Was Bernie Sanders Really Sexist at Last Night's Debate?
Last night, the debate stage moved from the GOP circus tent in Houston, TX, to the poisoned town of Flint, MI, for an actual debate on real issues. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton faced off after a long weekend of primary campaigns that saw Bernie win three states to Hillary’s one win in delegate-rich Louisiana, leaving them with near equal delegate gains by the time the debate began. In the shadow of tomorrow’s looming Michigan primary, this debate represented one final push for votes in the state, and a chance to directly discuss issues facing communities of color.
The water crisis was at the forefront of the debate, and, within the first ten minutes, both candidates had called for the resignation of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder for allowing an entire city to be poisoned for over a year by lead-contaminated water—a first for Hillary. From there, the debate touched on everything from the auto industry bailout and trade policies, to education and gun violence. It even included a touching moment when Don Lemon pressed both candidates to identify their racial blindspots—a question that can be directly attributed to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement over the past year. It was a real debate between two viable candidates for the presidency, yet the morning after has felt more like a hangover than a cause for celebration.
Yeah… that was Bernie Sanders talking down to Hillary Clinton. That's terrible optics. Very sexist seeming. #DemDebate
— Allen Clifton (@Allen_Clifton) March 7, 2016
The defining moment of last night’s debate is apparently not related to policy, nor does it have anything to do with ideologies. It was Bernie’s moment of shushing Hillary in the early stage of the debate that has provided the most analysis. His “Excuse me I’m talking” moment has led major news outlets to declare him the loser of the debate, furthering the narrative that the race is over. This quick judgement, though, is inaccurate and dangerous to the democratic process of selecting the Democratic party’s nominee.
Over the course of the debate, Bernie shushed Hillary twice. But if we’re going to pass harsh judgement on him for lashing out and asking for time to speak, it’s only fair that we do the same to Hillary. Yet there wasn’t nearly as much uproar surrounding a similar incident a little over a week ago. When Black Lives Matter activist Ashley Williams clashed with Hillary over a comment Hillary made in the ’90s, that “we have to bring [at-risk minority youth] to heel,” Hillary said, “Well, can I talk and maybe you can listen to what I say?” As the crowd called Williams rude and inappropriate for asking Clinton to apologize to black people, Williams was escorted out by Secret Service personnel.
— I Know Nothing (@jvgraz) March 7, 2016
We bring this up not to say that Hillary is racist, but rather to demonstrate just how much media coverage can dictate the future of these candidates. Bernie’s call to not be interrupted should be coupled with an equally important discussion over Hillary’s dismissal of a Black Lives Matter activist last month. The reality is that both candidates have been prone to interrupting—because they’re both passionate about their beliefs and policies. And that’s what really matters in a race for a nomination that is largely still up for grabs.
Images via Getty.
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