BY EMILY BETZ
Acting Opinion Editor
The first Democratic debate for the 2016 preliminary elections was held on Oct 13, 2015. The candidates present were former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders. Also making guest appearances were former Governor Lincoln Chafee, former Senator Jim Webb and former Governor Martin O’Malley.
If there was a prize at the debate for “most whining,” it would’ve gone to Jim Webb. He spent his first 5 minutes listing off the names of all his children and their professions and the rest of the time complaining about not being allowed to speak. On Tuesday, Oct 20, he dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination.
O’Malley did not do badly, but that is the best you can say for him. He outlined his strict view on gun control, clearly and concisely, explaining his plan for reform. But, there was no standout “wow” moment, nothing that would push him out of the bottom 1% of the polls.
Chafee’s most memorable moment was floundering to explain to Anderson Cooper why he voted on a bill to make banks bigger in 1999 after saying his stance was firmly the opposite. His only explanation was an uncomfortable, half-hearted excuse about how it was his first vote, his dad had recently died, and everyone else was voting for it anyways. He stumbled trying to tell Cooper he was a block of granite when it came to the issues. Anderson countered: “Must be pretty soft granite. You have been a republican, an independent and now a democrat.” Chafee also chose to step out of the race for the presidency.
Finally, we have what the whole debate really came down to: Clinton and Sanders. Sanders came out strong with his usual speech about big banks, Wall Street, and the 1% being the evils plaguing our country. When asked by a college student whether “black lives matter or all lives matter,” he without hesitation answered “black lives matter”. He went on to back up his reasoning with Sandra Bland, the controversial death of a black woman who was found hanging in her cell after being arrested on a routine traffic stop. Many have speculated this was a planned move on his part to make a push in the polls for minority votes, where he has not been doing well. He was a little shaky when Clinton was attacking him for voting against a bill to mandate background checks on gun owners and voting for a bill that gave gun manufacturers immunity. Sanders defended his actions saying “it was a large and complicated bill,” whereas Clinton was sure to let us know she voted against the very same bill. Sanders’ shining moment was more a win for Clinton than it was for himself – when Clinton was getting grilled on her recent email scandal, the controversy in which Clinton had sent classified emails from a private email account, Sanders stood up for her saying “the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”
Clinton came out of this debate the clear winner. In a league all her own, she effortlessly fielded tough questions thrown out by Cooper, while simultaneously attacking Sanders on his gun control policies. When Cooper asked her if she was a moderate or progressive, she said “I’m a progressive. But I am a progressive who likes to get things done.” She made clear her stance on gun control, her plans for paid leave, a woman’s right to choose, and breaking down discrimination based on gender, race, and sexual orientation. She highlighted her plans for Wall Street, education reform, and her years of experience foreign policy shone through. One of the things Hillary did differently from the other candidates was admit to her mistakes. Where other candidates stumbled over trying to defend their actions, Hillary wasn’t afraid to say she had messed up or changed her mind, as people sometimes do. However her most memorable moment of the night was just a two letter response when confronted by Chafee for her email scandal yet again, Cooper asked if she wanted to counter and she simply said “No.” For some of the candidates, the campaign trail is over. For Bernie Sanders and Clinton, there are many debates ahead before we know if we will have the first woman or first socialist president in 2016.