Sunday, November 15, 2015

Post-Paris Attack Debate a Wash

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The challenge for a debate in so close proximity to such a profound and impactful event as the Paris attacks presented a challenge for not only the candidates, but also the moderators and I would imagine for the audience as well. I also find it very surprising that less then 24 hours later, multiple polling has somehow been administered regarding this Saturday evening democratic debate which I’m sure had substandard ratings. I find all of those polls highly suspect and the veracity of any outcomes in doubt as a result.

That being said, I’m going to quickly do an overview of this debate. I felt all of the candidates had moments of incoherence. I believe there was a general lack of focus and attention by each candidate at different moments. Each had some shining moments and each made statements or answers that may have been seen by some as unforced errors, overly combative, or terribly nuanced.
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Sanders seemed especially incoherent and out of touch on the fight against ISIL/ISIS, painting the issue in terms of climate change. At times, he seemed to be overly fidgety at his podium. Bernie Sanders was given many opportunities to be specific about his criticisms regarding the record of Hillary Clinton on foreign policy regarding Iraq and Syria as well as donations to her campaign from Wall Street. He failed to ever add any specificity in any way that was memorable.

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Clinton’s responses to those donor questions, however, were highly memorable, as she framed them as challenges to her personal integrity. She seemed quite combative and defensive about this personal attack, as she saw it, and explained in some detail how she was the Senator from New York at the time of the 9/11 attacks which were near Wall Street. I think the explanation makes sense to me because of my exploration and research of this issue previously, but I think for voters who are more concerned about Wall Street and big money in politics, this will come across as a wash, or worse, just more excuses for taking Wall Street donations.

Martin O’Malley’s big moment was at the beginning when he highlighted the missing element in the fight against ISIL was our lack of human intelligence, instead relying too heavily on technology. I believe this may actually gain him a minimum of credibility. This is a worthwhile point to make. However, they’re beginning to discover that technology is at the heart of the new communication tools that ISIL is using to coordinate attacks.
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On domestic issues, there was a clear differential between Sanders and Clinton on minimum wage. Sanders wants a national minimum wage of $15. Clinton is unwilling to go beyond $12 nationally, instead leaving that up to local jurisdictions to go higher as to not create undue burdens on small businesses and rural communities. I’m not sure if she was able to best articulate that during the debate, however. O’Malley did press Clinton on this issue, making sure that minimum wage moving forward must be linked to costs.

Sanders did make an honest gaffe, though, in regard to taxation under his administration. He said he would not increase taxes up to the 90% rate as was done under President Eisenhower. I believe this may have ended his independent and centrist democratic support in the primary. It absolutely did so during a general election. 

O’Malley continued to make the case that he had actually achieved much during his executive years running Maryland. Remembering any of the specifics of what those achievements actually were seems difficult.
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As these debates continue to roll out, it becomes apparent that Clinton’s support is relatively strong and stable within the Democrat party. She is able to handle these debate formats with relative ease. However, she’s not facing opponents that seem apt to attack her directly. Although they appear initially to make statements that do attack her, when actually pressed to be specific with a criticism of Clinton, the responses are vacuous at best. Sanders seems to make himself less and less a threat to Clinton in each of these encounters. O’Malley, however, becomes more likable and connected to nuances within the Democratic base. This just doesn’t translate to gaining much support away from either Sanders or Clinton.
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Certainly after the Paris attacks, there is a general consensus that Democrats feel most comfortable with Clinton over either Sanders or O’Malley. I think what I’ve really began to realize over the last two months is that Sanders has some of the right populist messages for the far left of the Democrat party. He just might not be the right messenger for this moment. 

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