to Republicans in 2016. Colorado is still considered a swing state that Obama only won by just over 100k votes. Let’s not act as if Democrats have huge advantages in any of those states.

Manny:
Those states are getting bluer by the day. Colorado is picking up people moving out of California due to housing costs. Colorado went to Obama by 113k votes, and a 5% win overall.

Allen:
You can have Colorado but you’re also ignoring Ohio which President Obama barely won by 100k votes in 2012. Ohio is very much a swing state and has twice as many electoral votes as Colorado.

Manny:
He won by a 106k vote difference in 2012 and actually did better in 2008 by percentage. Ohio actually lost 2 electoral votes between 2008 and 2012. Even without Ohio, Sanders still wins against any Republican by 90 electoral votes. Democrats are not going to let another Republican get back into the White House. I’m sure most would vote for my dog over anyone Republicans could put up.

Allen:
You do realize 100k votes isn’t a great deal, right? Even if 1-2% of Democrats vote for a moderate Republican that would cost Sanders in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and even possibly Colorado. And what you’re failing to see is that in the general election, with Sanders shooting right for the far-left voters, Republicans are smart enough to see that they could shift to more moderate policies on some issues to attract those fringe center Democrats who aren’t thrilled with far-left liberal policies.

You’re also completely ignoring independent voters who often determine elections and tend to be neither far-left or far-right. Running a far-left candidate risks alienating those independents much in the same way running a far-right candidate would. Getting caught up in what far-left liberals support is a short-sighted way to view things.

Manny:
Republicans aren’t going to field a moderate. Romney tried to run as a moderate after running to the right in 2012 and lost miserably. Republican primary voters simply won’t go for a moderate. Donald Trump called Mexicans rapists and criminals, and proceeded to immediately shoot to the top in polling. Bush is the only “moderate” in the race with a chance, and even he hasn’t been sounding very “moderate” lately.

Allen:
They’re not going to field a moderate? Trust me, Jeb Bush is going to be their candidate and he has the ability to bring over some of the Latino vote and even appeal to moderate Democrats and independent voters. What you’re also discounting is that Republicans are going to be energized to vote in 2016 as well, and they’re going to vote for anyone Republicans pick simply to “vote against the socialist” if Sanders is indeed the Democratic candidate.

Manny:
Jeb Bush won’t survive the primaries.

Allen:
If you don’t think Jeb is winning the primaries you’re nuts. Trump is a flash in the pan and Walker sure as heck isn’t going to win.

Manny:
Even if he does, he has the same fate as Romney.

Allen:
Bush has a much bigger appeal than Romney.

Manny:
Republicans were motivated in 2012, it didn’t work out for them. Bush has his brother’s legacy to deal with, but one thing most Republicans can agree on is that they hate Hillary. They’ve been practicing that hate for the last 20 years.

Allen:
They weren’t motivated in 2012 and Romney was a horrible candidate. Republicans didn’t even want him, which is why practically everyone was a “front-runner” as some point. Romney only got picked because he was the only electable candidate of the bunch.

Manny:
And he still lost horribly.

Allen:
Actually, Hillary does fairly well in the South with moderate Republicans.

Manny:
Based on which polls?

Allen:
Here’s one from PPP (2 years old) that showed her viewed favorably by 50% of Texans. Here’s another poll showing her tied with Rand Paul in Kentucky.

Manny:
Perhaps, but Texas isn’t needed to win the electoral college. Kentucky has 8 electoral votes and they gave us Turtle and Turtleneck.

Allen:
It’s not if she can win the state, it’s that she’s not someone who terrifies moderate Republicans like a self-described socialist would. I’m sure that trend carries in many states. She has the ability to pull over moderate Republicans and secure center Democrats where Sanders risks alienating those voters, driving them to vote for third-party candidates or even vote for the opposition.

Manny:
Most Republicans see Hillary Clinton as the devil incarnate, but if we want to talk about swing voters, Bernie Sanders pulls our old friends, the libertarians. If Rand Paul flames out, they go to Sanders.

Allen:
Sanders is pandering to the far-left, and even some of the center-left, but he’s also someone who risks alienating conservative Democrats and independents. While you might dismiss his age, it will play a part in the minds of some voters. Meanwhile, his age isn’t going to increase the likelihood someone votes for him. So, in reality, his age will undoubtedly cost him some support.

Manny:
The candidate who would pull more votes from the right would be Jim Webb, since he’s running harder toward the middle than anyone else.

Allen:
I’ve seen you say Sanders pulls libertarians and that makes zero sense. You cite his views on guns. It is true that he’s more anti-regulations than most liberals, but libertarians aren’t going to flock to Sanders because he’s pro-gun; so are all the Republicans who’ll run. Libertarians are not going to get behind someone who wants to drastically raise taxes and socialize health care and education.

Manny:
Jim Webb has military experience, he worked for Reagan, he’s young – so why not him over Hillary?

Allen:
He’s to the right of Hillary.

Manny:
How so?

Allen:
People act as if Hillary Clinton is some ultra-conservative Democrat who’s no different than a Republican. She’s come out in favor of free community college; is to the left of President Obama on immigration reform; has become a big advocate for gay rights; was pushing for socialized health care as First Lady when Sanders was in his first year in Congress; wants to pass campaign finance reform; wants to repeal Citizens United; has said her vote for the Iraq War was a huge mistake; wants programs to give women access to daycare so they can go to work; and despite the myth, called for more Wall Street regulations back when the financial crisis was first unfolding. A lot of this anti-Clinton rhetoric I see is based on myth rather than fact. I recently had someone tell me that she was no different than Jeb Bush.

Manny:
She’s definitely different than Bush, you’ll get no argument from me on that. I guess we’ll have to continue to agree to disagree, but this was fun. It’s always good to keep the conversation going and give people stuff to think about on both sides.

Allen:
No doubt!

——————

So who do you think made the better points? Would you have added anything to strengthen certain points that were made in favor of your favorite candidate? Let us know what you think on Facebook, and you can let the guys know why they’re right or wrong on their personal Facebook pages as well (Manny’s here and Allen’s here).



Thomas Barr

Thomas Barr

Thomas Barr is a writer, editor and activist who's passionate about progressive ideals, with extra attention given to the fight for universal health care, medical marijuana, and saving our nation from decades of devastating trickle-down policies. Thomas is also a dedicated advocate for Type 1 diabetes research and education.
Be sure to check out his archives on Forward Progressives for more of his viewpoints.
Thomas Barr

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