Writers I respect, Rebecca Traister, Ed Kilgore, and Nancy LeTourneau, all seem to be discomforted today after witnessing the raucous Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Brooklyn last night. Maybe it’s my New York metro background, but I thought it was probably the best and most clarifying debate we’ve had so far, and I had no problem with the audience showing some real Big Apple passion.
To each his own, in some respects, I guess, but I do have some basic disagreements.
For starters, I don’t think people should worry about the Democratic Party coming together at the end of this process to unite against whatever candidate the Republicans eventually cough up. There’s no need to fret that these candidacies are poisoning each other, and if Bernie Sanders is going to run this out until he is mathematically eliminated, he should take it seriously and play to win rather than go out there like a tomato can waiting for his cue to take a dive. If he lands some haymakers on Hillary’s chin in the process, well, it’s good to know that she still has that famous steel jaw she’s known for, and getting some sparring rounds in now is good for her. She doesn’t want to come out unprepared the way President Obama did in his first debate against Mitt Romney.
Sanders may be in denial about “The Math,” but he has a point when he says he’s won seven of the last eight contests, some in landslides, and that he’s got some momentum. I agree with Traister that his disparagement of the Deep South in the debate sounded an awful lot like a disparagement of the black vote, but it’s not like he isn’t on a winning streak. He’s trying to win, and it may be a longshot but I can’t begrudge him playing hard. His supporters deserve nothing less.
So, yes, he’s hitting her hard on those Goldman Sachs speeches, and for being overly hawkish in her foreign policy. He’s laughing in her face when she attempts to argue that she had a stern talking-to with Wall Street executives. I think these are legitimate criticisms and they help Democratic voters understand what their choices are.
And she’s blasting him for his refusal to see the merits of holding gun manufacturers and distributors accountable for making sure their lethal products don’t get into the hands of criminals and psychotics. What’s the harm in making that point?
Does anyone think it wasn’t healthy to have the two of them go at it over Israel-Palestine policy? And what better place to have that debate than in Brooklyn?
So, I’m not concerned about the tone. I wish they’d displayed the same strong contrasts in the early debates. They really are different, you know, and I think they’re both getting better at being presidential candidates as this goes along.
In any case, one of them will get the nomination in Philadelphia, and this will all be forgotten a few days later when people get focused on the actual choice they’ll have in November.