So, the juggernauts . . .
Obviously, the debate will probably shore up support behind both Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton. There were a few key moments and policy issues that drew my attention as well as the style each used were striking different.
Stylistically, Sanders comes off as angry, defiant, and relentlessly opposed to Wall Street, big business and corporations, money in politics, and focused on climate change. No matter the topic or policy issue brought up by the moderators, Sanders always went back to one of these bullet points. At times, this seemed to work in the room, but as the debate dragged on, it definitely seemed overly repetitious.
Clinton’s style seemed mostly optimistic, laced with intermittent defiance with an uncharacteristic moment of joviality in response to a question about her ethics from Lincoln Chafee, which caught some in the audience off guard. The audience roared in laughter when she was asked if she would like to respond, and she simply looked out and said, “No.”
Topics of significance ranged from capitalism versus socialism (a potential weakness for Sanders), changing of positions (a potential weakness for Clinton), and gun control (a massive point of departure and difference between Sanders and Clinton).
I leave foreign policy as a separate issue as it is so diverse and cumbersome. For many, Sanders and Clinton both have issues regarding foreign policy. Clinton, because of her votes after 9/11 on the Iraq War Authorization and the Patriot Act, and Sanders, because of his isolationist views, personal history during the Vietnam War, and general lack of experience.
Secretary Clinton managed to put the past behind her when her judgment was questioned by the peripheral candidates regarding her vote for the Iraq War. She offered that her judgment didn’t concern President Obama when he asked her to become his Secretary of State. She then delineated various foreign policy issues and concerns that she navigated while in that position, also highlighting when she helped President Obama secure the first climate change deal with China in history.
Sanders seemed to flounder a bit on foreign policy, reiterating previous points he had made and nearly repeating what Clinton had just offered as her solution as if it was a rebuttal. However, the Middle East is a very complicated set of situations. None of these foreign policy problems are static, and that’s important to keep in mind as these candidates answer these questions.
The most interesting and engaging part of the debate was about Wall Street and financial reforms. This was difficult to follow as everyone wanted to one up the other candidates and be the best candidate for the middle class. The only attack point leveled directly at Clinton was her lack of support for Glass-Steagall. She focused on making Dodd-Frank work better, giving regulators real power, in keeping Republicans from dismantling all the protections that have been put in place, and going further with her five point plan she wasn’t able to go into detail about. This is her five-point plan here: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/wall-street/.
Clinton seemed most prepared for this style of debate. She obviously is well versed in every topic and every subject that was debated. Sanders stuck to his core themes. No matter the topic, his answer would somehow touch back on the root problems he believes to be money in politics from Wall Street, big business, and corporations. Consistency may win the day over in-depth specificity. Optimism may win out over anger.