The first of the 2016 presidential Democratic debates took place last night, featuring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Senator Bernie Sanders; Martin O’Malley, governor of Maryland; Jim Webb, former secretary of the Navy; and Senator Lincoln Chafee.
The candidates debated current hot political issues including gun control, immigration, the Keystone XL, involvement in Syria, the Black Lives Matter movement, social security, and much more. Many of these same topics were covered in previous GOP primary debates in August and September, which focused on foreign policy and immigration among other subjects.
Although there’s often a sense of disillusionment among today’s college generation in reference to the effectiveness of our political system, refusing to participate in the selection of our country’s leaders is definitely not going to bring about reform.
It is vital that voters be aware of each candidate’s policy on all of these topics—regardless of party—so that they can make informed decisions during the election process. The same thing holds true for politics at the national or local level.
This election cycle, we have seen the public presence of some of the presidential candidates in both parties focus on mud-slinging and personal insult rather than clear policy. With that in mind, one moment in particular from last night’s debate stood out among all others.
When the long-discussed issue of Clinton’s personal email scandal was brought up to Sanders, he refused to play along.
“Let me say something that may not be great politics. But I think the Secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails,” he said. “Enough of the emails. Let’s talk about the real issues facing America.”
Whether or not you agree with Sanders’ politics, in that moment it was clear that he values matching his political views against his opponents’ more than finding a foothold to boost himself up above them in the polls.
On a much smaller scale, political candidates in Goshen are following Sanders’ lead. Both mayoral candidates, Jeremy Stutsman and Mary Cripe, have explicitly stated their dedication to keeping the campaign professional and amiable.
Disagreement between candidates is necessary for the system to function. Clinton and Sanders certainly went head-to-head over other issues during the debate, as did Republican candidates during the GOP debate. If candidates agreed on everything, then there would be no distinctions between them and no criteria by which to vote.
However, these disagreements can be constructive or destructive, and Sanders highlighted the difference.