Last night’s debate was like a breath of fresh air after being stuck in a high school gym locker for the past couple of months. We finally had a substantive discussion on what really matters to the people – the issues. No talk of who loved Jesus more. Nor did we have 2 1/2 hours of constant attacks. The American people came out on top last night.
But when we get to the candidates, who won there? Even though I don’t hide my support for Bernie, it is a tough call to make and I am trying to be unbiased here, but I still have to go with Senator Sanders coming out on top. The reasons for that isn’t in the actual straight out performance the two top candidates gave, but rather the political side of things. Allow me to explain more.
By all measures Hillary should have dominated last night. She has over two dozen Presidential debates under her belt from the 2008 race, and that was against an amazing campaigner, Barack Obama. Meanwhile Bernie had no experience, except for a few smaller debates in Vermont. Hillary did show a lot of improvement over her 2008 performances, which is a win for her.
Having said that, both candidates needed a different outcome last night. Hillary needed to motivate her supporters, something she has been seriously lagging in. Voter enthusiasm is the number one key to voter turnout, which translates to wins, so this was more important than anything. I believe she did accomplish that last night by showing a commanding performance.
For Bernie he had a different obstacle. We live in a country where a majority of the people don’t know who the Speaker of the House is, let alone some Senator from one of the smallest states. He needed to gain recognition, but not only that, he also needed to really fight against the “socialist” label the media has tainted so badly. Did he do that? Well according to Google the search requests for Bernie Sanders during the debate outnumbered searches for any other candidate by a 2:1 margin. In today’s age of information, this kind of metric, which once seemed silly, is very much an important factor. People heard him talk, heard his positions and actually took the time to find out more about the candidate. That’s a huge win for Bernie.
So on these two issues, both candidates pretty much tie. How about another hot issue; gun control?
There was an attempt to paint Bernie as some NRA shill last night, but his response was perfect – he was voting to represent his constituents. That’s something so many on the left forget. We see the Democrats becoming their own worst enemies when they go after blue dog Democrats like Max Baucus, a Democrat who represented a red state. You can’t force an entire populace to make a hard change on every issue, but rather go with a gradual change. After all, all politics is local.
Something else many on the left to remember is that guns are very much a part of our culture. Midwest Democrats are more likely to be opposed to strict gun regulations than west coast Democrats. Moderate voters, another big key to winning the general, are also more likely to oppose such measures. So Bernie may have lost a little bit as far as a primary battle in his answer and past voting record, but in a general, he very well may have gained a few voters.
But to me the biggest issue the set the two apart last night, which isn’t being discussed much today, is an issue very much on the minds in the states – marijuana. Bernie stood by his longtime position of legalizing. When asked about supporting state initiatives for legalizing, like Nevada and Ohio are facing this year, here’s what Bernie said:
“I would vote yes because I am seeing in this country too many lives being destroyed for non-violent offenses. We have a criminal justice system that lets CEOs on Wall Street walk away, and yet we are imprisoning or giving jail sentences to young people who are smoking marijuana.”
That’s where he has always stood. It shows he has made up his mind on the issue and stands by it. Now let’s look at Hillary’s response:
“I think that we have the opportunity through the states that are pursuing recreational marijuana to find out a lot more than we know today. I do support the use of medical marijuana, and I think even there we need to do a lot more research so that we know exactly how we’re going to help people for whom medical marijuana provides relief.”
That is the kind of answer I would expect from a Republican candidate, not a Democrat that has been in politics for nearly three decades. It’s where we got flashback of the 2008 Hillary Clinton. In political speak, it translates to “let me do a focus group, some polling and get back to you.”. Given that this issue is even stronger amongst younger Americans, another key factor to win the general, Hillary may have very well shot herself in the foot.
Yes, I know it is only one issue, but when you consider both candidates align so close on all the other issues, it is that one issue that could be the difference between “I’ll vote for Hillary” or “I’ll vote for Bernie”, and next November “Yeah I got to vote” and “Ehh, it really doesn’t matter”.
It’s the little things like this that can affect the outcome, and that is why I have to declare Bernie the winner of last night’s debate.
And on a side note. I didn’t touch the other candidates because they are going nowhere. But I do have to mention one other obvious fact that has been missing from the media narrative – Jim Webb. The Democrats had a candidate on the main stage that is an actual combat veteran. Compare that to the Republicans, where one veteran candidate, Rick Perry, has already had to drop out and the other, Lindsey Graham, gets stuck at the kids table and is polling dead last. For a party that pushed a meme about having a Commander in Chief that served, because the last two Democrats didn’t, well the hypocrisy is deafening. Think about that when you hear the right talk about their love of the military.