Is It Underwhelming In Here or Is It Just Me: On Last Night’s Democratic Debate

Last night, five Democratic candidates for presidential nominee — three of which most people had heard of before — answered questions on a national stage to show off their chops at trying to be the next President. As has been roundly observed already, in many ways this was actually a two-person debate; Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are considered the only two serious contenders in the race as far as polls go. The other three candidates — Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb, and Martin O’Malley — generally either failed to distinguish themselves (many on Twitter were concerned about whether O’Malley was going to stay awake for the entirety of the debate) or managed to make themselves significantly less appealing than they had been previous to the debate (Chafee seeming to imply he didn’t really know much about it when he voted for Glass-Steagall and so shouldn’t be held accountable for it, Webb constantly demanding more time to speak in order to rant about the South China Sea and “the situation of African-Americans.”). You can read a full transcript of everything at the Washington Post, and also watch the full debate yourself if you missed it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNaHbbIDdik

Looking at the frontrunners’ performances, then, both had some notable breakout moments. Hillary, whose platform has been gradually nudged to the left by pressure to keep up with the more radical Bernie Sanders, was able to differentiate herself from him on the issue of gun control — Anderson Cooper pointed out that Sanders voted against mandatory background checks and waiting periods, and Hillary earned applause by calling for “standing up to the NRA.” On the other hand, Bernie Sanders stood out as the only candidate who not only unequivocally stated that Black lives matter, but named at least one specific victim of state violence (Sandra Bland) and discussed the need to combat institutional racism and mass incarceration in his answer. Both Bernie and Hillary scored a rhetorical point or two by sidestepping the machinations of the debate process; when Hillary was pressed on the seemingly neverending issue of Hillary’s emails, Hillary questioned its relevancy in the debate and Bernie cut in to agree, arguing that there are much more important issues at stake and “the American people are sick and tired of hearing about [Hillary’s] damn e-mails.” When asked if she wanted to respond to Lincoln Chafee’s querulous implication that the issue makes Hillary untrustworthy, Hillary responded “No,” to much rejoicing. It was a smart moment, played well by both, that succeeds in making them look like confident candidates who want to engage with real issues, and Hillary as someone who won’t be put on the defensive in the public eye.

As far as their performance on the actual issues, though, consistency was lacking — Sanders seemed impassioned and boldly claimed his socialist label, but was also sometimes weirdly petty, referring to an objectively calm Hillary as “shouting” and at one point telling O’Malley “well, you haven’t been in Congress!” Hillary, in turn, was very prepared, with a smooth delivery; at times, though, appeals to liberal feminist voters felt transparent, like when she described herself as a ‘progressive’ despite a track record that’s just objectively moderate-to-liberal, or when she answered questions having to do specifically with policy by reminding viewers at home that she would be the first woman president (which is true, and long overdue, but has nothing to do with policy). Bernie seemed to have the stick-to-itiveness, standing by his principles despite being warned that they were unpopular, while Hillary had changed her mind on many of the issues at hand, but Hillary also seems more fundamentally electable. Where one seemed to equivocate on an issue, the other came through, but then that dynamic would be flipped five minutes later. It was not an uncommon feeling among viewers, I don’t think, to wish that you could pick them up and smoosh them together like a kid with Play-Doh to form one candidate that more or less covered all the bases you wanted.

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The debate opened with a pre-recorded message from President Obama, acknowledging how hard many citizen Dem voters worked to get him into office — truly impressive voter drives, community initiatives, door-to-door campaigns and grassroots organizing. He called back to this, and then asked viewers to work even harder than that this election cycle. The thing is, though, that people put in all the work because regardless of how you think his terms have worked out, Obama was a candidate that many people supported without reservation. Many people saw something in his candidacy — at the risk of cliche, they saw a chance for real change — and were willing to put everything they had into making it happen. Their endorsement of Obama was wholehearted and uncomplicated; the choice seemed clear, and the dangers if he wasn’t elected were obvious and alarming. This debate showed us that the situation today is radically different in a number of ways. Whereas in 2008 we may have felt like there was a clear-cut Republican Platform and Democratic Platform, and we knew which one sounded worse, there’s now several different potential platforms on both sides of the party line. Seeing firsthand how much President Obama hasn’t been able to accomplish in his eight years in office, largely due to Republican gridlocking, has perhaps dampened our enthusiasm or faith in any one candidate as an agent of change. The voter pool has changed since 2008, and it’s been a major few years for political awareness — we saw huge changes in the political discourse, from the heyday of wonk-blogging to social media, which may have made some voters more aware of the complexities and difficult nuances of many issues and candidates. Increased discourse around issues like drones, the Black Lives Matter movement, the epidemic of violence against trans women of color, attacks on reproductive rights showed us that sometimes the people we voted for, or even felt like we supported unconditionally, didn’t respond in a way that made us feel good about our vote.

In short, many Democratic voters wish they could feel now the way they felt about Obama in 2008 — that they had found a candidate who truly embodied their values and had what it took to act on them — but most aren’t finding it in either Hillary or Bernie (although to be certain, both candidates certainly have diehard supporters who have been waiting for their 2016 runs with great excitement). It’s anecdotal (although then again, so are debates, kind of), but among my peers, I heard a rousing chorus of uncertainty — people who didn’t feel all that excited about voting for anyone on the stage. Not the apathy that millennials are so often accused of, exactly, but a sense that they’re disappointed that so much of the rhetoric around this candidacy already seems to be centered around which candidate you disagree with least.

Of course, we are still what feels like light years away from the actual election, or even the nomination of a specific Democratic candidate to participate in that election. There’s plenty of time for anything and everything to happen in the meantime; I mean, technically it’s still possible for Joe Biden to join the race, completely changing all the present dynamics. It remains to be seen whether any candidate can ignite real passion in a voting populace that’s spent the last couple years feeling tired, strained, and mistrustful, but the good news is we’ll have many more debates and virtually endless election cycle coverage to process all of it!

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1076 articles for us.

77 Comments

  1. it’s hard for me to find any event where hillary clinton is on tv underwhelming, especially since i’m most often found there whispering “i love you so much” to the television. but that being said! i also enjoyed the lack of in-fighting, as well as the idea that last night was jim webb’s last night in the election.

  2. I have literally been checking this site all day today to see when you would post about the debate last night.

    Not sure if this is the place for discourse because I am usually a reader, not a commenter, but– if this is a place for discourse I have 2 questions I would love to have answered by my AutoStraddle community.

    1) What are the concerns about a Sanders presidency? (It seems from reading this article that many people have concerns with policy and not just his ‘electibility’ I’m cureious about those issues.)

    2) Why are people standing behind Hilary when it seems that she is not highly consistent? (To rephrase the question: How can we trust her to lead us in the direction we want the country to go, if she keeps changing routes.)

    • re: 1 – i think he has tunnel vision sometimes, for better and for worse … but i feel like i need to know a lot more about him before i could say personally

      and 2 – i think because it’s better than the alternative (a republican). which is the problem, right, that we shouldn’t be looking for the lesser of two evils, we should be looking for somebody we love. yet here we are. BUT i would really love to hear from somebody who is passionate about hillary regarding why they are passionate about hillary (besides the fact that she is female)

      • What do you mean when you say tunnel visioned?
        For me tunnel vision means only think about one thing, or a few things and missing everything else. In that case, what do you think his blind spots are?

        It seems to me that the moral code that is the foundation of his platform are like the basics of math. Defined and structured, yet having unlimited permutations.

        I say that because: I have been watching his interviews, and he is so consistent it is absurd. Every vote he has ever cast, on whatever subject, on whatever new issue, has been one that stands up to his moral code- a moral code that hasn’t changed since he was first elected to office, or objected to Vietnam.A moral code that only now (50 years of consistent politics later) is becoming something mainstream. His platform hasn’t changed, his structure hasn’t changed, hes just using his tools to answer a different question.

        Or? What do you think?

        • “Defined and structured with infinite permutations” This is spot on, actually. Because campaign finance reform and getting money out of politics has an effect on nearly every other issue, even social issues, as those are used by the oligarchs to drive a wedge between the rural and cosmopolitan working class.

    • I’ll join in–

      1.) For me, personally, I’m not super confident in Bernie’s ability to garner enough bipartisan support to pass some of his proposed policies (we’ve had trouble even getting Obama’s budget through Congress, and have seen unrelenting resistance from the right re: the Affordable Care Act, and I don’t think most of the Republican party would be any more on-board for other socialist-type programs [by socialist-type, I’m just trying to be clear that I don’t think the ACA is really socialist at all, but trying to make my point that anything actually socialist-leaning wouldn’t get a lot of bipartisan traction, I don’t think]). I don’t think Hillary can garner bipartisan support on all of her proposed policies either, but I think she is better positioned to do so than Bernie.

      2.) I like what Hillary pointed out at the beginning of last night’s debate: we all evolve on certain issues as we learn more (on an individual level, I know I certainly have, on a number of things political or otherwise). I think she said it in the context of her refusal to support the TPP (after initially supporting it), and I don’t think it is a fair excuse for everything she (or any other candidate) has changed her mind on (there’s certainly an argument to be made for pandering to political expediency on some issues, I think), but generally speaking, it doesn’t really bother me if she can provide an explanation as to why/how her position has changed on something.

      So many parentheses–sorry!

      • i like the idea of politicians evolving! i like the idea of them being open to new ideas! i refuse to believe this is a bad thing!

        i also find it kind of humorous, oh wait never mind i meant horrible, that the only candidate who gets pushed on for “changing her mind to suit her audience” is a woman when in fact all politicians change their minds, like literally, bernie sanders announced he was reconsidering his views on gun control like yesterday, right. and nobody cared? and obama “evolved” on gay marriage and we were all like OH WOW THANKS DUDE! THAT’S SO AWESOME!

        like, idk. the idea that a woman will deceive, manipulate, and lie to get what she wants is the flip side of the coin that says men will re-evaluate and re-consider rational arguments because it’s the right thing to do as a leader.

        • Most politicians change their views all the time, just like everyone. No one is perfect, and sometimes new information has us changing our minds.

          What concerns me about Hilary is that she is SO inconsistent, and she panders to what people want to hear and what she needs to say to be elected. It makes me nervous.

          Bernie and the gun issue– I think you need to look into more than you have. What you are saying is not completely accurate, from what I understand.

          • and it isnt just Hilary that makes me nervous on this subject, it is most politicans, just not Bernie. And it may also be that I am noticing it more with Hilary because she is opposite Bernie who has been extremely consistent with his policies.

      • 1) I am hoping that if enough Americans go out to vote for Bernie, that he will have more of congress and will be able to get more things through. But maybe that is too idealistic. I really like the idea of all of us going out and saying ENOUGH!! STOP IGNORING US!! (I work at a hedgefund. I know big money. I know its power. I also know how little Big Money cares about Regular People, I would love for Regular People to have a voice in politics.)

        2)For me, she changes her mind too much. To me, it seems she is just trying to get elected and doesnt really REALLY mean much of what she says. (like, she means it, but she could change her mind pretty easily.)

    • i feel like i support hillary now for the same reason i supported hillary in 2008 and have supported her work forever and always, which is that i see politics as a really complex maze and i see her as someone who can navigate it. i think coming from where i come from – which is to say, after having spent seven years in dc – makes me approach politics a lot more pragmatically and realistically. i do think policies should have end goals, and that politicians should have vision – and i think hillary and her policies have those things – but i also believe that implementing change, like seriously legislating and making executive decisions that fundamentally shift how things are going in this country, involves political know-how and the ability to conceive of radical changes in gradual pieces. i feel like i understand hillary’s end goals and her vision, but i also trust her most to get that shit done, or to get it started, than most of the other people in her party, let alone the folks she was on stage with.

      i also tend to worry that bernie sanders comes at all issues with a class lens – which i can appreciate and value, and i think clinton also does well – but tends to disregard race, gender, sexuality, etc. like, in other words, i worry that bernie sanders is an old white guy who thinks improving everyone’s standing economically is the key to solving their social issues that are actually also deepened by marginalization and oppression, and i think it comes from an inability to perceive how heavy marginalization and oppression are due to his personal experience. stuff like this came up when he tried to argue that racial justice issues were purely economic issues, and also that weirdo gang-rape shit he wrote in college. it’s just not stuff i really want to have to worry about when i vote dem, since social issues are my bread and butter.

      • This sums up most of my feelings about both of them too–I read somewhere today that Hillary isn’t a great candidate but would be a good president, and I feel like that’s it. We want to vote for archetypes, but I would rather elect someone who can get things done. Also I am just having a hard time getting excited about another old white guy, even if it’s one who I tend to agree with.

    • Okay, I definitely can’t answer either in depth, nor am I claiming to support any of this, but…

      1) A lot of people are concerned about his economic policy. He’s a democratic socialist, which a lot of people (even liberals) don’t particularly like. His budget requires a lot of money and he’s pushing for some things that are unrealistic – he’s mentioned free college education being a priority, for example. Also, a lot of people are disappointed he’s pursuing the presidency, creating difficulty in drumming up support for Hillary, when he could be running for Governor of Vermont instead (since the Democratic incumbent isn’t fantastic and he could have easily defeated him). He also could have run that race as an Independent, which could set important precedents for the future of third parties.

      There are a lot of other criticisms that can be made but coming from a liberal standpoint, those are the ones I’ve heard most often.

      2) Most of the people I’ve spoken to who are still supporting Hillary despite the movement on issues are doing so for several reasons. First, Sanders’ campaign is pulling her to the left, forcing her to be more progressive in order to earn the Democratic ticket. Frankly, I don’t find that comforting – she could just move back – but there you have it. Second, some people argue that she’s now in a greater position to share her honest opinions since she’s running in this race in a way she couldn’t before. Again, that’s not an argument I find particularly compelling, but it’s an argument that’s being made. And finally, a lot of people who would support Bernie over Hillary in a two-person race are still thinking about Bernie’s electability over a Republican nominee and think Hillary stands a better chance in the national election, whether or not that’s true in the Primaries. So, like Riese said, it’s a lesser-of-two-evils situation.

      • Thank you, you have made very valid points (about what is and is not possible for a president to accomplish, especially with less friends than Hilary has)
        I really feel like I have a better understanding, so thank you! 🙂

      • that’s so interesting! personally, bernie’s economic policies are what i’m most enthusiastic about, but i also am a socialist, i just never expected a socialist candidate in my lifetime. although free college tuition isn’t a thing i’d prioritize specifically (i think college itself isn’t the be-all end-all of employment preparation it would have to be to justify prioritizing it to that level). But I agree that he doesn’t really have a shot at the national level. but i do think that his popularity is drawing attention to something very interesting about the left in many ways, and trump is doing so for the right in many ways. i mean trump is the worst, obviously, but in their own ways they’re both tapping into everybody’s hunger for authenticity.

    • 1) For me, the primary concern about a Sanders presidency is his wholehearted support of Israel and how his campaign has so far squashed dissent. Israel’s settler invasion is a horrifying human rights violation and people within Gaza and the West Bank are going to continue suffering massive human rights violations unless one of the primary military and economic supporters of Israel (USA) is going to draw a line in the sand – refusing to not only endorse the invasion, but to stop making it actually feasible for it to happen.

      2) I can’t answer that. If Bernie Sanders wins the primary, I will vote for him. If Hillary Clinton wins the primary, I will vote for her. I have no love for anyone engaged in electoral politics in the USA at a state or federal level. Will both of them hopefully suck way less than a raving Republican president? Yes. Am I going to get excited or talk about how much I like either of them or go out and campaign or make calls? No.

      tl;dr as my dear friend recently said, “electoral politics are trash.” necessary, but why you gonna wallow in it as much as possible with wholehearted enthusiasm.

      • Jessica, I’m glad you pointed out the Israel bit–it’s something I care a lot about myself. Unfortunately, anyone who prioritizes Palestinian human rights is going to be very disappointed in both Sanders and Clinton. I’m actually MUCH more wary of Clinton than I am of Sanders on the Palestine-Israel issues, because 1) she’s a foreign policy hawk who has shown no love for my arab brothers and sisters (and otherwise-identified arab siblings!) in the past and especially as Sec of State, and 2) because of that RIDICULOUS anti-BDS letter she wrote “to” Haim Saban (but really it was public and addressed to the entire pro-Israel lobby), wherein she viciously attacked the biggest and most successful nonviolent Palestinian-led human rights movement. Nope. Not gonna fly with me.

        Ultimately, I feel like Clinton’s too dependent on such huge, aggressively pro-Israel donors to ever really give a rat’s ass about Palestinian human rights.

        Also! her video statement this past week that completely elided the Palestinian loss of life in recent weeks (at least 30 Palestinians have been killed since October 1…but all she mentioned was Israelis) is unacceptable.

    • in reply to your answer: 1)What are concerns about a Sanders presidency? Sanders is very left of (all) the candidates. Americans by birth have come to accept that americans are number one at everything and would likely to turn a blind eye to things that make us weak or wrong. Sanders points out all the ugly stains on america and is turning off (ignorant) americans. Also, americans as a whole like to see pizzazz! We want to see a hero! None of that glitter is shown in Sander’s apperance. People want to see the ‘aura’ and are disappointed when they see reality staring back at them.

      2) people are standing by Hilary because she is a woman. so many people are just gung ho about getting a woman to sit in the oval office they will look past her flip-flopping-ness. PLUS! she is a clinton!

  3. Once I was invited to a small group meeting with NYS Planned Parenthood staff and volunteers with SENATOR Clinton. There was a group picture after and I was not in it because I had a poop emergency. Like, I had to run to the nearest Congressional restroom. And I missed the picture. And I will forever hate myself and whoever put dairy in my food at lunch.

    That is all.

    Also, I feel very strongly about wanting to smoosh Clinton and Sanders together into one better candidate. That playdoh visual really sums up how I think a lot of us are feeling.

  4. yes this is how i feel and it’s frustrating. i feel like hillary is smarter than a lot of her policies. i think obama did something weird with our heads. like john kerry was also REALLY underwhelming as a candidate, but somehow i was still okay being like YES JOHN KERRY FOREVER, because that was just politics, and also george w. bush was the certified worst — but i never expected anybody whose ideas remind me of my own ideas about the world could ever be president, and then there was OBAMA and everything felt possible! and now my standards are higher for me to get behind a presidential candidate 100%.

  5. Thoughts and stuff:

    -unlike previous election years where ppl didn’t vote because ‘there’s no difference in the candidates’ or ‘it’s just the lesser of two evils; the two-party system is broken’, this election cycle has both integrity *and* a tremendous range of views represented even just the Dem panel, from a socialist to Jim Webb’s republican-esque conservatism. There are important differences between the candidates that give voters real leverage in having their priorities represented in the White House. Democracy!

    -i am fascinated and proud that a socialist democrat is a serious contender, and a woman candidate is a serious contender, and really looking forward to seeing more coverage of their future debates and learning more about their records / plans. (So, I was not underwhelmed.) And the issues they brought to the table! Black lives matter, ending gun violence, student debt and tuition, protecting planned parenthood, global warming, campaign finance reform! Critical issues that have stagnated for too long: the candidates engaged with them both in looking back at their previous efforts and looking forward to concrete progress.

    When I remember the childish and embarrassing personality politics of previous elections, the scandals, the transparent pandering and disastrous and corrupt leadership etc etc etc of Reagan/Bush/Clinton years? This is a vast improvement.
    This debate was a big win for democracy and a win for the democratic party. I was exhilarated.

    -While clinton was polished in this first debate, she has much more west wing experience than the other candidates, absorbing presidential conduct while working with Obama, not to mention as first lady, and during her 2008 run. other candidates should have stepped up in order to gain ground in this debate against a front-runner with those advantages, but they seemed unpolished and under-prepared to me.

    -I think with Obama we had a person who sought office because he cared about issues and wanted to instigate change. His critics even in the Dem party say he didn’t do enough while in the oval office, for example for black people, but when I reviewed his earlier activism in chicago’s south side and his activities as Illinois senator on wikipedia, he was very active in this area. I think he chose to exert influence through other channels like getting Sotomayor confirmed and supporting commerce efforts in promoting renewables, and chose his battles as head of executive branch against the gridlock of congress with a triage mentality: I think the affordable health care act was a huge accomplishment (dems have failed for decades to get a national health care bill passed) that was the right choice for the issue to fight for, as it benefited the most americans (or tried to) including disadvantaged groups, and was what the majority of the country wanted and needed. That he was able to do this *in addition* to handling the economic crises and getting troops out of Iraq and other problems he inherited, makes him pretty impressive to me. To me Obama is a wise leader.

    -Contrast with Hillary, who seems more conniving that wise, in that she seems to me to seek office because she wants to be a powerful person. There’s intelligence required to have the Philadelphia Avenue street smarts that she displays, but I’m totally unconvinced that any issues matter to her beyond a means to enhance her personal influence. So while she certainly can handle herself in politics, she lacks the moral authority and substance that for me is an essential qualification for president of the U.S. Her experience would make her a good advisor to the oval office, but not its leader.

    -Sanders on the other hand, while he has the integrity and vision I’m missing in Hillary, doesn’t seem ready for prime time, to me at least. He knows that televised debates are important to show presidential qualities but he seemingly deliberately avoided the poise and polish that’s part of being commander-in-chief. I am immensely impressed with other aspects of his campaign, like the fact that he’s successfully connecting with grass-roots demographics for funding and support, and his commitment to bring his socialist vision to the Dem ticket this election. But he seems to be better suited to be continuing these things behind the scenes as advisor and legislator, rather than as The Prez.

    -Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden would strengthen the Dem ticket substantially once running mates are announced for the primary election. I look forward to hearing from them.

    -I hope the civilized and respectful tone set by the Dems moves the Republicans away from their circus act of bigotry and shallow personality politics to something more worthy of the oval office.

    All this to say, I’m stoked about this election and really interested in what everybody thinks. Thanks Rachel for your hot takes here and AS for highlighting the debates online for us!

  6. Not exactly interesting as much as predictable that according to all the major online polls and metrics people feel like Sanders won the debate by a wide margin but all the mainstream media outlets say Clinton won. Predictable but damn annoying.

    • Online polls and metrics (I assume you mean social media?) aren’t particularly good sources, 1 because they tend to have poor methodologies, and 2. because they massively over-represent a particular demographic (which happens to directly relate to Sanders biggest supporter base).
      More reliable places like 538 and Predictwise correctly note that Clinton and Sanders both did pretty well, which means Clinton remains the overwhelming favorite for the nomination. This wasn’t much of a winning/losing debate for the two of them, both did about as expected and the needle didn’t move.

      • You have your head in the sand if you can’t see there is MASSIVELY more enthusiasm for Sanders. Yes, Clinton is the favorite for the nomination still. Because she’s a toe- the-party-line spineless hack. That’s who the DNC wants to win so of course she’s the favorite.

  7. Also can I say that I’m so glad we’ve moved beyond the transparent falsehood of ‘I didn’t inhale’ (distilling the essential wankerness of Bill Clinton to one moment) to last night’s ‘welp everyone here tokes and that’s cool.’

  8. Thanks for the great analysis of the debate, Rachel! Just stepping in to say three short things:

    1) The Canadian Federal election is on MONDAY. FYI, for the non-Canadians, this is going to be a BIG one. This election is going to have an enormous impact on our country, and it would be really, really great if Autostraddle could talk about it, even a little bit.

    2) As a compare-and-contrast exercise, the current Canadian election has lasted for 16 weeks. It is the LONGEST election in Canadian history, I think (correct me if I’m wrong, someone). Everybody is complaining about it. 16 weeks! And the US elections last TWO YEARS. How on EARTH do you do it!?

    3) I loved that PlayDoh analogy! But isn’t it possible to smoosh them together? What does everyone think about Hillary nominating Bernie as VP? (I say Bernie as VP because I’m pretty positive Hillary would never accept a VP position). Would she still be as “electable”? Would having Bernie on the ticket make her drift to the left more permanent? Would he even accept?

    • About your #2, 16 weeks doesn’t seem like a lot of time.

      On Oct. 25, with our presidential election, I will be voting for the fourth time this year; and all the numbers are showing a big chance of ballotage in the coming election.

      Every election implies, by law, 3 or 4 weeks of campaign, and you can be sure that every party and politician is skipping that campaign limitation. My bullshit-meter is working at its limits.

  9. Hillary was well-rehearsed and polished. That doesn’t mean she is more knowledgable or competent. Irony is her claiming to be more knowledgable about Syria when she voted for the war that was a large contributee to the instability in the region, Bernie voted against the Iraq war, and he’s on the record displaying his prescience that it would become the quagmire it is today.

    Also worth noting that Bernie has been fighting for gay rights since the 80s, before it was cool. Hillary was an opponent of gay rights until it was politically convenient not to be. Bernie’s top donors are union members and everyday people. Hillary’s are wall street bankers and fat cats.Any progressive should be weary of her on that alone.

    Bernie could have benefited from a rehearsal, but in my view he posseses the leadership qualities that are important in a commander in chief.He hasn’t been perfect on guns. But that’s about my only complaint, and he has voted for assault weapons bans and instant background checks in spite of his pro-gun constituents in the past, another sign of courage on his part.

    He receives a higher rating than Hillary from the NAACP, Human Rights Campaign, and the ACLU.

    I don’t know. It’s pretty clear to me who b the right candidate is.

    • As a supporter of Bernie, I wanted to ask your opinion on how he would fare in the actual role of president. His track record is excellent for the most part, there’s no doubting that, but would he really be more effective as a president than Hillary, who has been up-close and personal with the presidency and has greater experience with international politics?

      • There’s plenty of criticism out there on her foreign policy, and i think some of my above comment already speaks to your question, when i mentioned Hilary’s lack of foresight on Iraq and the Iraq war’s effects still contributing to instability in the region today, contrasting that to Bernie’s foresight in predicting just that.
        For criticisms of the current administration’s foreign policy, check our Jeremy Scahill and Noam Chomsky, though.

      • Hi, there are plenty of critiques of the current administration’s foreign policy. And I think I speak to some of your question in my comment above, when I mentioned Hillary’s lack of foresight on the effects of the Iraq war and its contribution to the instability in the region we still see today, contrasting that to Bernie’s accurate predictions about the effects of that war. Bernie has also served on defense committees as a senator so he has some experience.

        For more info on Hillary’s hawkish imperialistic policies, though, check out Jeremy Scahill and Noam Chomsky’s writings on the topic.

  10. i have to say, i felt like martin o’malley struck me as a real candidate last night for the first time. i didn’t agree with him on everything, but i didn’t agree with anyone on everything, and i felt like he was really well prepared and he made some valuable points.

    clinton feels slimy to me. and i was annoyed that she pointed out twice that electing her meant electing a woman. did she do a focus group and decide that this was going to work in her favor?

    bernie feels… unrealistic. his ideas that i love the most are the ones that i think are least likely to actually be able to happen (healthcare, education) because they are so far beyond what anyone in congress is willing to consider.

    what i keep thinking about this election cycle is how we ought to spend more time and effort looking at congressional candidates. because that is where real change happens, and we need to start getting rid of the old dudes and make congress into something that works for real people.

  11. Meh, I don’t even bother with that stuff, personally. The candidates are all mediocre at best and more or less the same anyway from my perspective. Besides, the Dodgers (thik blue!) were beating the Mets, and that was way more interesting.

  12. stepping back for a second: I love that Autostraddle writers and editors are being so honest about their personal feelings about the election rather than pretending to be “objective.” I really appreciate it! Especially when there are definitely compelling reasons to support both Hillary and Bernie AND to be frustrated/undecided.

  13. I really appreciate everything Carmen’s said in the earlier comment thread – especially ” i think coming from where i come from – which is to say, after having spent seven years in dc – makes me approach politics a lot more pragmatically and realistically.”

    I feel like so many people who don’t follow politics very closely act like Washington is like some sort of mythical kingdom where only those who are the most pure of heart/ideologically consistent can pull the sword out of the stone and and govern and pass legislation… but that’s not actually the way it works at all.
    (people of all political stripes fall into this! just look at the mess the house freedom caucus (vom) has made!)

    I read this really great commentary from Ezra Klein about Hillary getting shit done (“I’m a progressive who likes to get things done”) and I’m just like “ugh slytherin queen of my heart” but I get that others might respond “ugh evil woman I’m voting Bernie.”
    http://www.vox.com/2015/10/6/9461021/hillary-clinton-executive-power

    I don’t support the candidate that necessarily has the closest viewpoint to mine (Bernie wants a wealth redistribution revolution! so do I!). I support the one who will make the country the best – a process which includes, significantly, getting elected. Plus I just really like her a lot as a person (but this comment is already too long to get into that!)

    Hillary 2016 <3 <3 <3

    • Bernie is in the top 25% for senators serving in the same session for getting bills enacted, though, including a bi-partisan bill for ensuring health care for vets.

      There are some things he can do with executive action independently of congress. For instance, there will likely be at least 2 supreme court appointments to be made during his term.

      He has the enthusiasm to mobilize his supporters to put pressure on congress. I know people said the same thing about Obama, but Obama honestly didn’t even try. He went from “Yes, we can.” to “Hey, I got this.” almost immediately. All his economic advisors were the same bunch advising Clinton when they decided it was a great idea to de-regualate derivative and repeal Gass-steagall, both of which led to the 2008 financial crash. Obama’s top campaign donors were Wall Street bankers, just like Hillary, so it’s no wonder. He could’ve put together a task force a lot sooner to prosecute wall street crime but he didn’t until it was conveniently too late to be effective due to statute laws.

      The media elites love the sound-bite “Im a progressive who gets things done” but she hasn’t been any more effective than Bernie at getting anything done honestly.

      The Kissinger-esque realpolitik attitude is exactly what prevents real change from happening, in my view. Sometimes a leap of faith is necessary if we really want to see any progress. Sanders has the courage and leadership to help bring it about. He can’t change everything, but he can do a lot.

      • omg no thank you for all your earlier comments! I was a semi-closeted Hillary supporter for a while (all the cool queers hated her!), but I decided this election was just too important to be quiet about and having an unpopular opinion is really not that big a deal. I’ve really appreciated reading what you’ve written about her!

        I was very much NOT for her in 2008 – I was in high school and dealing with all the internalized misogyny. My high school was very solidly for Obama, and I have the very distinct memory of a senior yelling out to a passing car which had a Hillary bumper sticker “Cunt!” and everyone laughed (including me!) (because misogyny is progressive if you’re supporting a Democratic rival of hers obvi!) There was this weird attitude in my high school that if you were for Hillary then you were a racist and if you were for Obama you weren’t racist which was weird because it was a private school in Virginia full of rich, white kids and we were all very racist no matter which candidate we supported.

  14. Interesingly, I had a completely opposite reaction. I went into the debate feeling depressed about politics and ended up feeling proud to be a democrat again. Yes, Webb and Chaffee sucked, but no one cares about them anyway. Clinton, Sanders, and O’Malley all gave solid performances and did so without bashing one another (they disagreed, but it was civil) and without resorting to the sort of name calling that characterized the republican debates. Of course, I still have plenty of issues with the mainstream democratic party, it it was nice to be reminded that there really are major differences between the two parties.

    I generally prefer Sanders bolder progressive policy proposals to Clinton’s, but she is still the presumputive nominee and it was a huge relief to see her debate so skillfully – I was begining to lose hope that she could win the general election, but after last night I feel like we at least have a shot.

  15. I’m a German and I’m lacking a lot of info, honestly.
    However, of course, I still have an opinion;-)
    Sanders sounds a lot,a LOT, like what I would say if I were to run for office.
    When I read his stuff, I was SO psyched that this guy had an actual shot at running.
    However, when I saw him, I didn’t get that slightly superior, above it all feeling, that usually runs with US politicians.
    Hillary, on the other hand, is hard as steel.
    A lot of people in the US have been severely disappointed by a visionary of a president in ah, very recent history.
    A lot of people are scared and poor and suffering.
    A lot of people need someone like a rock.
    And Bernie Sanders is, sadly, not that rock.
    Since I haven’t yet heard of a Republican candidate that wouldn’t get criminial charges filed against him, at least in my country (Germany is weird that way, in that we have laws where it’s a felony to talk negatively about a group of people and suggest to ship them off..or wanting to mess with individual rights, like healthcare for women, or like women’s rights,etc.) a Democratic candidate that even Republicans can vote for, might not be the worst of things.
    Obama won the last elections by a hair’s breath, and that with the impossible duo of Cain/Palin opposing him.
    I do not need to remind anyone about Bush junior, who got reelected.
    What I am saying is, that Sanders would very probably not win the presidency and Clinton might.
    And someone other than Donald Trump really needs to, because your country really needs someone who is in this for other than megalomaniac reasons..

  16. You know you live in a pretty insular bubble when all your friends are complaining that Bernie isn’t left enough…

    I came into work today (at a v liberal workplace – theatre company!) and found everyone discussing how much they liked Hillary and suddenly remembered oh yeah! Most of the world has not dismissed her as an Imperialist centrist!

  17. I SO agree with the whole smooshing-Bernie-and-Hilary-together-like-play-doh thing. I also think that if that was physically possible it would produce someone a lot like Elizabeth Warren, who I’m forever holding out hope for.

    • Mainly I find Hillary sort of terrifying because she is SO into pushing military intervention abroad. Like, really, really into it. Did they even go into that in the debate? I tried to stay focused for the entire thing, but…

      Also I’m so disappointed in Bernie’s stance on guns! Sigh. Sigh! And even though I’m also really into the Scandinavian democratic-socialist political model, I wonder if he’s thought through how he would try to go about pushing through his campaign promises with a Republican majority congress. Has he ever addressed that?

    • Idk, Warren advocated against trans people in prison getting trans related health care on the grounds that it was not “medically necessary.” She gets massive side-eye from me until she apologizes for that.

  18. For more than 30 years politics has been reduce to: “realpolitiks”, “pragmatic and realistic”, “the lesser of two evils”, “the end of ideologies”, etc.

    And we can see the results of that, don’t we? That seem to be working wonderfully, no? Yes, the world it’s a wonderful and fair place now, no?

    Maybe we should try another approach.

  19. I could never bring myself to vote for someone who voted for the Iraq war. The blood is on her hands. Also, her black lives matter response was weaker than anybody but Webb.

    Though both of them being pro-Israel is disgusting, especially in light of the recent massacre of Palestinians.

    I think Bernie’s approach is becoming more intersectional. Activists spoke out, and instead of blowing them off he listened and grew. And I don’t think we’ve had as progressive of a candidate running as a democrat since Kucinich.

    With Hillary’s hawkishness, and her history of attacking civil liberties, it’s either Bernie or Green for me.

    I’m pretty pessimistic about our political system in general. I was so excited when Obama ran for president, but to be honest it’s been extremely disappointing. The trans community has made some significant gains under the Obama Administration, but I’m not sure how that stacks up against all of the innocent people getting slaughtered by drone warfare overseas. He’s also continued many of the policies that I hated most from the Bush Administration.

    The major reason I’m supporting Bernie is that he’s started a national conversation about progressive/socialist policies that I wouldn’t have dreamed would be possible. Even if he doesn’t win the primary, the better he does, the further left we can bring this conversation.
    Democratic socialism becoming a household word would also be pretty awesome.

    • Thank you. My sentiments exactly. Obama was really weak on Wall Street as well. As I already mentioned in another comment, I don’t think this is coincidental to their being his top campaign donors, just as is the case with Hillary.

      I hope Bernie evolves on his foreign policy issues as well, but the truth is none of it can truly change if only a handful of oligarch are the only ones with any sway in the political system, and Bernie at least knows to put this issue first and foremost.

  20. I can’t believe so many people still support Hillary after so long. She doesn’t seem to have any real and strong beliefs, just comes off as very nakedly ambitious and hungry for power. She’s been in powerful positions in the government for so long but doesn’t really have any major successes to point to and say, yeah look this is a policy I want to build on to achieve change on a larger scale.

    Not that I’m a big fan of the old guy but it’s clear that people like him for his grandfatherly charm and how he makes “”socialism”” (in fact a v v water down version of it) seem good for the common old white man, not just women and people of color.

    • Cat!!! Great point!!! She should have done something noteworthy. Though, has anyone in politics done anything noteworthy? Maybe it’s more a comment on how hard it is to actually get anything good done in this country…
      (Just a thought)

  21. It was a debate, not a rally. Regardless, Sanders’ campaign received 2 million dollars in small donor donations the night of the debate, so it seems that, yes, many people did hear someone speaking–some to the extent that they moved to act. It’s a bit disappointing to hear the same regurgitated talking points here on Autostraddle.

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