Democratic Presidential Debate – Flint, Michigan
Secretary Clinton And Senator Sanders Square Off Before Michigan Voters Head to the Polls on Tuesday.
March 7, 2016
Members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and their respective campaign staffers gathered in Flint on March 6 for this election cycle’s seventh Democratic Presidential Debate. The party decided to hold the debate in Flint primarily because of the crisis concerning Flint’s water supply being poisoned with lead and other toxins.
“We as a party felt that once we added Flint to our debate schedule, that coming [here] would shine a spotlight on the crisis,” said Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC Chair and U.S. Representative from Florida. “Using this national stage to be able to highlight the crisis here will be able to show what’s going on in Flint but also that this is a problem that exists in many other cities across the country.” She added that the Democratic Party intended on helping Flint with short-term solutions to the problem and that long-term solutions were going to be much more complex.
The debate, which was moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper and featured many questions from Flint residents, began at 8:00 P.M. At approximately 6:30, the Sanders campaign held a press conference where long-time Flint resident and former Michigan Senator Donald Riegle endorsed Bernie Sanders. Senator Riegle, who worked under seven presidents ranging from Lyndon B. Johnson to Bill Clinton, cited many different aspects of Senator Sanders’ policies and voting record as his reasons for the endorsement.
“I think the most important fact about Bernie is that he is honest and trustworthy,” Senator Riegle said. “That is an essential differentiator to me … I believe so strongly the starting point in selecting a new president is believing in someone that you can trust that what they say is what they truly stand for, not just at election time, but that will keep their word. Bernie has proven over the decades that his integrity and trustworthiness is rock solid.”
Senator Sanders spoke briefly after the endorsement speech, thanked the former Senator for his support and took questions from the press.
Both current Michigan Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow spoke in favor of Hillary Clinton on the night of the debate. Senator Peters addressed the issue of Secretary Clinton’s trustworthiness, throwing his full support behind her.
“I believe that Hillary Clinton is very trustworthy,” Senator Peters said. “I believe that she has the best interest of the country in mind. She has a track record over many, many years of standing up and being a voice for folks who don’t have a voice, from dealing with issues of segregation early in her career in the South of this country to fighting for women’s issues, fighting for children’s health. She has a long track record of being there for people who need to have a voice. I have no reservations about her trustworthiness or, more importantly, the thing that motivates her to serve the public and to serve this country.”
The debate itself, which lasted about two hours, highlighted differences and similarities between the two candidates, including policies on gun control, infrastructure, trade and mass incarceration.
Concerning the Flint Water Crisis, Secretary Clinton called for the resignation or recall of Governor Snyder for the first time, something that Senator Sanders did weeks previously. Secretary Clinton did, however, remind the audience that she was the one who called for the debate to be held in Flint in the first place. She also said that she wanted to remove lead from all water systems, soil, and paint in old houses. Anderson Cooper raised the point that there are currently 10 million lead service pipes distributing water to American citizens, showing how both candidate’s pledges to remove lead pipes may be incredibly difficult. Issues concerning the state of the country’s infrastructure, including America’s water systems and pipes, continued to come up for the rest of the night.
Gun control brought out differences in the candidates. Sanders said that he believed gun manufacturers should only be held accountable for deaths that their products may cause if they sell them illegally or do not properly look into the person purchasing them. Clinton, on the other hand, stated that she believed all gun manufacturers should be held accountable for gun related deaths, regardless of whether the gun was purchased legally or not.
“Giving immunity to gun makers and sellers was a terrible mistake because it removed any accountability,” she said, referring to legal loopholes that allows people to receive guns after a waiting period even if a proper background check has not been completed. Sanders shot back to this that he believed Clinton’s position meant that she wanted to remove guns from the county entirely, something he was against.
While the debate brought out differences between Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton, there are many similarities in their policies. According to Wasserman Schultz, some of the main issues she believes they primarily agree on is the role the government should play in people’s lives, creating jobs, raising the minimum wage, health care, housing and retirement.
“Those are the building blocks of a middle class life,” she said, acknowledging that the main difference between the candidates was in their specific approaches for dealing with those problems.
Much like the previous six debates, this one showed that, if nothing else, the entire Democratic party agrees that both of their candidates would be better for America than any of the candidates on the Republican side. Clinton and Sanders spoke about this on stage, and their representatives reiterated the point afterward. Wasserman Schultz said that the DNC was already making plans on how they would go about organizing a campaign for whomever wins the nomination. Reuniting the party, she said, was something that would be primarily up to whichever candidate does not get the nomination.
“[Bringing together supporters] will be the responsibility of the candidate that ultimately is not our nominee,” she said. “The two candidates…have repeatedly said, like they did again tonight, this isn’t personal between them. They like each other. They just a have a difference of opinion on some issues, and on some issues they agree. I can’t image which one of [the Republicans] would even begin to think about running with Trump or Cruz. They’ve been so horribly insulting to one another and so vulgar and disgusting. They have absolutely no credibility left.”
Featured image courtesy of CNN.