Who Won The First Democratic Debate?


CNN hosted the first Democratic debate which was largely a clash between Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton. It saw the five candidates asked tough questions by moderator Anderson Cooper but who did the debate benefit most and who won?

Bernie Sanders 9/10

Bernie Sanders is not the best orator. He doesn’t have the flair and drama of Obama but his passion really does come through in his debating. Sanders did not hold back and targeted a number of issues that politicians have not addressed properly in recent years. He set out his plan to raise taxes on the billionaires of the country to help make University a right for every U.S. child, like High School education. He has always brazenly attacked Wall Street and highlighted the corruption of money in U.S. politics. He was also very strong on attacking the prison industrial complex.

Sanders is the only candidate who is not backed by a super-pac – he has 650,000 different backers – and, apart from Jim Webb, all other candidates stayed silent on money in politics. He also was the only candidate who went out of his way to highlight the level of racism in America using specific cases (e.g. Sandra Bland’s death). His foreign policy was fairly standard but common-sense and Sanders has a good record of opposing controversial wars before they became unpopular (he was a conscious objector in Vietnam and did not support the Iraq invasion) but claimed he wasn’t afraid to use force proven by his support of the Afghanistan invasion of 2001.

Out of all the candidates he was also the only one to highlight climate change as one of the top threats to the United States. Sanders was weakest on gun regulation and his past was attacked by the other candidates for his lack of support on gun laws. His defence was that his state of Vermont being mainly rural so his gun views are different to city dwellers but nevertheless if he is going to become President he needs to change his views and take in consideration the country’s gun problems. Overall Sanders presented himself and was clearly passionate about the main issues he said nearly everything you want a presidential candidate to say.

Hilary Clinton 8/10

Clinton showed her experience thoroughly throughout the debate. In contrast to Bernie Sanders, she is a very accomplished orator and had some great lines that the viewers would have loved especially her closing line of her opening statement ‘Fathers will be able to say to their daughters, you, too, can grow up to be President’. She definitely plays politics better than Sanders. She did very well in addressing the need for common-sense prices for college and the restructuring of debt owed by former students. She also came out very strong in support of gun legislation for America and unlike Saunders had the history to back up her statements. She handled questions on her ‘scandals’, such as the infamous Benghazi and her emails, well and Bernie Sanders even supported her on this with the great line ‘the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails’.

Clinton presented herself and her policies well but a lot of the things she stayed silent on showed the most about her character. Clinton is one of the wealthiest and heavily backed candidates in the race so obviously she did not say a word on the massive influence of the wealthy on politics. She also didn’t attack the banks as aggressively as Sanders and defended Wall Street on some fronts but to her credit did point out the flaws in the banking system.

Her foreign policy was also problematic, and like most US politicians she condemned Putin’s support of Assad and has in the past suggested a no fly zone. What’s problematic is that the US has failed to defeat ISIS and it is clear ground troops are needed for the war effort. Like it or not Assad is the only person who can provide the ground troops and by him asking the Russians for assistance their presence has been legitimised. ISIS poses more of a threat to Russia than the US so it’s rich to see US politicians putting their national interest forward while condemning the interest of other states. While Hilary may have used the fact she is a woman too much as a debating point, she did do well overall and on the face of it may have won in some people’s eyes. She undoubtedly has a wealth of experience that would definitely help her potential presidency however the actual substance of her policies made her second to Sanders.

Martin O’Malley 5/10

He didn’t necessarily have a bad night but couldn’t stand up to Clinton and Saunders well enough. However he did make nearly all the right points: he challenged Sanders on his gun law history and urged for tighter regulations but his debating skills and monotone speech will limit his popularity.

Jim Webb 3/10

Webb seems like a moderate Republican from yesteryear and touted his military service in Vietnam as a major factor in why he should be commander in chief. To his credit he was the only other candidate to bring up the corruption of money in politics but overall his policies were uninteresting and some of his points would be right at home in the Republican debate.

His worst moment came when he spoke about his foreign policy saying the recent Iran nuclear deal would allow Iran to grow more powerful in the region and they would actually gain a nuclear weapon. If anything the deal makes it near impossible for Iran to get a nuke and the myth that Jim Webb had bought into the debate was a popular one spread by republicans, overall showing how out of touch he is. His debating and orating were poor and he has no chance of being the Democratic nominee.

Lincoln Chafee 2/10

The weakest of all the candidates, the ex-republican politician used thinly veiled jabs at Clinton for her email scandal and her support of the Iraq war (to his credit was one of the only Republicans to oppose the war) but his overall stance on most of the issues was weak. Claiming he was a block of granite in his policies consistency, when asked why he voted to repeal the Glass-Steagall act in 1999, he said ‘I had just arrived in the senate.’ Debated poorly and his talking points had no substance.

Overall this debate would appear to have been a bigger victory for Bernie Sanders than anyone else. He brought up a wide array of issues that most Americans want addressed and introduced himself to people who maybe do not know who he is. He shows the most passion and seems the least like a politician and is very honest. However Clinton also put in a great performance despite not addressing as many issues as Sanders – it’s going to be very close between the pair. The other candidates did not hold up to the two front-runners.


Second year History Students-articles focus on international issues and politics.

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