I watched the vast majority of the New Hampshire debate last night on MSNBC. I was on twitter and had a nice time chatting with Elizabeth, but overall, I wasn’t too pleased. It wasn’t the candidates. Like all the Democratic debates, this one put the Republicans to shame. Bernie and Hillary talk about actual stuff — policy. I wasn’t too thrilled about a lot of the rancor at the beginning, but I guess that’s to be expected. Given what it was (a political debate), the candidates were very well behaved and even went out of their way to say how much they admired each other.
What bothered me were the people on Twitter who were following the New Hampshire debate. They do not share the candidates mutual admiration. I was amazed at the display of closed mindedness. Bernie Sanders’ supporters thought that everything Hillary Clinton said was proof that she was just a fraud. Hillary Clinton supporters thought that everything Bernie Sanders said proved that he was an unserious interloper. There was real hatred for these two candidates by the other side. And I understand having strong feelings. Can we all agree that both these candidates are actually pretty similar? That even John Kasich (by far the most reasonable Republican candidate) would be a catastrophe compared to either Clinton or Sanders?
I like to think in terms of psychology. But most people tend to imagine people they don’t know as being psychopaths. That guy who cut you off in traffic isn’t just in a big rush or having a bad day; no, he’s just driving around everywhere trying to mess with people because he’s evil. It’s a thing we never do to ourselves. When we cut someone off, we know it was usually a mistake, or if we were being rude, it was wrong and not something we go out of our way to do. People have reasons for doing things.
As you should all know, I continue to be a strong Sanders supporter. And I’ll admit: it isn’t just the policies. He reminds me of the old bumper sticker, “If you aren’t outraged; you aren’t paying attention!” But this narrative among a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters that Hillary Clinton is just this corporate tool is all wrong and was on full display during the New Hampshire debate. There was one particularly good example on the other side. One Clinton supporter asked if Sanders respected Obama so much, why did he called for president to be primaried in 2012. I responded that it was to make him a better candidate. She scoffed at this notion. But I know it’s true. I was around. I called for the same thing. A lot of people did, and it was all for that reason. But no, to some Clinton supporters, that can’t be true because Sanders just wants to destroy the Democratic Party or something.
Throughout the debate, I thought that both candidates had strong moments. As I wrote yesterday, I have been disappointed in Sanders for his attacks on Clinton’s purity. I think that got itself worked out last night, and Clinton definitely had him on the ropes regarding that. On the other hand, I thought Clinton went low when she quoted the obviously wrong Kenneth Thorpe financial analysis of Sanders’ healthcare plan. (I have an article about it this afternoon; I wrote it days ago, but it kept getting pushed off.)
The main thing is that I thought both Hillary and Bernie made good points throughout the New Hampshire debate. It reminded me of 2008 when the Democratic Party had three really good candidates. (Obviously, Edwards would have been a disaster because of his affair, which I believe would have come out before the election; but I’m talking policy here.) And there was one moment when I got a flow of tweets from Clinton supporters saying, “I’m with Bernie on this one.” It was the death penalty. We Democrats really don’t like it!
It’s funny to me, because I think Clinton is flat out lying on the issue. I don’t believe for a moment that she actually supports the death penalty. But the truth is that it is very popular in this country. And I don’t begrudge her or any other candidate their little compromises. Certainly Sanders has them too. Despite what some would claim, he is not pure as the driven snow either.
But as Democrats, we really ought to feel good about having these two excellent candidates. We can have heated discussions about which one is better. I don’t buy into the idealist vs pragmatist narrative, but that’s an argument that can be had. I’m going to try to stay out of those arguments, because I feel like I’ve been neck deep in them recently. But if Sanders wins, the Democratic Party needs to get on board with him. And if Clinton wins, Sanders voters need to already understand that Clinton is a real liberal and absolutely deserving of our full-throttled support.
Afterword: New Hampshire Debate
Full disclosure: during the course of the debate, I did drink an entire 12 oz bottle of Lagunitas Brown Shugga’. Even though I try to have a drink every night, I’m still a lightweight. And that particular beer has a 9.8% alcohol content. So after the debate I passed out for an hour and a half. But I felt like I was following everything…