The first Democratic Debate took place in Las Vegas Tues. night and featured former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland, former senator Jim Webb of Virginia and former governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. The position of the five candidates on the stage at the CNN Facebook Democratic Debate was based on polls since Aug. 1 with Clinton in the center.
Hillary Clinton was strong on the debate stage asking the American people to help her succeed the man who took the presidential nomination away from her seven years ago. As an answer to whether she is a progressive or a moderate, Hillary responded with “I’m a progressive, but I’m a progressive that likes to get things done.”
Bernie Sanders, standing to her right, made emphatic calls for political revolution, citing the way that candidates raise money as a major contributor to misrepresentation in Washington. Required reports to the Federal Election Commission in July 2015 showed a total of $15.2 million in donations to the Sanders campaign with an average donation of $31.30. Sanders has called for an overturn of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission which spawned the creation of Super PACS.
Sanders promised to explain Democratic socialism to America, and attempted to do so using Nordic countries as an example. He was cut off by the moderator (Anderson Cooper) and Clinton who said “Stick to America.” On the issue of immigration, Bernie Sanders was prompted to explain some history. Specifically, why he opposed the attempt at immigration reform in 2007. He made no secret about his opposition to the immigration effort in 2007.
Education was also discussed and Sanders and Clinton both stressed the importance of an affordable college degree, but
disagreed on how much of a student’s tuition should be funded through taxes. Sanders added that taxes on “Wall Street speculation” would fund those degrees.
Clinton supports tuition-free public colleges but her plan would require students with aid to work at least 10 hours a week to help fund their education. Clinton’s plan would also allow all students with debt to refinance in order to lower interest rates. “My plan would enable anyone to go to a public college or university tuition-free,” she said.
The issue of regulating guns was also in the debate. Candidates talked about their National Rifle Association approval ratings (the higher the approval rating, the more cooperative they have been with legislation that would support the NRA). O’Malley, former mayor of Baltimore, had the most dialogue about gun control.
O’Malley also stated that he is the “only candidate who would move to a clean electric grid by 2050.” This would mean an electricity system generated entirely by zero-carbon sources of power such as wind and solar. All of the candidates reiterated that reform to halt climate change is an important part of their campaign.
The debate was a civil affair with almost no mudslinging. “On this stage, you didn’t hear anyone denigrate women, you didn’t hear anyone make racist comments about new American immigrants, you didn’t hear anyone speak ill of another American because of their religious beliefs,”said O’Malley, acknowledging this point.
One of the more entertaining moments came when Sanders stepped in after Clinton and was asked a question about the email controversy that has been a hindrance to her campaign. She stated that the controversy was designed to be just that by the far-right committee investigating it. Sanders backed her up saying: “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”
Clinton is to the right of her party on foreign policy and Chafee suggested that her vote to move ahead with the Iraq war in 2008 disqualified her from the White House. She responded saying: “Well, I recall very well being on a debate stage, I think, about 25 times with then Senator Obama, debating this very issue.
After the election, he asked me to become Secretary of State. He valued my judgment, and I spent a lot of time with him.” Sanders called the Iraq war, “the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of this country.” And he said he doesn’t want a repeat in Syria, where “you’re talking about a quagmire in a quagmire.”
Sanders and O’Malley both hit Clinton for advocating a no-fly zone in during the refugee crisis. O’Malley said it was a “military tool he wouldn’t use.”
Clinton countered by saying that she advocates the U.S. taking a stronger role in ending the civil war in Syria, and specifically to stop Russia and Vladimir Putin’s influence.
“I think it’s important too that the United States make it very clear to Putin that it’s not acceptable for him to be in Syria creating more chaos, bombing people on behalf of Assad, and we can’t do that if we don’t take more of a leadership position, which is what I’m advocating,” she said.