The 2016 presidential primary season is really starting to heat up. Thursday night, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton squared off to discuss their presidential aspirations during the MSNBC Democratic Candidates Debate, hosted by Rachel Maddow and Chuck Todd. It took no time at all for the gloves to come off, and it was clear from the beginning that Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Debate.
Unlike previous debates, Clinton seemed steadfast in her deeply feminist beliefs, while simultaneously refusing to bring personal, backhanded attacks against her popular opponent. (GOP candidates, um, are you paying attention? Please say you're paying attention.) From her opening statement to the final period on her concluding sentence, Clinton was quick to highlight the feminist aspects of her presidential platform; creating a serious, sometimes high-intensity debate stand offs that made it clear that no matter who you're voting for; Sanders and Clinton debating against one another makes both of them better presidential candidates.
Clinton opened the evening by talking about groups of historically marginalized individuals.
But there's also the continuing challenges of racism, of sexism, of discrimination against the LGBT community, of the way that we treat people as opposed to how we want to be treated.
Clinton was the first to speak about racism, sexism or any other form of discrimination — a serious problem plaguing the country and one that has notoriously been looked over in previous debates, both Democratic and GOP. Early in the evening, Clinton stated that she was "fighting for people who cannot wait for those changes", and that she wasn't "making promises that [she could not] keep", subtly hinting that Sanders' promises — while grand and progressive — were impossible to implement or fund. Clinton had a stronger, more inclusive opening statement; indicative of her feminist views.
Clinton's opening statement also set the pace for the rest of the evening, in which she was often on the offensive, essentially "calling out" Sanders on issues that separate the two candidates. Sanders is no slouch, of course, and had his fair share of winning moments in the debate as well. From pointing out Clinton's vote for the war in Iraq to her acceptance of campaign contributions from Wall Street and pharmaceutical companies, Sanders weathered the Clinton storm with his self-described radicalized political platform and ideology intact.
However, it was a clear win for Clinton, who needed a landslide to move the needle in her favor in New Hampshire, before the upcoming primary next Tuesday.
She Didn't Care About How She "Looked"
Too often, women are chastised for "raising their voice" or "not smiling" or changing their hair or their clothes or some other surface level, shallow indicator that has nothing to do with their thoughts or abilities. Clinton knows — all too well at this point, I'm sure — that unlike her male comrades on both sides of the aisle, she is and will always be scrutinized for her appearance. Thankfully, Clinton didn't seem to care. Like, at all. There were times throughout the debate that Clinton seemed genuinely upset, extremely fired up and unapologetic in her tone of voice as well as its volume. She often raised her voice so that she could continue to speak, demanding the same respect and time that her debating partner received.
It was refreshing to see, especially since she wasn't criticized for her demeanor at any time during the debate. (Trump, take notes.)
She Was "Matter-Of-Fact" Throughout The Debate
There was no doubt that one of Clinton's winning moments was when she confronted Sanders about some of the so-called attacks him and his campaign have been making, saying,
Attacks by insinuation are not worthy of you. Enough is enough. If you have something to say, say it directly, but you will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation I have ever received.
She Wasn't Deterred Because Of The Crowd
Clinton was actually "booed" during the debate, after she suggested Sanders was running a carefully crafted, subtle yet “artful smear campaign" against her.
However, regardless of the boos, it was a high point in the debate for Clinton, who came off strong and “fair” in the middle of a heated conversation that seemed more like an attempt to pit the two candidates against one another, instead of allowing them to speak about the issues and their individual, political stances.
She Was Honest About Her Mistakes
Of course, the Iraq War was brought to the debate table, giving Sanders the ability to highlight the fact that he did not vote to go to war in 2002, while Clinton did. This small yet important difference between the two candidates could prove to be hurtful for Clinton, however, her response to her voting record was spot on and important. Like Clinton said during the debate, "Everyone makes mistakes".
She Subtly Yet Strongly Distanced Herself From Sanders
Now that there are only two Democratic presidential candidates left, it was clear early on that an important aspect of both campaigns, moving forward, would be to highlight differences between Clinton and Sanders. Clinton seemed to take this campaign strategy by the reigns, and made it a point to highlight why she will be a different president, than Sanders. She explained,
I’m not going to make promises I can’t keep. I’m not going to talk about big ideas and then not level with people about how much it will cost. I’m not going to tell people that I will raise your incomes and not your taxes, and not mean it; because I don’t want to see the kind of struggle that the middle class is going through, exemplified by these promises that would raise taxes and would make it much more difficult for many many americans to get ahead and stay ahead. That is not my agenda.
She Knew When To Say "No"
When those damn emails and Benghazi were brought up during the debate, and the former Secretary of State was asked if she wanted to take five minutes to speak on the issue, she simply replied, "no".
Yes. I say yes to that no.