Unlike the previous two Republican presidential debates, last night’s Democratic presidential debate was actually a civilized and informative political discourse. Instead of personally attacking each other and discussing a lot of irrelevant topics, the Democratic candidates actually discussed the numerous challenges facing our country and world. In fact, the candidates covered the gamut: the economy, wealth disparity, health care, mental health, social security, gun control, foreign policy, the Black Lives Matter Movement, institutional racism, criminal justice reform, Wall Street, effects of big money in and on politics and government, college affordability, immigration reform, civil liberties, climate change, campaign finance reform, paid family leave and the war on drugs. It was refreshing to actually watch a passionate and articulate debate on the issues.
No matter what issues are discussed in the debates, it is imperative that African Americans and Latinos be involved in American government and politics, both as participants and as leaders. Political engagement, participation and empowerment is not only vital to our communities, but it is fundamental to our responsibility as Americans. Bernie Sanders was correct on how to effect change, “we must raise the public consciousness, get more people to vote, and teach people about what is going on in DC.” (paraphrased) With African Americans and Latinos becoming the majority in our largest cities and in our country, it is important that we understand the issues facing our country and world and that we remain actively involved in choosing the leadership of our country. Watching and analyzing the presidential debates is one way to do so.
Notably in last night’s debate, the Democrats were impressive in the way they addressed many of the issues disproportionately affecting the African American and Latino communities. Unlike the Republicans, they were candid and respectful. In fact, at the conclusion of the debate O’Malley proudly proclaimed in his closing statement, “On this stage, you did not hear anyone denigrate women, make racist comments, or speak ill of anyone because of their religious beliefs.” (paraphrased)
In case you missed it, there is no need to fret. This summary is for you. Below are the top ten takeaways from the first Democratic Presidential Debate.
Top 10 Takeaways from the 1st Democratic Presidential Debate:
- The Democratic debate vs. the Republican debate—there is a definitely a difference between entertainment and political/intellectual discourse. Having watched all three debates—the two Republican debates and the Democratic debate, I conclude the following: the Democrats irrefutably schooled the Republicans on the modus operandi of debate. The Democrats proved that the presidential candidates would serve the American public more by sticking to the issues and policy instead of focusing on how to land the best punch or punch line. Although outrageous and preposterous drama creates good reality TV, it really has no place in American politics. Our leaders must realize that they are not just on the American stage, but they are also on the world stage. Foolishness undermines our leadership, not only in America but in the world. Admittedly, the American public is also at fault for our insatiable appetite for nonsense. Americans always like a good bar brawl. In essence, how did the Democratic debate compare to the Republican debate? It depends on what you like. The Democrats gave us more discussion on the issues, but the Republicans definitely gave us more laughs.
- The Republicans need to take lessons on civility from the Democrats. As one CNN commentator stated, the Democrats held “a dignified debate.” The Democrats demonstrated that candidates can discuss and debate the issues without attacking each other personally. There is definitely a place and need for civility in American government and politics.
- The Democrats spoke about issues disproportionately facing African Americans and Latinos without being condescending, denigrating or offensive to either community. No “aliens.” No walls. No send-them-ALL-back-to-Mexico rhetoric. Yes to black life. Yes to the Black Lives Matter Movement. Yes to criminal justice reform… Refreshing.
- “Enough about the damn emails!” Finally, there are presidential candidates who are ready to discuss the REAL issues.
- Jim Webb was participating in the wrong debate. Is Webb really a Republican trying to pass as a Democrat?
- Lincoln Chafee didn’t belong in the debate. Chafee appeared unprepared and unconvincing. Did Chafee’s team inform him that he was participating in a US presidential debate? What was he thinking??? My sister stated that a she was so bored and annoyed by his responses that she actually closed her computer to cut him off and do something else. Then, she suddenly realized she was actually watching a debate, and so she returned to it.
- Martin O’Malley has the credentials, experience and the track record, but lacks the command of presence that many Americans would like to see in their Commander in Chief. Despite his affirmative opening statement, “I have learned how to become an effective leader,” and his supportive evidence proving his claim, O’Malley needs to be more believable, more convincing. Although he holds a lot of promise, O’Malley lacks the magnetic appeal necessary to grab the attention and support of the public. The next objective for his team is a must: develop presidential charisma.
- Bernie Sanders was consistent in articulating a central theme throughout the debate: the billionaire class is primarily responsible for the political and economic challenges that America faces and that the American people must advocate for systemic change in order to effectively address America’s challenges. According to Sanders, “No one can deal with the ills facing our country without dealing with the billionaire class who are running our economy and political life.” (paraphrased) In fact, Sanders seemed genuinely concerned about making prosperity possible for all American people, stating “Economic growth does not mean anything if all of the wealth is going to the top one percent…We need to create a model that works for all.” (paraphrased) Throughout the debate Sanders argued for democratic socialism, explaining it as a society where all people prosper economically and have access to health care.
- Hillary Clinton emerged as the clear winner of the debate—not because of her domination of the debate, but because of what she will gain from the debate. Despite the fact that Bernie Sanders had a strong performance, clearly articulating his ideas, positions and policies, Clinton appeared to get the most momentum out of the debate. Clinton answered questions succinctly and confidently, her rebuttals were strong and assertive, and she had a charming and likable personality. Clinton’s execution pushed her campaign a little further from her competition.
- More presidential debates would obviously benefit the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party has announced that it will only host six debates compared to twelve of the Republican Party. Considering last night’s debate, the debates actually help the party by providing a platform for candidates to promote Democratic principles and values. Democrats, therefore, need to recognize that the party will be strengthened and its ideas will be advanced when it is present in the public discourse and debate, which is now dominated by the Republicans.