A couple nights ago, five of the leading democratic candidates went head to head at Las Vegas, in their first democratic debate of the 2016 Election. Mud-slinging was scarce, and each candidate laid out policies and ideals to the nation in a respectful, yet firm, manner. There were some slip-ups, such as Lincoln Chafee’s nigh cringe-inducing excuse using the death of his father to defend his actions in a vote to repeal a law that separated commercial and investment banking; or Jim Webb’s desperate attempt to gain more time by using up said time to complain about not having enough questions. Each candidates’ varying levels of experience with national debate shined through here, some better than others. Bernie Sanders, who has never talked at such a large scale, at times seemed nervous; while Hillary Clinton’s confidence gave her the ability to formulate fast-paced responses to even the most difficult of accusations. The Democratic debate offered a refreshing contrast to the latest GOP debate, where plenty of candidates weren’t afraid to drag each other through the dirt and back. Each candidate had their ups and downs, but I think my opinions on each of them has generally stayed the same.
Lincoln Chafee, who is currently polling at an unfortunate 0% in our nation according to Huffington Post, had a generally poor performance compared to his more prepared counterparts. In the beginning of the debate he played out the fact that he had never had a scandal (an obvious jab at Hillary), but was immediately blown down by his flip-flopping opinions of issues in the past. Throughout the night he demonstrated a progressive view on various issues, which was reflected in his voting record in the past.
Jim Webb, a Vietnam veteran, was probably the most pro-military candidate on the stage that night, giving more moderate responses to most questions. When asked who their proudest enemy has been, Webb responded, “The enemy soldier [who] threw the grenade that wounded me, but he’s not around right now to talk to.” What gave him a leg-up in credibility on immigration and minority issues of the night was his wife, a former refugee, whom he mentioned a few times throughout the night.
Martin O’Malley’s stances were nothing spectacular, he wasn’t showing up in the news before the debate, and I don’t think he’ll be showing up too much now. His lack of remarkability could be due to the seemingly scarce amount of attention he got in the debate, given that he wasn’t one of the candidates the nation had their eyes on. Not much can be said about O’Malley; his policies seemed similar to our current administration, not offering much more or less than what was promised by democratic candidates back in 2008.
Hillary Clinton’s experience on the stage showed. Her comebacks were sharp and to the point, yet polite and well-timed. I will say, Hillary lost a bit of her credibility to me when asked about what differentiated her from the Obama administration, simply stating that she was a woman. While that notion does add a bit of excitement to her campaign, playing the gender card to a question about policy didn’t do her any good. The point of being a woman in a race typically run by men is to make sure people focus on your plans and policies, rather than your gender. Her strong statements were not always completely true, according to a CNN fact check, removing the severity to some of what she said.
Finally, Bernie Sanders did not seem as passionate about the issues as he usually does on his smaller-scale rallies and speeches. This could be that the platform was very fast-paced for a typically slow-natured man, but he still managed to get his point across to his first national audience. Coming to Hillary’s side as soon as her e-mail scandal was brought up thankfully saved us from listening to more of the drawn-out controversy, allowing the debate to steer back to the real issues at hand that Sanders so badly wanted to debate. Bluntly stating his views against capitalism, a well-established system in our society, may have hurt him, given that the general populous is so familiar with it.
The debate was lively, and tense at times, but never did any of the candidates resort to outright rudeness, as Chafee pointed out near the end of the event. As to who won, I personally believe Sanders did a great job in staying consistent and bold with his message, stating only the facts. Many other viewers believed Sanders won, according to several national polls on social media sites; while the national media believes Hillary to be the one who won. Whoever ‘won’ the debate, congratulations, but what really matters is that this is how a national debate should be. Professional and focused, not reducing itself to slandering the opponents personal lives or characteristics.