While I usually look forward to the Democratic presidential debates, I’ll be the first to admit they don’t have the “showmanship” as their Republican counterparts. Make no mistake about it, that’s a good thing. Republican debates are more “entertaining” because they’re an absolute circus. The GOP debates don’t get better ratings because the quality is better. They get better ratings because people want to see a train wreck. And let’s face it, the GOP debates are the closest thing to reality TV you’ll see in politics.
That being said, tonight’s Democratic debate was slightly different. When the “database breach” happened which spawned around 24 hours of ridiculous fear-mongering and conspiracies, I was particularly interested to find out how all of that was going to impact tonight’s debate.
Much to my delight, the entire situation was handled beautifully. Instead of using this petty issue as an excuse to go back and forth over something that doesn’t really matter, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders – and to a lesser extent Martin O’Malley – acted like adults, addressed it maturely, came together – and moved the hell on. It was easily the best moment of the night. Instead of the childish bickering like we would have seen among Republicans, these three candidates refused to focus a great deal of time on such a pointless issue.
I commend all three candidates for showing absolute class during a moment where lesser people would have chosen to try to score cheap political points.
Now, for the rest of the debate. Well, it was rather uneventful. Sure, there were several “moments,” but nothing like we see with the sideshows that the GOP debates are. This was a debate about substance – which is what debates are supposed to be about. A presidential debate filled with candidates who aren’t embarrassing the country on a national stage.
I wouldn’t say there was a “winner” other than Democrats. Tonight we saw what it’s like when three serious candidates gather on a stage to discuss serious issues in a serious way. This wasn’t a fright-fest, fear-mongering spectacle like we saw at the most recent GOP debate.
As with the first few debates, Clinton looked far more polished and well-rounded but she stood up and fought back against two candidates who clearly have their sights set on her as the overwhelming frontrunner. While I wouldn’t say she “won,” I think she did fairly well. She stood up to some rather aggressive attacks, spoke clearly about where she stands on the issues (though she stumbled a bit when asked about the no-fly zone – a trap question for any candidate, honestly) and I think her numbers should hold fairly steady in the polls.
Bernie Sanders did solid, and I would even say this was his best performance in any of the debates thus far. Clearly Sanders is most comfortable talking about the economy, which is where he did his best Saturday night. Though I still don’t understand why he hasn’t released the details of his tax plans. For a candidate who has built a large part of his platform on income inequality and the economy, over six months into his campaign seems like a long time to go without releasing his plan for taxes. I think it would benefit him greatly to get this plan sorted out with exact numbers and make it public.
I will say Sanders still struggles some on international issues. He hit his usual “we need a coalition/I didn’t vote for the Iraq War” talking points, but when he was asked what he would do if building a coalition fails, his response was, “I’ll make it work.” Come on Bernie, please don’t use Trump’s lines. Sure, it sounds strong – but that’s not what the question was. While I wouldn’t call him weak on international issues, it’s clearly not his strong suit. Especially when he pushed the idea that we should focus on ISIS, not Assad – clearly not understanding that unless we remove Assad (or at least have a plan to transition him out of power), we can’t ever truly defeat ISIS. Syria is in a brutal civil war, which is what allowed ISIS to grow to what we see today. Without tackling the reasons for that civil war – which include Assad being in power – everything else is moot.
However, I did like the moment where he recognized that Clinton changed the role of the First Lady and commended her for doing so. Another great moment at a presidential debate. Like I said, overall Sanders performed strongly and will probably see his numbers remain steady or go up slightly in the next set of polling.
If there was a “loser” (though I use that term loosely) I would say it was Martin O’Malley. While I wouldn’t call his overall performance “bad,” he had several moments where he came off very weak. He made an off-hand comment about the ages of both Clinton and Sanders, and he followed that up with some incoherent rant about the Cold War, communism and ISIS. I tried to follow what he was saying, but I really couldn’t figure it out. O’Malley also was clearly trying to get in a few “shots” at both candidates to stand out, which is to be expected, but most came off petty, pre-planned and generic.
As I’ve said about O’Malley before, I like him, but he needs more “seasoning.” These debates are doing well to give him some practice, but he has to be careful about looking too petty, which he has at certain moments during these debates.
I would really like to commend all three candidates for their sincere and thoughtful plans to deal with drugs and drug addiction. It was great to see candidates speak about the subject with sensitivity and an understanding that addiction shouldn’t be treated as a crime, but a mental health issue. It’s about time in this country we get serious about helping those who suffer from addiction instead of ruining lives by treating a sickness with incarceration.
But overall, this was another night where the stark contrast between the Democrats who conducted themselves like adults versus the child-like behavior often exhibited by Republicans was on full display. Every time I watch a Democratic debate I’m reminded as to just how more mature and rational “our side” is. It’s not a bunch of shouting, petulant name calling and blatant fear-mongering. It’s not a group of clowns talking about mass deportations, building unrealistic walls, hurling inane insults or talking about potentially starting World War III by shooting down Russian jets like it’s no big deal. It’s three adults, standing on a stage outlining rational and reasonable plans for the future of this nation.
As I typically feel after these debates, I could proudly stand behind any of these candidates as our next president. And no matter who is ultimately selected, in my opinion, everyone on the left must come together to support that candidate and make absolute certain Republicans don’t get anywhere near the White House in 2016. Let’s get our candidate elected and then hold their feet to the fire on these promises – trust me, I’ll be here doing exactly that.