Last Night's Democratic Debate Felt Like A Scene from Fight Club
Now that O’Malley’s taken his abs back home, his role as the candidate trying to get more than thirty seconds of speaking time is officially over. Last night was the first time that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders went one-on-one to debate on issues that matter, fighting for the hearts and minds of voters across the country—without distractions. They definitely got the fight memo because by the end of last night’s debate, I felt like I had just watched Brad Pitt and Jared Leto beat the shit out of each other in the basement of a grungy bar. Sanders and Clinton sparred over the issues with a level of tension we usually only see in the Republican debates. Given the 0.3% delegate upset in Iowa and the impending primary on Tuesday in New Hampshire, this debate was bound to get heated–though it was still pretty shocking to see just how vicious it became. Now that the fight club has ended and we’ve got a chance to breath again before Tuesday’s primary, here are our top takeaways from what happened last night in Durham, NH.
Hillary Clinton Couldn’t Shake Her Wall Street Ties
Once upon a time, Hillary got paid an astounding $600K in speaking fees by Goldman Sachs for several speeches she gave after stepping down as Secretary of State. It’s just another fact in a longstanding argument that she’s tied too closely to Wall Street-and judging by her response last night and in Wednesday’s Town Hall, she has no idea how to spin this. She’s gone from saying she didn’t know she was going to run for President at the time, to saying she’d “look into” releasing the transcripts of her speeches to them. Through all of the dodging, the issue did bring out the aggression that Hillary became known for in her 2008 bid for the White House against Obama. The takeaway moment during the debate about Wall Street came when she called out Bernie for a so-called “artful smear” against her for her ties to big banks. The problem is that, with over $3.6 million raised from Wall Street employees in her campaign thus far, the ties are real.
Bernie Sanders Revealed an Electability Issue
As appealing as it sounds to say that you represent a political revolution, it’s equally as important to give a sound argument on why you could win the nomination and go on to win the White House. For Sanders, the struggle is real to convince voters that a 74-year-old democratic socialist can unite the party and defeat whatever candidate emerges from the Republican cagematch. He was pressed on the issue last night and used a line of defense that echoes the one Ted Cruz has been embracing on the campaign trail: voter turnout. “Democrats win when there is a large voter turnout,” he explained. “Republicans win when people are demoralized and you have a small voter turnout.” It’s no secret that Bernie brought out a record-setting number of voters in Iowa, but it’ll take more than a surge of first-timers to get Sanders elected. To truly prove he’s the presidential candidate that we can count on, he’ll need to prove himself among voters of all ages and backgrounds.
A Deep Ideological Divide Exists Within the Democratic Party
Despite an inspiring act of solidarity that ended with a handshake and an admission by Sanders that “on our worst days, we are 100 times better than any Republican candidate,” an overwhelming difference between the two candidates—and the Democratic party—remained. As we near the end of a two term Obama presidency and look towards November, two distinctly different ideologies have emerged within the campaign that focus around the notion of an establishment—a term that has been continually lobbed at Clinton for much of her campaign. As the attack came around once again, Hillary appeared exasperated.
“Honestly, Senator Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman President, as exemplifying the establishment,” Clinton explained. “It’s really quite amusing to me.”
The problem with this line of reasoning is that establishment politics have nothing to do with gender. Voters who are trying to decide on what candidate to support in the next few months had the clearest view of both candidates last night, and the lasting impression was that, no matter how many issues they agree on, Sanders and Clinton represent a divide that cannot be ignored. Bernie has been backed by small donations and supported by a surge in youth voters who are seeking drastic change. He is perhaps the most radical Democrat we’ve ever seen run for the White House, while Clinton, by contrast, is much of the same—for better or worse. She has the experience and the name recognition that she’s been building up for decades but lacks a sense of excitement among young people that’s vital moving forward. She has millions of dollars pouring into her campaign from Wall Street and other sources that don’t represent everyday Americans but has a solid plan, for making sure that Obama’s progress remains in place. The problem is that her plans to move forward represent baby steps compared to Bernie.
If we learned anything at all from last night’s debate, it’s that Democrats across the nation will have to decide between the safety of a candidate that represents more of the same, or risk it all on a supporting a political revolution. Either way, expect a race to the White House that’s more Hunger Games than “We’re All in This Together.”
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Original artwork by Kathryn Chadason.