The presidential primary comes to a head in the Big Apple on Tuesday, with democrat mainstay Hillary Clinton and Wall Street demolitionist Bernie Sanders both vying for a bite.
For Clinton it’s a chance to seal her lead irrevocably and finally put Sanders in his place. With over two million more individual votes to her name than Sanders, she’s probably thinking it’s about time.
But Sanders, who grew up in New York, has momentum on his side, having won the pair’s last seven contests. A win could see him with a real, or at least less imaginary shot at leading the democrats in November’s election; a loss could see his infamous Bernie Bros return home to their neglected World of Warcraft accounts.
Maybe it was the importance of the upcoming primary that caused both candidates to end their mutual stance on not making this personal last week. After Sanders floundered in an interview with the New York Daily News when asked how exactly he planned to break up the big banks, Clinton seized her chance, calling her opponent “unprepared” to be President.
Of course, Hillary ‘started it’, but Bernie’s over-reaction is what most have commentators have focussed on. He struck back at Clinton calling her “unqualified” to be president because of her vote in favour of the war in Iraq, which many Americans now admit was a huge mistake (only a decade or so after the rest of the world realised). Sanders may be right to question Clinton’s judgement, but a criticism of warmongering could equally be applied to all of America’s presidents, including Barack Obama. (So if anything, supporting the war in Iraq makes someone more presidential.) Hillary in her aptly named 2014 book Hard Choices apologized for supporting the war, saying she acted on good faith at the time, believing the ‘evidence’ presented by George Bush that Iraq was concealing WMDs.
The parties dropped their sheen of civility just in time for their CNN debate in Brooklyn on Thursday, which was a far cry from their earlier, relatively peaceful on-air engagements. What the parties didn’t reveal turned out to be more of an issue than what they said to each other, with Sanders demanding that Clinton release transcripts of the speeches she gave to mega-bank Goldman Sachs during the Global Financial Crisis for $225,000 a pop.
Clinton’s counter-shot that Sanders hadn’t made his income tax statements public didn’t make a dent in comparison, and gave Sanders a chance to unleash “the bern” on Hillary for receiving campaign funds from Wall Street.
Clinton called upon New Yorkers to recall her time as Senator of the Seinfeld State, though her inability to operate the subway called her NewYorkwardness into question, as well as making her ripe for SNL picking. But the big surprise came when Clinton accused Sanders of a tarnished record because of his vote against background check requirements for gun buyers in the early ’90s.
Though Sanders was somewhat stumped for a response, his campaign manager later struck back at Clinton, saying she had an “A rating” with gun lobby the National Rifle Association. (For the record, Hillary has an F rating with the NRA, and yes, strange as it sounds, the NRA does regularly release ratings of politicians based on how pro-gun they are.)
Sniping aside, the parties had the chance to “vigorously agree”, in Clinton’s words, on some issues, while vigorously disagreeing, in my words, on almost everything else. Israel was a hot topic, and Sanders didn’t back down on his relatively Palestine-friendly stance – relative, that is, to New York’s strong Jewish population as well as any politician with a sense of political preservation.
In the end, most commentators agreed that the candidates had both suffered in the debate, but in Sanders’ case a draw may not be enough. He desperately needs a win if he wants to give his underdog campaign a sense of legitimacy, and the best he can probably hope for is to stop Hillary getting the 600 or so more delegates she needs before the Democratic National Convention decides on their presidential candidate in July. If Sanders can catch up just enough, he can neutralise Clinton’s political heft with a second vote made by party officials rather than voting citizen members. If Thursday’s debate is anything to go by, it’s going to be a close one.
*Journalist Mat Drogemuller has been following the crazy Presidential race for Transgression. Stay tuned for more. Follow Mat on Twitter @mdrogemuller.