Oh, The Tone!! It Burns!

Ken AshfordElection 2016Leave a Comment

I haven’t bought into the media narrative about the alleged acrimony between Clinton and Sanders.  I thought it was media hype — sort of wishful thinking to boost ratings by making the Dems seems as “entertaining” as the Republicans.

I know it exists among the supporters of Clinton and Sanders.  I know many of the Sanders supporters are just plain belligerent, and naive.  I guess because Hillary came on the scene before they were born, some of the millennials — who know shit about politics (yeah, I went there) — think she is like Trump and the rest of them.

But listening to most of last night’s debate, I admit there is animosity, and it goes right to the top. A very different tone than most of the other debates. Last night’s debate was nasty, sarcastic and personal.  Others noticed:

Okay, mercy! Make it stop already.

For months I remained relentlessly cheerful about the overall quality of the Democratic primary competition. The contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders offered such a bright and bracing contrast to all those professional wrestlers emerging from the RNC’s clown car. Hillary and Bernie spoke so nimbly of policy and differing approaches to implementing change. They both evinced competence, intelligence, respect, and even affection for one another. (I’m sick and tired of hearing about your emails, Hillary! Let’s move on from that time your campaign stole my data, Bernie!)

In fact, my biggest complaint, for lo those many months, was: not enough debating.


Thursday brought Democrats, including me, our fondest wish and dream: another debate!

And from the start it was clear that this whole civil, respectful race had just deteriorated into some kind of nerdy Punch & Judy show, in which everyone screamed at each other, and over each other (and over the moderators) about 501c4s and Dodd Frank.

I think Sanders realizes New York is his last stand, and I don’t blame him for trying to win.

And every time Sanders came after Clinton, she reflexively fought back, instead of neutralizing him by agreeing with him.  Why, for example, couldn’t she simply agree that our friend Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians has been, at times, disproportionately brutal?  Does she really lose votes by saying that?

But generally, the debate left me a little concerned that we might be rending the party in a way that will hurt us in the general.  I’m not suggesting that Bernie Sanders needs to drop out — even if his shot is a long shot, he is still entitled to run.   But as far as debates go, we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns and are running the risk of damaging the eventual nominee in the upcoming general election.

Bernie needs to die with a whimper and not a bang.  This last ditch acrimony (and Clinton playing into it) is a very bad development.