Friday, February 5, 2016

Some reactions to the Thursday Democratic debate

Chris Hayes at vox.com: "a real argument over how politics works"

... Clinton has the benefits and drawbacks of an insider, and Sanders has the benefits and drawbacks of an outsider. Her view of the political system is realistic, her knowledge of the issues is deep, and her social ties are strong. All these qualities would likely make her an effective president. But they also mean she's captured by the political system, and that she is implicated in virtually everything Americans hate about it.

Sanders's view of the political system is idealistic, his ideas are unbounded by pragmatic concerns and interest-group objections, and his calls for political revolution are thrilling. All these qualities make him an inspiring candidate. But they also mean he'll be perceived as an enemy by the very system he intends to lead, and that his promises of sweeping change might collapse into total disappointment.

Matthew Iglesias at vox.com: "Democrats were wrong to fear a real campaign"

Throughout almost the entirety of 2015, the Democratic Party acted as if it was terrified of having a real nominating contest. Party leaders uniformly lined up behind Clinton, and made sure that other major contenders like Elizabeth Warren and Biden stayed out of the race. Clinton was left to face a field largely composed of lovable eccentrics — Jim Webb, Lincoln Chaffee, and Sanders — and given a short series of debates scheduled for odd weekend time slots when few people were likely to watch.

Then against insiders' expectations, Sanders proved to be a formidable candidate. His unabashed progressive politics have been viral on social media and resonated deeply with young people. He even started to pose enough of a threat to Clinton that she decided she wanted more debates after all. The result an excellent duel between the two of them that we saw Thursday night.

It's a duel that Clinton is somewhat less likely to win than the coronation Democrats tried to arrange for her. But if she does win the nomination, she'll come out a stronger and healthier candidate for having gone through the trouble of actually facing down criticism from the party's left wing. Primary campaigns can get ugly, but they're fundamentally healthy and Democrats were wrong to be so fearful of having one.

John Nichols at TheNation.com: The debate was "about the boldness of the visions advanced by two contenders and about what can practically and realistically be achieved."

The candidates sparred over big money. Clinton took offense at the spotlight shown on her speaking fees. And Sanders voiced his condemnation of money in politics.

The primary barriers to necessary change, he explained, are political.

“The reality is that we have one of lowest voter turnouts of any major country on earth because so many people have given up on the political process,” he said. “The reality is we that have a corrupt campaign finance system which separates the American people’s needs and desires from what Congress is doing. So to my mind, what we have got to do is wage a political revolution where millions of people have given up on the political process, stand up and fight back, demand the government that represents us and not just a handful of [campaign contributors].”

What followed was an intense exchange about campaign financing in which Sanders said that “one of the things we should do is not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. I am very proud to be the only candidate up here who does not have a Super PAC, who’s not raising huge sums of money from Wall Street.”

Clinton responded by suggesting that “time and time again, by innuendo, by insinuation, there is this attack that he is putting forth, which really comes down to—you know, anybody who ever took donations or speaking fees from any interest group has to be bought.… I think it’s time to end the very artful smear that you and your campaign have been carrying out in recent weeks, and let’s talk… about the issues. Let’s talk about the issues that divide us.”

Sanders accepted the invitation, delivering the most powerful statement of the night—and one of the most powerful statements of the campaign.

“Let’s talk—let’s talk about issues, all right?” he began. “Let’s talk about why, in the 1990s, Wall Street got deregulated. Did it have anything to do with the fact that Wall Street provided—spent billions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions? Well, some people might think, yeah, that had some influence.

The crowd was laughing.

“Let’s ask why it is that we pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, and your medicine can be doubled tomorrow, and there’s nothing that the government can do to stop it. You think it has anything to do with the huge amounts of campaign contributions and lobbying from the fossil-fuel industry?”

The crowd was clapping.

“Let’s talk about climate change. Do you think there’s a reason why not one Republican has the guts to recognize that climate change is real, and that we need to transform our energy system? Do you think it has anything to do with the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil pouring huge amounts of money into the political system?”

The crowd was cheering.

“That is what goes on in America,” Sanders continued. “You know, there is a reason why these people are putting huge amounts of money into our political system. And in my view, it is undermining American democracy and it is allowing Congress to represent wealthy campaign contributors and not the working families of this country.”

That imbalance, Sanders concluded, demands not talk of what is unachievable but recognition of the need for a “political revolution.”

Do read Nichols' column for more observations about what the two candidates would bring to the Presidency.

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