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Galindez writes: "When Sanders compared the invasion of Iraq to regime change in Iran, Chile, and Guatemala, he reassured the progressive base that he will not have an interventionist foreign policy."

Bernie and Jane Sanders. (photo: David Becker/Reuters)
Bernie and Jane Sanders. (photo: David Becker/Reuters)

Why Bernie Sanders Cleared a Path to Victory in 2nd Debate

By Scott Galindez, Reader Supported News

16 November 15


he pundits and many polls are saying Hillary Clinton won, and maybe for a week or two while Americans worry about ISIS they might be right. Maybe she did pass the commander in chief test. But let’s face it, when Democrats caucus and vote they will not be doing so based on foreign policy. Besides, Bernie Sanders did make waves on foreign policy in a manner that could just help him in the long run.

When Sanders compared the invasion of Iraq to regime change in Iran, Chile, and Guatemala, he reassured the progressive base that he will not have an interventionist foreign policy.

“The disagreement is, not only did I vote against the war in Iraq, if you look at history, you will find that regime change, whether it was in the 1950s in Iran, toppling Salvador Allende in Chile, overthrowing the government of Guatemala – these toppings of governments, regime change, have unintended consequences. On this issue I am a little more conservative than the secretary. I am not a big fan of regime change,” said Sanders as the watch party at Drake University exploded in cheers. In the debate hall there really wasn’t much reaction to anything throughout the debate. It was a reserved, establishment crowd.

But at the watch party as Sanders delivered that response you could hear “Whoa,” “Oh my,” and “Yes” coming from people who were happy to hear a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president admitting to US foreign policy mistakes in Iran, Chile and Guatemala.

When the media and the pundits try to determine who won debates, they are looking at the event through filters colored by the past. I think Bernie made a very important step in solidifying anti-war anti-intervention groups who were uneasy about some of his past votes on foreign policy. That was lost on the pundits.

“It’s the economy, stupid”

Remember when James Carville and the Clinton inner circle understood that and focused on it? Hillary Clinton can impress everyone with her diplomatic accomplishments all she wants, but they don’t pay the mortgage or the doctor bills and they won’t put your kids through college.

The big differences between the three Democratic candidates for president are not on ISIS (none of them want boots on the ground) or the Iran nuclear deal, which they all favor. The difference is how we are going to deal with economic inequality and who is best positioned to lead that fight. This is the area that Bernie Sanders clearly won in the debate. Was there a game changer? Probably not, but the seeds of doubt were planted.

One reason I think Sanders did enough is that he even polled well after the debate on the economy and economic inequality.

So who won on points? It was a Saturday night debate on CBS, so let’s use their overnight poll, since nobody else was watching – another blunder by the DNC.

Most of the good news for Clinton was on foreign policy: those polled after the debate overwhelmingly thought she was best equipped to handle foreign policy, terrorism, and ISIS. She narrowly edged out Sanders on gun policy, 43% to 36%, a surprisingly strong performance for Sanders. That is where the good news ended for Hillary Clinton.

While many are starting to dismiss the numbers on honesty and trustworthiness, Clinton’s scores still point to a huge opportunity for Senator Sanders. 88% of Democrats polled by CBS after the debate found Sanders honest and trustworthy to only 58% for Clinton. 41% found Clinton not honest and trustworthy, while only 13% had that opinion of Sanders.

On economic issues it was also a good night for Sanders, according to the CBS post-debate poll: 43% thought Sanders would do a better job handling the economy while 40% thought Clinton would do better. When it came to fighting economic inequality, 58% thought Sanders would do a better job to only 31% for Clinton.

That is big news for Bernie and why I think he won the debate. Those are the issues that Democrats will be voting on in the primaries and caucuses. Bernie has laid the groundwork to win, and with two months to go before the voting begins there is plenty of time for Sanders further his case.

On economic issue after issue, Sanders showed daylight between himself and Secretary Clinton. On the minimum wage, Clinton falls short, calling for $12 hour, citing an economist’s opinion that $15 an hour could be too high.

Sanders responded: “It is not a radical idea to say that if somebody works forty hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty. When we put money into the hands of working people, they’re going to go out and buy goods, they’re going to buy services, and they’re going to create jobs in doing that,” he said. “That is the kind of economy I believe in. Put money in the hands of working people. Raise the minimum wage to fifteen bucks an hour.”

On health care, Sanders defended the gains made by Obama but said they do not go far enough. “I believe we’ve got to go further. I want to end the international embarrassment of the United States of America being the only major country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people as a right, not a privilege.” Under the private-insurance system, he went on, “We end up spending—and I think the secretary knows this—far more per capita on health care than any other major country, and our outcomes, health-care outcomes are not necessarily that good.”

The moderators pressed Sanders on how he would pay for his proposals, specifically how big a tax hike would come. “We haven’t come up with an exact number yet, but it will not be as high as the number under Dwight D. Eisenhower, which was ninety per cent.” That received the loudest response of the night, many laughing. “I’m not that much of a socialist compared to Eisenhower,” Sanders went on.

It was a good start for Sanders, who will be giving a major address on democratic socialism in the next few weeks. He has to address fears about what being a socialist means.

I think the strongest blow landed by Sanders was why Clinton would be compromised in efforts to take on Wall Street.

Sanders said: “Let’s not be naive about it…. Why, over her political career, has Wall Street been a major—the major—campaign contributor to Hillary Clinton? You know, maybe they’re dumb and they don’t know what they’re going to get, but I don’t think so.”

The biggest blunder of the night came when Secretary Clinton, in what was clearly a rehearsed, prepared response, tried to justify her Wall Street support by invoking 9/11. When you take a step back and think about it, it was a logical response. As senator from New York, she represented Wall Street when they rebuilt from 9/11 but it didn’t come across that way to everyone. The delivery was too defiant instead of a more respectful emotional response that might have landed where she wanted it.

“So I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy, and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country.”

The response on twitter was swift and argued that the response was tone deaf.

After a brief exchange on Glass-Steagall, Bernie pressed on: “But at the end of the day, Wall Street today has enormous economic and political power,” he said. “Their business model is greed and fraud. And for the sake of our economy … the major banks must be broken up.”

The exchange on campaign contributions left doubt that Clinton could stand up to the banks. It is clear that the Sanders campaign will continue to press on campaign finance and on the fact that her large contributions from Wall street and other corporations leave her compromised when it comes to real reform. That is Bernie’s path to victory, and it is a path that he cleared the way for in the Des Moines debate.

Scott Galindez attended Syracuse University, where he first became politically active. The writings of El Salvador's slain archbishop Oscar Romero and the on-campus South Africa divestment movement converted him from a Reagan supporter to an activist for Peace and Justice. Over the years he has been influenced by the likes of Philip Berrigan, William Thomas, Mitch Snyder, Don White, Lisa Fithian, and Paul Wellstone. Scott met Marc Ash while organizing counterinaugural events after George W. Bush's first stolen election. Scott will be spending a year covering the presidential election from Iowa.

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