Live-blogging the sixth Dem debate

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, raises a fist as he arrives for a breakfast meeting with Al Sharpton at Sylvia's Restaurant, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in the Harlem neighborhood of New York. Sanders defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday in the New Hampshire primary. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Associated Press photo

I don’t know that Bernie Sanders had to kiss kingmaker and gatekeeper wannabe Al Sharpton’s ring yesterday, but Sanders does respond to political necessities. Sadly, though, while we commoners get bogged down in our relatively petty identity politics, fighting each other for scraps of scraps, we miss the larger picture, which is that we continue our collective socioeconomic decline — which is perfectly A-OK with the elites of both the Coke Party and the Pepsi Party, because if we’re fighting each other then the status quo is unthreatened, and the status quo has been pretty good for them.

So the sixth Democratic Party presidential debate is scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. Pacific Time, 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. It’s being moderated by PBS NewsHour anchors Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff (no Chuck Todd, thankfully), is being held at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, and is being carried by both PBS and CNN.

With South Carolina looming as the next big battleground (its presidential primary election is on February 27), tonight I expect racial concerns, especially those of black Americans, to come front and center, with Billary Clinton boasting establishmentarian black support, such as the predictable support of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Bernie Sanders boasting the support of the (mostly) less establishmentarian set within the black community, including former NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous, Cornel West, U.S. Rep. Keith EllisonHarry Belafonte, Ta-Nehisi Coates*, Wade Davis and Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner, who was murdered by cop in New York in July 2014.

5:58 p.m. (all times Pacific Time): The debate is about to begin.

6:04 p.m.: Bernie Sanders gives his opening statement. He reminds us how far he has come in the past nine months. “The American people have responded to a series of basic truths,” he proclaims, talking about “the corrupt campaign finance system,” “a rigged economy” and “almost all new income and all new wealth” going to the top 1 percent, and a criminal justice system out of control. “The American people are tired of establishment politics, tired of establishment economics” and want a revolution, he says.

6:07 p.m.: Billary’s turn. (She looks awful in yellow. Who let her wear yellow?) Anyway, Billary says that “Americans haven’t had a raise in 15 years” and concedes that the system is rigged. She says she supports campaign finance reform and says we can’t allow Wall Street to wreck the economy again. She now is pandering to black Americans. She wants to be the panderer in chief… Billary’s words now just don’t jibe with her actual record. She’s now reduced to mimicking Bernie because his campaign message has been a winning message for him.

6:09 p.m.: A break already…

6:11 p.m.: Judy Woodruff asks Bernie how much bigger the federal government would be in the lives of average Americans under his presidency.

Bernie says every American should be guaranteed health care, and that his plan would save the average family $5,000 a year on health-care costs. He says he wants free or nearly free college and university tuition, and that he wants us to improve our infrastructure.

It is the role of the federal government to ensure that all Americans have a decent standard of living, Bernie states.

6:13 p.m.: Billary, sounding like the fear-mongering right-winger that she is, says that Bernie’s plans would expand the federal government by 40 percent. I don’t believe that.

Billary again reminds us that she’s the pragmatist in this race, and that No, We Can’t. How she still thinks that is a winning message eludes me completely.

6:15 p.m.: Billary reminds us that she’s a “staunch” supporter of “Obamacare.” She says that “Medicare for all”/single payer would supplant Obamacare, since Obamacare is based within the insurance system.

Well, yeah, we need nationalized health care, so Obamacare and all of the insurance companies can go. That’s fine. Just because it has Obama’s name on it — who cares? People need and deserve health care, which, as Sanders says, is a right, not a privilege.

6:18 p.m.: Billary again claims that trying for health care for all would be too contentious and too difficult to pass in Congress. Her stupid supporters in the audience actually cheer this bullshit, like chickens cheering for Colonel Saunders.

6:20 p.m.: Billary says that there is widespread skepticism of the federal government, including even from the left, which isn’t true. This is a right-wing talking point, not a progressive one.

6:22 p.m.: Bernie talks about how he would pay for his proposals, including closing tax loopholes and taxing Wall Street. He says he has a way to pay for all of his proposals.

6:24 p.m.: Bernie says that a college degree is necessary in today’s world, and since we cover K-12 education, we should cover college and university education, too. Yup.

6:25 p.m.: Judy reminds Billary that more women in New Hampshire voted for Bernie than for her… Billary gives a mostly non-substantive response, and then notes that three of the four people on the debate stage are women.

6:27 p.m.: Bernie says his campaign is about bringing all Americans together and reminds us that he’s always been pro-choice and that he opposes disparity in pay between men and women and supports paid leave for all families.

6:29 p.m.: Billary says she doesn’t ask people to vote for her because she’s a woman, and then immediately reminds us that Planned Parenthood and NARAL both endorsed her. Well, yeah, they endorsed her primarily because she is a woman… I support their missions (while disagreeing with their endorsement of Billary), but let’s be real about that.

6:32 p.m.: Over-incarceration is now the topic. A black male born today stands a one in four chance of being incarcerated, Bernie says. Four times as many blacks are arrested for marijuana use than whites, and that sentencing is harsher on blacks than on whites, he says. “We are sick and tired of seeing videos on television of unarmed” black Americans being shot by police officers, he says, adding that cops need to be held accountable.

6:34 p.m.: Billary reminds us that the first speech she gave in the campaign was about over-incarceration and the need for criminal justice reform. She’s now pulling a Martin O’Malley, with an anecdote out of Wisconsin. (I’m OK with anecdotes, but not patently pandering ones…) Jobs, education and housing are part of solving the problem of racial disparities, Billary says.

6:36 p.m.: Bernie concurs, and adds that we need more diverse police forces and that we need to do more to help offenders lead successful lives.

6:39 p.m.: Judy says that Barack Obama’s presidency hasn’t done much to help race relations and asks Billary how she could do better as president. Billary bullshittingly states that Obama has done a lot for race relations and gives a bullshit explanation that the widespread use of smartphone cameras only relatively recently shed light on how serious our race relations are. Wow.

6:41 p.m.: Bernie states that tackling income inequality will help all Americans, including poorer people of color.

6:44 p.m.: Gwen asks about white Americans who also are struggling and therefore might also be resentful. Both Billary and Bernie state that they support all struggling Americans. Bernie reminds us that bad trade deals and other corporate abuses have socioeconomically harmed Americans of all races.

6:48 p.m.: Immigration is the topic now. Bernie says he supports “comprehensive immigration reform” and “a path to citizenship” for the estimated 11 undocumented immigrants in the United States. Billary echoes this, adding that of course we won’t deport 11 million people from the United States.

Bernie and Billary have wrangled over legislation he voted against in 2007. He says that LULAC and others opposed it because its guest-worker provision was akin to slavery. Billary the name-dropper and triangulator says it was Ted Kennedy’s bill, as though that means there was nothing wrong with it. Bernie says he doesn’t apologize for having voted against the bill. (This is such a common tactic in politics — to say that your opponent evilly opposed the Cute Puppies and Kittens Bill, when, in fact, the bill had something odious in it, which is why he or she voted against it.)

6:57 p.m.: Bernie says as president he would expand Social Security benefits. Billary says she would focus on those whom Social Security has shorted the most and help them first. Bernie says that Billary doesn’t support expanding Social Security for everyone. She reiterates that she would prioritize those who need the help the most, which sure sounds to me like Bernie is significantly more generous on Social Security than she is. (After all, she’ll never have to rely on it…)

7:01 p.m.: Judy reminds us of the millions of dollars that Billary has taken from donors. Billary says she has more than 750K donors, if I heard her correctly. She claims a lot of “small donors.”

Bernie reminds us that big donations, including to super PACs, corrupt our democracy. Bernie says he decided early on to eschew any super PAC. Bernie claims more than a million individual donors and once again reminds us that his average donation is $27.

Billary again says that Bernie is attacking Obama by attacking her, since Obama also took money from Wall Street. It’s really pathetic and sickening how she repeatedly uses Barack Obama as her human political shield.

Bernie says that Billary insults Americans’ intelligence and that “people aren’t dumb” and says that of course Wall Street, Big Pharma, the fossil fuel industry, et. al. spend Big Money in order to influence policy making.

Billary claims that she has proposed regulations that would go further than Dodd-Frank and would rein in more than the banks, but other financial institutions as well.

Bernie again calls for reinstatement of Glass-Steagall.

7:10 p.m.: A break now. This is really repetitive stuff. Again, I’ve watched all of the Dem debates, and we don’t break much new ground with each new debate.

I will remark that if Bernie Sanders is too vague on his proposals, then Billary holds back too much about what she would do as president. She spins things very carefully, based upon her audience, and what she leaves out seems to be more important than what she states. Keep in mind that she’ll tell one audience that she is a “moderate,” but will tell another one that she is a “progressive.” Tonight we’re seeing the “progressive” Billary. With Bernie, we always get an actual progressive.

7:16 p.m.: Bernie is asked if he would reduce any part of the federal government. He says there is waste within government but doesn’t give specifics. Billary also calls for more streamlining and more efficiency but doesn’t give specifics.

Bernie, thank Goddess, now says that we need to look at the Department of Defense’s spending. Hell, yeah. We needed something specific, and I do believe that we need to start with our military spending, where most of the fraud, abuse and waste in our federal spending lies. (We sheeple have been led to believe that spending on human beings’ needs is wrong, but that spending on death and destruction is critical.)

7:19 p.m.: Now we’re talking about ISIS and national security. Billary says that demagoguery against American Muslims, such as Donald Trump’s, makes us less safe.

7:21 p.m.: I love Bernie, but he now is reminding us yet once again that he didn’t believe George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and so he opposed and voted against the Vietraq War, and states that what he’d warned about, such as instability in the area because of the invasion, has come about. He states that the U.S. military relatively easily can rid a nation of its dictator, but that such regime change usually causes more problems than it solves. “Unintended consequences,” he says. Yup.

Billary wants us to overlook her 2002 vote for the Vietraq War and wants us to face ISIS today, she says. Billary reminds us that Obama (like Bernie) opposed the Vietraq War yet chose her to be his secretary of state. Again, Barack Obama as her human political shield.

“Judgment matters as well” as experience, Bernie reminds us of Billary’s four years as secretary of state.

7:27 p.m.: Billary again reminds us of her role in snuffing out Osama bin Laden. Going back to 2002 is too far to go back, but going back to 2011 is fine, you see.

7:28 p.m.: Bernie says that unlike Billary, he doesn’t listen to the likes of Henry Kissinger. (Wikipedia notes of Kissinger that “A number of activists and human rights lawyers have sought his prosecution for alleged war crimes.”) Billary responds that Kissinger was good on China, but Bernie reminds us that Kissinger’s opening us to trade with China resulted in American job loss.

7:31 p.m.: Now Syria. Judy asks Bernie how he would handle the problem within the nation. Bernie talked about how we must be cautious with Russia’s involvement, but didn’t really talk about Syria. Billary apparently is addressing the question much more directly and comprehensively, but is quite good at throwing a lot of words out there without saying much of anything, and again states that Bernie wants Iranian involvement in the Syrian problem, which she opposes.

Bernie says he wants us to achieve better relations with Iran, as we have with Cuba.

Billary is railing against Iran. Bernie says he has “no illusion” about Iran, but reiterates that the goal needs to be to improve relations over time with nations long considered to be enemy nations. (I agree, and it’s apparent that Billary wants Iran to be her Bogeyman for her own personal political gain — a right-wing thing to do, but Billary is significantly right of center.)

7:40 p.m.: Gwen is talking about the ongoing refugee crisis (refugees from the Middle East seeking sanctuary in Europe), including deaths. She asks what more the United States should do. Billary states refugees would have to be well vetted to be admitted here and calls it “a humanitarian catastrophe,” but gives no numbers. She calls for the U.S. giving more aid at the sites where the refugees are now.

Bernie says that the U.S. should continue to be a “beacon of hope” and should work with European and wealthy Middle Eastern nations and the entire world to help end the refugee crisis, but doesn’t give any specifics, such as how many refugees the United States should take in, either. Overall, rather disappointingly vague answers.

7:43 p.m.: Judy asks the last question: Name two leaders who would influence your presidential decisions. Bernie names Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. He says Churchill was a conservative, but that he rallied the United Kingdom against Nazi Germany during World War II. Billary names FDR and Nelson Mandela (not that she is pandering to her audience again or anything).

Billary now diverges from the question entirely and rambles on about criticisms that Bernie Sanders allegedly has made of Barack Obama. (Clearly, she had intended to get this into the debate somewhere.) Wow. You’d think that Barack Obama were running for a third term. Billary has basically called Bernie not a Democrat. (Funny, because I see Billary as not a Democrat.)

Bernie reminds us that in a democracy, a U.S. senator may disagree with the president.

Billary embarrasses herself with her continuing triangulation, using Barack Obama to hide behind (is that a  feminist thing to do?). Bernie reminds us that Billary ran against Obama (in 2008), not he, which is an obvious but a great point…

7:51 p.m.: Bernie’s closing statement is his standard stump speech in which he reminds us that we need to take our power back from the 1 percent. (It is true that the Occupy movement probably did give rise to Sanders’ campaign, and I am happy to see Sanders championing the cause now.)

7:52 p.m.: Billary’s closing statement alleges that she is not a “single-issue candidate” (and therefore Bernie is, apparently with the issue of income inequality). She reminds us again that she shamelessly, blatantly panders to every group, including non-whites and the LGBT community.

Problem is, for years and years we have had the Democratic Party establishment playing identity politics, paying lip service to diversity, while the quality of life for most of us, whatever our group identity might be, has deteriorated. 

That’s because both the Democratic Party establishment and the Repugnican Tea Party have been in bed with the corporate fat cats for decades now.

The Democratic Party establishment will throw us historically oppressed and disenfranchised groups a tiny bone now and then, but we commoners, regardless of our own identity politics, are tolerable to these elites of the Coke Party and the Pepsi Party only so long as we don’t demand any substantive change in the socioeconomic status quo.

Billary Clinton exists to perpetuate the socioeconomic status quo, which has been pretty good for her. She is quite invested in it, literally.

I’m a gay man, but Billary’s pandering to me as an “LGBT” is less than meaningless. Economic inequality is the issue. So many of our other serious problems directly stem from it. We historically oppressed and disenfranchised groups don’t need periodic pats on the head from the likes of Panderer in Chief Billary Clinton so that we’ll shut up and go away for a while.

We need change. BIG change.

We would not get that from a second President Clinton; with a second President Clinton we would get more of the same. Billary is even directly promising more of the same, is promising that her presidency would be a third (and perhaps a fourth) Obama term.

Billary Clinton is grotesque, is rotten to the core, but in the coming weeks, as more states hold their primary elections and caucuses, we shall see, I think, whether or not members of historically oppressed and disenfranchised groups who are supposed to be happy with perpetual lip service from the Democratic Party establishment while year after year after year after year their everyday lives don’t improve at all are going to buy Billary’s establishmentarian bullshit — or whether they’re going to go with Bernie Sanders, who wonderfully names FDR and Churchill as his inspirations.

Those are wonderful inspirations because not only do we need to tackle income inequality like FDR did, but income inequality is a war here at home that we have to fight, not unentirely like how World War II had to be fought. The main difference is that in this war, our worst, most damaging enemies are within, not from without. (Our worst enemies certainly aren’t in Iran!)

We will see if the Democratic Party establishment can keep the long-running ruse going, if we, the people, will continue to settle for only promises of “hope” and “change,”** or whether we will demand actual change.

*Coates has stated that he plans to vote for Bernie Sanders, but that he doesn’t want to call it an endorsement. Reports The New York Times:

Ta-Nehisi Coates, the award-winning writer who has become one of the nation’s most influential voices on cultural and political issues, particularly touching on race relations, said Wednesday that he would be voting for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

The decision by Mr. Coates, the recipient of a MacArthur “genius grant” and the author of “Between the World and Me,” winner of the National Book Award, came as something of a surprise: Last month, Mr. Coates, author of a widely read 2014 Atlantic essay, “The Case for Reparations,” wrote two articles sharply criticizing Mr. Sanders over his opposition to reparations for slavery.

“I have tried to avoid this question, but yes, I will be voting for Senator Sanders,” Mr. Coates said in an interview with Democracy Now! that aired Wednesday.

Mr. Coates said he was “stunned” by Mr. Sanders’s rise and by his ability to compete with Hillary Clinton.

“Had you told me this like a year ago, I certainly would not have expected, you know, an avowed socialist to be putting up these sorts of numbers, and actually be contending for the Democratic Party nomination, but I think it’s awesome,” Mr. Coates said. “I think it’s great.”

Backing from Mr. Coates, 40, could bolster Mr. Sanders’s efforts to court black voters as the Democratic primary contest moves into more diverse primary states, where African-Americans make up an enormously important constituency.

In an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Coates said he was concerned about Mrs. Clinton’s ties to Wall Street and her past stances on criminal justice.

“The Goldman Sachs thing really bothered me. You have somebody taking $600,000 a year and not really disclosing what they talked about, you know, in a country where wealth inequality is so, so huge,” Mr. Coates said of Mrs. Clinton. “You’re living in another world now.”

He added that he was also concerned about the criminal justice bills passed under President Bill Clinton. “I’m a kid born in the 1970s,” Mr. Coates said. “I came up in the early 1990s, the crime bill from 1994 is huge. I understand, Senator Sanders voted for the crime bill. I got that. But there’s a clip of Secretary Clinton. They are talking about criminal justice policy and she uses a term that — it just chills me when I hear it — and that is ‘super-predator.’ I am of that generation of ‘super-predators.’ That’s where I come from and our current policy today has been an absolute, absolute disaster.”

Mr. Coates also said he liked having more than one Democratic candidate in the race. “I need people to understand, and I want people to understand that the world we live in now is not the world that we have to live in,” Mr. Coates said. “It’s really, really important to me that we have a broad range of of options in terms of the electorate. So for me, I think the idea that somebody is standing up as an avowed socialist and is actually contending — it doesn’t matter if that person wins or not from some perspectives because folks will see that and say damn things that we thought we couldn’t say, we actually can.”

Yet, Mr. Coates said he would not be helping to elect Mr. Sanders by making an appearances and that he would have preferred not to reveal that he planned to vote for him.

“I’m not going to make any calls. I’m not going to volunteer. I’m not doing anything,” Mr. Coates said. “I answered the question because I was asked the question. But, I just want to be clear. I reject the term supporter. I reject the term endorsement. I’m a voter.”

Mr. Coates’s announcement comes as Mr. Sanders is pushing hard to broaden his support among African-Americans. He met Wednesday morning with the Rev. Al Sharpton in New York. Last week, he won the endorsement of Benjamin T. Jealous, a former N.A.A.C.P. president, who vowed to campaign for him in South Carolina.

And the lawyer for the family of Walter L. Scott, who was fatally shot by a police officer in South Carolina, withdrew his support from Mrs. Clinton and endorsed Mr. Sanders last month.

Mr. Coates also said he supports Mr. Sanders’s plan to make public colleges and universities tuition free and to lower the interest rates on student debt. He added that he is deeply interested in the issues of economic inequality and appreciates that Mr. Sanders has made them a core of his candidacy.

“The way Senator Sanders has made this a huge part of his campaign from jump, I mean, that resonates with me, personally,” Mr. Coates said. “I haven’t written too much about wealth inequality in this country, but as a citizen I think about it obviously all the time.”

Mr. Coates said he isn’t sure when he decided to vote for Mr. Sanders, but he said his 15-year-old son is a big supporter of Mr. Sanders. The writer also said he hopes people will take the time to form their own opinions of the presidential candidates.

“I would hate for this to be an endorsement,” Mr. Coates said. “What I want folks to do more than anything in this world is not vote for who I’m voting for. Don’t follow me, dude. Don’t follow me. I want you to scrutinize your candidate. I want you to scrutinize your history. I want people to think for themselves. This is what I’m doing.”

**To Billary’s credit, perhaps, so obvious it is that the Democratic Party establishment at this point doesn’t even want to expend the time and energy giving us even more false promises of hope and change that Billary isn’t even trying with that approach, but is lecturing us on how we can hope for only the tiniest of the most incremental changes.

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