by Judy Ferro
“Who won the debate?” asked the subject line of an e-mail from Sally Boynton Brown, executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, last week. Sally answered her own question, “The American people won.”
While Republican candidates saw the debate as b-o-r-i-n-g, Democrats were proud to have give of their candidates acting presidential while discussing major issues facing our nation.
“Most people,” an article in the Brookings Brief said, “vote for president based on who they think will be a strong, effective, steady leader who communicates effectively, compassionately, and on a level that most Americans can relate to.” It expressed sympathy for any Republican candidates who might also like to discuss issues in a responsible way.
So what were these issues and how did the candidates stand?
Gun control. Hillary Clinton stated that we are losing 90 people per day from gun violence. She didn’t mention specific controls, but stated that Bernie Sanders was too lax. Sanders, who had voted against the Brady Bill, said he supported more regulation of assault weapons, an end to the gun show exception, and allowing law suits against manufacturers and dealers who violate the law. He called for Americans to address the mental health problem.
Foreign relations. Clinton said we should stand up to Putin and be more willing to lead in the Syrian situation. Sanders stated that the United State should avoid such quagmires and not act unilaterally. Clinton asked Sanders if there were any scenario in which he would use military force. Sanders implied there were, but that we could depend on the Russian people to rein in Putin.
Economics. Sanders stated that Wall Street was controlling Congress rather than the other way around and that banks should not be allowed to mix customer funds with those the bank used for Wall Street speculation. Clinton said we needed to protect small entrepreneurs and rein in the excesses of capitalism.
College funding. Sanders stated that a college education was the equivalent of a high school one 50 years ago and that we should finance public colleges just as we do high schools. Clinton proposed letting everyone with student loans refinance to lower interest rates, providing tuition-free education in return for 10 hours of work a week, and pressing colleges to get their costs down.
Immigration. Both agreed that the United States needed to reform the rules in a way that allowed unpapered residents an eventual path to citizenship. Clinton favored covering kids in our health care programs and letting adults use the state health care exchanges without subsidies. She also said states should choose whether they allowed unpapered college student the breaks of in-state tuition.
Justice reform. There was agreement that the United States incarcerated too many people and general reform is needed.
Despite what Republican candidates have been saying, giveaways were not all that Democrats suggested. In fact, nothing was proposed that is not available in European democracies that do not pay the huge subsidies we do to oil companies and mega-banks.
What about the other three candidates?
Martin O’Malley. The former Maryland governor spoke for a clean power grid and Wall Street reform. He is a strong candidate for vice president.
Jim Webb. A former senator and secretary of the navy, Webb is deeply concerned about future relations with China and Iran’s nuclear power potential. He felt he could work across the aisle with Republicans. He’s a possible defense secretary.
Lincoln Chafee. A former senator and governor, Chafee justified two of his Senate votes by pointing out over 90 senators had voted as he did. He is more team player than leader.