Closed Minds at the New Hampshire Debate

Angry Mob at New Hampshire DebateI 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.

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.

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…

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

12 thoughts on “Closed Minds at the New Hampshire Debate

  1. I think if you do interact with Donna you should be warned-she is the veteran of many a nasty battle online and in person with a lot of people who are exactly the worst of the internet. So she tends to react with hostility first because it is her primary experience when online. She doesn’t wait to see if someone is sincere or not. I really should have said something before this so I am sorry.
    But now that you know, you can decide for yourself if you want to argue with her. :-)


    As for the rest of your article-I am on Salon on an article that demands I stop lying to myself about Hillary Clinton because word salad and interacting with some of the commenters. The vitriol being slung always strikes me as a bit too over the top and I honestly wonder how much of it is planted by Republicans.

    But for your amusement:

    • Actually, #39 makes me love her more: “When she ran for senator of New York, she was still a fan of the Chicago Cubs.”

      This is completely moral and righteous. You don’t abandon the Cubs gloom train just to score a few piddly votes with Damn Yankee fans. (Although, if she had switched over to the sad-sack Mets, that would have been acceptable.)

  2. I always thought the verb form applicable to Twitter should be “twit” and not “tweet.”

    Per Krugman, my favorite 73-year-old columnist, Rick Salutin, does his magic:

    “Nobel Prize economist, New York Times columnist — does it regularly, especially when a U.S. election impends. He’s superb on his own beat; few are better at dissecting the negatives of austerity. But then he gets the classic theorist’s itch for power, to be Aristotle tutoring Alexander the Great. I can picture him seething: at least Stiglitz got that three-year gig plus martyrdom at the World Bank. (Joseph Stiglitz also has an economics Nobel, then the World Bank fired him for holding views much like Krugman’s — Aarrgh!)”

    • Yes, but my main problem with Stiglitz is that he doesn’t blog all the time. So I can forgive Krugman. I do like that he’s out there with his ideas, even when he’s wrong. Dean Baker’s great, but the CEPR website was hacked and so it has really cut into his blogging. But I’ve been seeing him elsewhere more.

    • Ultimately, these two do respect each other. If only their supporters could do the same thing! Actually, I think the vast majority too. It’s 2008 all over again. I’d long thought that Hillary would easily win because Democrats have been waiting 8 years to have their cake and eat it too. I still expect Hillary to win. But we’ll see. I don’t actually think Democratic voters can lose.

  3. I’m wondering whether these Twitter discussions are really useful. I never hear about worthwhile exchanges or development of ideas. I never hear about like-minded people linking up that had no other means to link up. All I ever hear about is one-upmanship and people being really nasty.

    It’s like driving in Toronto or drinking booze too fast – transforms nice, caring people into arrogant assholes.

    Should we be discussing the future of the planet, the commanding heights of the economy, the basis of fellowship and cooperation, crime and punishment, the social contract, 140 characters at a time? Maybe we should admit that Twitter is primarily a toy, and proceed on this basis.

    • I agree. My experience wasn’t really discussions, though. I was busy talking with Elizabeth. It was mostly just what I noticed people posting. It isn’t a good forum.

  4. “Can we all agree that both these candidates are actually pretty similar?”
    No. No, we can’t. That was true of Obama and Hillary, but Bernie is a different game. Leaving aside the question of what policies could actually be enacted in some future political configuration, there’s a pretty long list of important issues on which they are opposed. I won’t try to pick a link — such lists are all over the internet. Both candidates also have a fairly lengthy history and there are significant differences in both their political philosophies and the specific policies they have espoused.

    “Clinton is a real liberal and absolutely deserving of our full-throttled support.”
    Being somewhat to the left of a conservative Dem like Obama or Bill Clinton does not put you “on the left”. It only means you are to the left of most Republicans. Im not sure the words “liberal” or “progressive” still have any concrete meaning, which is unfortunate.

    “I don’t begrudge her or any other candidate their little compromises.”
    Nor do I. Supporting the Iraq invasion was not a little compromise. Neither is a private vs public approach to health care. Neither is a punitive, privatised criminal justice system. Neither is Drug Prohibition. Then there’s the elephant in the room — Corporate America.

    To put it bluntly, Sanders and more importantly his base, represents or at least symbolises structural change whereas the Clintons represent the neoliberal status quo. Some people think that regardless of who gets the nomination, the outcome will fragment the Democratic party. That may be. It seems to be happening to the Republicans too.

    • When I wrote that, I did figure you would disagree. But in the context of American politics, the two are quite similar. I agree: by a global definition, Clinton is a conservative. In the American context, she isn’t. She isn’t even close. I’m not happy about this state of things. But America is in a bad way. And as I’ve been arguing for years, it will take many elections to slowly move toward a democracy. But I’m not expecting a revolution from Sanders, just as I didn’t from Obama.

      But I’m not saying that anyone should vote for Clinton in the primary. I remain a strong Sanders supporter. But if Clinton wins the primary, it would be a major mistake to sit the election out or pretend that a vote for the Green Party isn’t a vote for the Republicans. Because the Republicans will fall in line like the good authoritarians they are.

      • No one with any sense is expecting a revolution from Sanders, just that he might actually try and that this might give him coattails. All this ruckus isn’t about him anyway, it’s still about Change. No one with any sense expects to get that from Hillary. That’s why a lot of Sanders’ support is probably not fungible regardless of whether he endorses Hillary in the end. I also think there are psychological threshhold effects involved, as in it’s hard to care about saving $10 if you aren’t going to make the rent anyway. One’s point of view on acceptable compromise often depends upon how comfortable you are.

        I won’t argue about what one ought to do in the general election, but I am prone to wonder just what it would take to break the Democratic establishment. Perhaps it’s really true that our system is a natural duopoly, but the Democrats and Republicans have certainly gone to great lengths to rig the game and ensure that outcome.

        I like the blue blocking on your posts. Is that new or have I just been oblivious all this time? I often change my graphics settings trying to avoid eyestrain. Boy do I hate all the “flat” design and bright white/low contrast schemes that are so in fashion now!

        • I agree with all that. The issue of acceptable compromise features strongly in something I think is coming out today. I had noted that it was easier for me to be patient because my life (by my standards) is good. I don’t have to worry about police officers shooting me because I don’t snap to attention when they call. And so on. And I can see why young people are the strongest supporters of Sanders. People my age (and even more, people older) can remember a time when the economy kind of worked for the majority. Most 30 year olds really have no such memory. As I keep noting, however: I’m still a strong Sanders supporter. In addition to his policies being more in line with mine, his laser focus on the economy is entirely mine.

          As I’ve argued for a long time, I really think the New Democrats are the primary cause of the Republicans going totally insane. You can’t have a two-party system in which the liberal party decides it’s going to be conservative. That doesn’t cause the conservative party to become liberal; it just pushes the conservative party to the conspiracy theory edge. But I don’t want to see the Democratic Party break apart. One wouldn’t have thought FDR would be the transformative figure he turned out to be. But I do tend to think that Clinton will continue on with the way things have been. And most frustrating of all, she has clearly left herself room to reverse herself on the TPP. That’s the thing about politicians usually doing what they say. You have to listen carefully. And on that issue especially, she’s slippery. But ultimately, it is about the people. We need to force the change. If we could depend upon that, I think Donald Trump might be the best candidate because he just wants to be loved. But we can’t depend upon that. (Although of all the Republicans running, he strikes me as clearly the least vile.)

          I think the blue has been around for about a year. You sound like me! And yeah, I think I understand why the grey-on-white thing is so popular: theme designers are graphical people, not word people. It is also true that they tend to be younger and have good eyes.

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