Democrats Hold First Grown Up Debate of the 2016 Election

In Archive by Sam Pritchard

The five Democratic candidates for president finally faced off last night in Las Vegas, and the result was a relatively cordial, policy-oriented debate that didn’t shake up the race. That, however, doesn’t mean that the debate was without some choice highlights; here are the things that Bruins need to know about what took place on the CNN stage:


There isn’t any room at the table for Uncle Joe

Hillary Clinton didn’t make a statement, but she displayed competence and confidence—in fact, this was probably the best two hours of media coverage that the Clinton campaign has had in months of negative narratives about emails and “authenticity.” Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley have the challenge-Hillary-from-the-left spot on lock, and Jim Webb’s poor showing seemed to indicate that there’s little appetite among Democrats for an attack from the right; it really isn’t clear what space Joe Biden would fill if he ran. Expect the VP to stay out of things if Clinton and Sanders keep up this level of performance.



Jim Webb is a Democrat?

The former Senator from Virginia and Secretary of the Navy seemed totally out of place on the stage—even more so than overmatched, goofy Lincoln Chafee. From his weird obsessions with China and cyberwarfare to calling affirmative action “state-sponsored racism,” Webb often seemed like he was running in the wrong primary altogether. Oh, and it didn’t help that when asked who his greatest enemy was, he took the opportunity to mention how he killed a man in Vietnam. Yeah…



The candidates had a lot to say about college tuition

All the candidates talked about the cost of college and making higher education more accessible—Sanders touted his plan to make all public colleges tuition-free by taxing financial speculation, and Clinton plugged her plan to make public college free for any student who will work 10 hours per week on campus and reigning in university spending. Both discussed lowering interest rates on student loans, and all the candidates seemed to agree that allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition costs made sense. Overall, a good night for students.


Hillary and Bernie shared a great moment lecturing the media about emails

The wily democratic socialist from Vermont had a resounding message for Anderson Cooper and the media generally: “the American people are sick of hearing about [Hillary’s] damned emails!” Clinton shook Sander’s hand and thanked him, the audience roared with applause, and when Cooper asked Clinton if she wanted to respond to Licoln Chafee when he tried to keep pushing the issue, she dropped the mic with a one-word answer: “No.”



Although CNN botched the question with a strange framing that seemed to position the statements “black lives matter” and “all lives matter” as mutually exclusive, Sanders and O’Malley were nonetheless quick to unequivocally support the racial justice movement, and Sanders went so far as to specifically mention the case of Sandra Bland. All the candidates stated their opposition to mass incarceration, though racial justice issues could’ve been more prominent throughout the debate.


Bernie Sanders is vulnerable on gun control

Sanders’ weakest moment of the debate—and the one place where Clinton found ground to attack him from the left—came on the issue of gun control. Sanders, who usually positions himself as more of an idealist than a pragmatist suddenly started to defend his gun-friendly record in the Senate by pleading that his rural state is simply not going to go for gun control. It wasn’t a great look.              

Lincoln Chafee—why?

Seriously, why is this guy running again? rs_480x270-151013200657-Lincoln_Chafee_granite_GIF


The Dems drew their strongest contrast with the GOP

  The candidates mostly agreed on a strongly progressive policy platform—paid family leave, taxing the rich, reducing mass incarceration, tackling climate change, and compassionate policies towards immigrants were all roundly supported, and the tone was mostly civil. The Dems seemed most set on contrasting themselves against the GOP, which Clinton especially made a point of.          


Bernie Sanders believes in the power of organizing

In an unusual tack from a politician, Sanders repeatedly emphasized the importance of “millions of people” directly organizing to overcome institutional advantages for special interests and the richest Americans. People power was a recurring theme for Sanders—something that Bruin activists can surely appreciate.          


Clinton was at her best being a wonk and fighting for women’s rights

Clinton has been oft-criticized for being “inauthentic” or overly scripted, but the former Secretary of State came alive when discussing the importance of pragmatism and complex solutions to complicated problems. Maybe her best moment—certainly her most impassioned—was when she said she was “sick of it!” in response to Republican attacks on Planned Parenthood and women’s health. 


Oh yeah, and this guy…

Whether you think he’s Joe Biden in disguise, hippie Santa Claus, or Gandalf, this guy became an instant internet celebrity. He’s clearly a wizard, though. Just look at that blue glow!