Last night’s Democratic debate in Flint showed America that there is a stark contrast between the Democrats and the Republicans who are vying to be the president of our country. And there were two clear winners in the debate: Flint and the American people.
During their debate in Detroit over the weekend, the Republican candidates argued over who would be more effective at taking away health care coverage from millions and millions of Americans. They argued over who would be the most favorable candidate for corporate America. And, Goddess help us all, they argued over the size of Donald Trump’s genitalia.
Sec. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, debated topics like rebuilding infrastructure in America, how to prevent gun violence, what to do about runaway corporate greed, and which one of them has done more to advance the cause of civil rights in our country.
This is not a matter of style between the two parties. It’s a matter of substance and leadership. While Sanders and Clinton got testy with each other from time to time, the Republicans went at each other like schoolyard bullies competing on the elementary school playground. I find it impossible to imagine how any of the Republican candidates would be statesmen, diplomats, or coalition-builders – in other words, how they would be presidential. They have shown none of these characteristics in any of their debates.
Yes, Sen. Sanders shushed Sec. Clinton and basically told her she had to “wait her turn”, a pretty insulting statement given her past. But Clinton did go over her allotted time many times, ignoring the moderators to get in the last word. Yes, Sec. Clinton made a big issue over the stance Sen. Sanders – a man with a D- rating from the NRA – takes on holding gun makers responsible for their role in gun violence. But Sanders did defend gun manufacturers and sellers and wants to limit their liability.
UPDATE: Sen. Sanders probably didn’t appreciate this tweet from the NRA this morning:
— NRA (@NRA) March 7, 2016
Both candidates had their not-so-impressive moments. When asked about fracking, Sec. Clinton gave a long rambling explanation about why it’s important that the decision be made locally. Sen. Sanders simply said, “I do not support fracking.”
When asked about blind spots white candidates may have, Sen. Sanders claimed “when you’re white, you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto, you don’t know what it’s like to be poor”:
Given the large numbers of white people living in poverty, that’s an absurd thing to say.
When challenged about her ties to Wall Street, Sec. Clinton suggested that there’s nothing to worry about because President Obama took money from Wall Street bankers, too:
That’s not an explanation that’s likely to win over many Sanders supporters or undecided voters concerned about her corporate ties.
When asked about Flint, Sanders said he came to Flint first but didn’t alert the media and that he was the first of the two to call for Gov. Snyder’s resignation. Sec. Clinton, on the other hand, DID alert the media when she came to Flint, something some people see as “politicizing” the Flint water crisis.
But, when the debate was over, the two had discussed Flint’s plight for a significant period of time and both had powerful messages about investing in our urban centers and solving the problem of aging and decrepit infrastructure in America. While reasonable people may argue over whether it’s more effective to draw attention to Flint using the media or whether that’s crass politics, the substance of their discussion was orders of magnitude more important than anything that came from the Republicans in Detroit, one of whom had the temerity to suggest that Gov. Snyder’s response has been excellent. Most of us who live in Michigan, particularly residents of Flint, couldn’t disagree more. And the fact that Flint was such an important part of the Democrats’ debate is, in the final analysis, a GOOD thing because it has propelled the conversation to the national stage where it cannot be ignored any longer.
Whether you think Sanders or Clinton won the debate last night likely depends largely on who you supported going into the debate. Despite what the campaigns and their supporters would have you believe, the Venn Diagram between the two candidates overlaps considerably to the point where we are splitting hairs over who cares more about Flint, who cares more about the middle class, who cares more about civil rights, and who will do more for women, minorities, and average Americans.
Republicans are still pissed that too many people have health insurance and that LGBTQ people are allowed to get married.
When your candidates are this closely aligned and share this many values, when they are having debates of real substance about important issues instead of hurling personal, childish insults at each other, you know you’re in the right political party.
Last night was a victory for Flint and a victory for the American people. And that’s something we should all be able to get behind.
[Photos by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog]