Clinton, Sanders and O’Malley show substance at Democratic Town Hall

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama after clinching 2008 Democratic presidential nomination

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama after clinching 2008 Democratic presidential nomination

Last night, one week before the Iowa Caucus, CNN hosted a Town Hall event at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, featuring Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. The three candidates showed differences in their views and policies while answering questions from the audience of mostly undecided Democratic voters and from moderator Chris Cuomo. But perhaps more striking was the level of knowledge, substance and forcefulness each candidate exhibited on the issues.Bernie Sanders was first among the candidates to face questions. At first, Sanders seemed tired, but eventually he got wound up, primarily by revisiting his theme of income inequality and “millionaires and billionaires” getting an unfair share of economic benefits in America. More than once, Sanders cited European countries such as “Britain,” France and Germany in contrast with the United States when it comes to their healthcare costs and free higher education. Sanders said that Americans would pay for European-style programs like these with higher taxes, including taxes on financial transactions such as stock sales. However, Sanders did not say how he could achieve his desired items like universal single payer healthcare with Republicans in charge of at least one house of Congress, other than saying that millions of Americans must “stand up” and demand change.

Martin O’Malley was up next. O’Malley stressed his youth compared to Sanders and Clinton more than once. Interestingly, however, O’Malley was easily the least energetic of the three. O’Malley was asked about his police tactics against blacks when he was Mayor of Baltimore. In response, O’Malley said that drug dealers were “occupying” parts of Baltimore and the city’s murder and drug addiction rates were the highest in the nation, yet he was able to lower the crime rate, increase drug treatment and, later as Governor of Maryland, repeal the death penalty. When asked what was the biggest issue for young voters, O’Malley answered “climate change,” and said his plan to lessen climate change using more renewable energy would be great for the U.S. economy and create 100 million jobs in America.

Hillary Clinton was the third candidate to appear at the CNN Town Hall, and brought an energy and forcefulness that was unmatched by Sanders or O’Malley. Clinton also showcased her vast experience in and knowledge of a variety of subjects, from healthcare to foreign policy, an area that had not been explored among the other two candidates. Clinton talked about President Obama‘s high praise and near-endorsement of her in an interview that Obama had just completed with Glenn Thrush of Politico, and portrayed herself as the best candidate to “build on” Obama’s accomplishments “and go further” on items such as the Affordable Care Act. Clinton noted that she and Obama had campaigned against each other very hard for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, but afterward, they united to defeat the Republicans, and then Obama relied on her judgment to pick her for Secretary of State. Clinton also touched on themes that a Democratic Party nominee normally discusses in the general election, such as attacking Donald Trump (referring to him as the Republican “front runner”) for Trump’s insults against Muslims and other minorities, and coming together with Republicans after the election is over to work on big issues such as fighting ISIS.

While it is unknown if any of the undecided voters in the audience made up their minds after the CNN Town Hall, it’s fair to say that they were treated to a serious discussion of substantive issues that was a far cry from the level of discourse at the Republican presidential campaign events thus far.

Photo by FaceMePLS taken during CNN broadcast, used under Creative Commons license.



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