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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Clinton-Sanders Milwaukee Debate: Civility with Zingers

In last night’s Democratic presidential debate in Milwaukee candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders again provided an impressive example of civility and how to conduct an informative and uplifting discussion of their respective visions for America’s future — and their differences concerning the policies needed to get there.
Those who hoped for a blustering mud-wallow were probably disappointed, though you may see overheated headlines suggesting otherwise.That’s not to say that either candidate was reluctant to call out the adversary with clever zingers. A couple of examples from Tal Kopan’s CNN Politics post “Top 10 lines from the PBS NewsHour Democratic debate“:

“Well I know journalists have asked who you do listen to on foreign policy and we have yet to know who that is,” Clinton said in response to Sanders slamming Kissinger.
“Let’s not insult the intelligence of the American people. People aren’t dumb. Why in God’s name does Wall Street make huge campaign contributions? I guess just for the fun of it; they want to throw money around,” Sanders said of Clinton and Obama taking money from big donors on Wall Street.

There were some wince-inducing moments, including Clinton gushing a little too much about her admiration of Obama. Ed Kilgore noted Sanders’ “harping on old-hippie preoccupations,” such as Nixon era Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s role in Cambodia, and carrying on about FDR and Churchill.
My impression was that Clinton dominated the debate, though not by much. Her closing statement was significantly better, however. Both candidates provided an admirable example of thoughtful, informed and mature political discourse, which we have seen, is no longer to be taken for granted in America.
Overall, this was another confidence-inspiring presidential debate, which stands in dignified contrast to the Republican snarkfests. Trump has nastily insulted so many of his adversaries that it is hard to picture him picking any of them as his running mate, should he win the GOP nomination. But it’s easy to see Clinton and Sanders running together on the same ticket. Both are doing so well that it may become hard to do otherwise.
Taking a step back and surveying the value of the Democratic debates so far, there is reason for Dems to be optimistic. These are great debates, and the pragmatist vs. idealist theme that has emerged can help to clarify Democratic Party priorities. Both candidates are also setting a solid example for Democratic candidates running down-ballot, and that’s a good thing indeed.
Those who missed the debate can watch it right here.

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