Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders squared off last night in the most recent Democratic debate. There is no doubt this was the most heated debate to date between the two candidates, as the New York primary approaches on Tuesday. Many believe New York is Sander’s last chance to seriously challenge Clinton for the nomination, since he has lost in every state that is large and diverse with Clinton continuing to dominate the delegate count. The Vermont Senator has won 8 out of the last 9 primary states, but most of the super-delegates have sided with Clinton, giving her a significant lead over the surprising challenger.
The tension between the two candidates was obvious; both Clinton and Sanders attacked each other on a wide variety of issues. Without failure, Sanders brought up Clinton’s ties to Wall Street, specifically speeches she has made for Goldman Sachs. The frontrunner still refuses to release the transcripts of the payments she received for giving those speeches, claiming she would do so when the rest of the field does the same thing. She dodged the question repeatedly and deflected it back to Sanders by citing his failure to release his tax returns. Subsequently, Sanders stated he would release his tax returns in the coming days, asserting the reason he has not done so is the fact he has been busy on the campaign trail. Fair enough, Bernie Sanders. Hopefully he does release these tax returns to put the issue to bed.
On the other hand, Clinton was adamant that she would not release her transcripts, making the whole country wonder why. This does not make much sense to me; Hillary claims the transcripts are insignificant and that they are a non-issue. Oh, Really? Then the only sensible thing to do is to release them, since it seems to be not a big deal for her.
Clinton would later call out Sanders for his lack of a concrete plan in breaking up the big banks, one of his core issues. In an interview with New York Daily News, Sanders was asked about his plan to break up the big banks and appeared to give a non-substantive answer when explaining himself. Clinton hammered him on this matter, leaving many voters wondering if Sanders really knows how to solve one of the pillars of his campaign promises, despite the fact she may have distorted what Sanders said in the interview.
Both candidates would spar over the matter of an increased federal minimum wage. Throughout his campaign, Sanders has supported the idea of increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and he would call out Clinton for flip-flopping on her stance. In the past, Clinton has said she would increase the national minimum wage to $12 an hour, but last night she changed her approach and Sanders let everyone know. Clinton, agreeing with Sanders, said she supported the idea of increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, changing from her previous stance. Now, I am aware everyone is free to change their mind, but Clinton tends to do this a lot. She only started talking about reigning in Wall Street in response to Sander’s core idea of breaking up the big banks. To me, it seems like she will do anything to get elected.
Finally, the 1994 crime bill, passed by Bill Clinton, was at the center of the Democratic debate. Clinton and Sanders both had to endure attacks by the other on this issue. Sanders, who supported the bill when it was passed, was criticized by Hillary for his support of a bill that is the exact opposite of the policies he plans to enact if he becomes president. Sanders has regularly said the US has a broken Criminal Justice system and that mass incarceration has not worked in dealing with crime. However, Sanders would come back by attacking Hillary for her use of the term “super-predators”, which was a term coined by the former Secretary of State in 1996, referring to urban youth whom commit an immense amount of crimes.
Former president of the US, Bill Clinton defended his wife on her use of this term and Sanders criticized Bill’s support of Hillary in this matter by saying: “it was a racist term and everybody knew it was a racist term”.
As the New York primary inches closer, it is clear both candidates came prepared to attack their opponent on a wide variety of issues last night. Clinton wants to focus more on the general election, but Sanders will not go away and one could conclude he will be in it until the bitter end. The upcoming primary in New York will be very telling; the direction of Democratic primaries could change drastically if Sanders somehow pulls off a victory in his home state. Also, if Clinton wins by a wide margin in New York, then it is even more likely she will be the nominee. Tuesday is going to be the most important primary to date because the country will ultimately see if Sanders can win a large and diverse state; if not, Clinton winning the nomination becomes almost imminent.
–Contributed by R.A.