Democrats bring debate close to home


Sanders and Clintion discuss key aspects of their respective campaigns.

Amanda Zarder, Staff Writer

On February 11, the remaining two Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, debated at UWM in Milwaukee’s Helen Bader Concert Hall. Airing on PBS and livestreamed at 8PM CT, the debate was moderated by Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff of PBS NewsHour. This follows a Republican debate in Milwaukee last November.

Seats are typically reserved for large donors and candidates’ friends and family; however, approximately 25 tickets were made available to students at the university. Meanwhile, eight million families tuned in at home and many utilized social media to become involved.

This was the first debate after the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary. Clinton narrowly won the February 1st Iowa caucus, edging out Sanders by .3%. Meanwhile, Sanders won the February 9th New Hampshire primary with 60% support. The race had become close after Martin O’Malley left the bid for president. Clinton’s lead decreased to 13 points nationally, according to the RCP average prior to the debate; however, she still remained the democratic frontrunner.

The night began with Sanders’ opening statement, which highlighted the major issues important to his campaign, with an emphasis on his success so far, corruption in the campaign finance system, the unfavorable economy, and the broken justice system.

“The American people have responded to a series of basic truths,” Sanders stated. “What our campaign is indicating is that the American people are tired of establishment politics, tired of establishment economics…in this great country, we need a government that represents all of us.”

Clinton followed, focusing her introduction on her goals to tackle the obstacles facing everyday Americans, including the economy, money in politics, racism, and women’s rights.

“America can only live up to its potential when we make sure that every American has a chance to live up to his or her potential,” Clinton explained. “That will be my mission as president. And I think together we will make progress.”

Once the debate began, each candidate was allotted 90 seconds to answer a question, with 30 seconds given to the competitor for a rebuttal. Two short breaks were hosted by Hari Sreenivasan, who reviewed debate highlights.

The candidates covered a range of topics, including the size of government, Wall Street and Super PACs, race relations, Medicaid, immigration, campaign contributions, Kissinger, refugees, and influential leaders.

Another topic discussed hits close to home for many high schoolers: affordable college education. Both candidates supported making secondary education more affordable, and had ideas for doing so. Sanders, for example, emphasized using Wall Street to help offset college costs.

“The American people bailed Wall Street out…[Wall Street] should pay a Wall Street speculation tax so that we can make public colleges and universities tuition-free…that should be a right of all Americans,” Sanders said.

Clinton also outlined her plans while discussing the challenges ahead.

“Both of us share the goal of trying to make college affordable for all young Americans,” Clinton said. “We differ, however, on a couple of key points, one of them being that if you don’t have some agreement within the system from states and from families and from students, it’s hard to get to where we need to go.”

The debate began to wrap up after the discussion regarding tuition. One of the final subjects of debate was President Obama’s presidency. Clinton began by bringing up Sanders’ previous statements on President Obama.

“Senator Sanders said that President Obama failed the presidential leadership test…In the past he has called him weak. He has called him a disappointment,” she said. “I don’t think [President Obama] gets the credit he deserves for being a president…[who] has sent us into the future.”

Sanders countered, saying, “Last I heard, a United States senator had the right to disagree with the president, including a president who has done such an extraordinary job…I have been a strong ally with him on virtually every issue…One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not that candidate.”

Two hours of discussion ended with final statements from both candidates. Sanders reiterated the need for more individuals to value politics in a “political revolution” and focused on bringing people together to make government more representative of their needs. Clinton promised to help Americans facing the issues in Flint, as well as those facing discrimination based on race, gender, and sexuality.

Since their stop in Milwaukee, the Democratic candidates have gone on to the caucus in Nevada and primary in South Carolina. In Nevada, Clinton gained more votes, resulting in 20 delegates pledged to support her and 15 to Sanders. Meanwhile, South Carolina resulted in a win for Clinton, landing her 39 more delegates as Sanders took 14.

The winner of this close race will be determined in the coming months, and a candidate will be selected in Philadelphia on July 25, 2016.

Watch the entire debate at the link below: