Well, we had fun, didn't we? Two full days of batting around the possibility of a precedent-setting debate between Donald Trump, who just closed his deal for the Republican presidential nomination, and Bernie Sanders, who every scribbler and talking head and ink-stained drudge from MSNBC to the New York Times back to CNN will tell you has no chance whatsoever of leading the charge for the Democrats.
But right on time comes the statement from Donald Trump himself that the debate would be “inappropriate” since Sanders is so far behind Hillary Clinton in delegates. True, “inappropriate” and “Trump” do go well together in any sentence, but Bernie and Hillary are in exactly the same position delegate-wise as they were two nights ago when the Donald announced on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night talk show that he'd be delighted to debate Sanders, later calling the idea a “dream.”
Perhaps realizing he’d stepped in it big time, Trump had quickly added a rider to his offer that the Sanders campaign—or someone—would have to cough up $10 or $15 million for charity before he’d participate, suggesting that the money should go to “women’s issues.” We’re guessing he meant young, shapely Eastern European women’s issues, but we digress.
Last night and this morning, when the debate idea was still in play, you overwhelmingly told us you thought the Sanders-Trump debate should go forward, with 83% of 150 respondents in favor and just 17% opposing.
Then, just before Trump turned tail, Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver said he was ready to accept offers from two broadcast networks to host the debate and there was talk that the charitable funds Trump demanded could be raised in time for California’s primary on June 7th. But then the Donald scotched the idea.
What Did You Think?
Last night and this morning, when the idea was still in play, you overwhelmingly told us you thought the Sanders-Trump debate should go forward, with 83% of 150 respondents in favor and just 17% opposing.
Brother, are you out of step with your betters leading the Democratic party and among what passes these days for liberal commentators in mainstream media.
Leading the harrumping, West Virginia Senator Joe Mancin said the idea was “bullshit”, while our own California senior Senator Dianne Feinstein said “What he’s trying to do is bring attention to himself.” A candidate for office bringing attention to his or her campaign—there’s a novel concept, but again we digress.
And then you have to watch erstwhile liberal darling Rachel Maddow trash the idea and Bernie again right along with it.
A few of you who responded to our survey were in tune with these opponents.
“All that it would accomplish would be to make the Democrats look uncoordinated,” said Julieann “Trump will be able to yell and shake his fist and utter a bunch of sound bites, while the Democrat’s hover behind their very civilized second-place person.”
“[Sanders] will not be the Democratic nominee and it is pure ego that is pushing him to presume that he should be the Democratic standard bearer in a debate with the Republican presumptive nominee,” said Nancy Conk. “If he wanted to run a no holds barred campaign he should have run as an Independent.”
Others thought the damage would be to Sanders, not so much Hillary or the Democratic Party:
“It would hurt Bernie’s future hopes of reforming the Democratic Party because of his association with such a crazy as Trump,” said Ken Wolf. “Yes, Bernie will “win” the debate (the battle) but debating Trump could cause him to lose the war.”
“Entering into this debate will seem like schoolyard boys going at it,” said Kristina Lear. “Sanders has done such a good job of not pandering to stupidity. I don’t believe he will appeal to voters who haven’t made up their minds, or flip Trump or Clinton supporters.”
But 83% of you favored the idea of the debate.
Why Was the Idea So Popular?
Some of you favored the debate idea because it would wake up Bernie supporters who are going too far:
“A substantive debate about ideas would be great way for “Bernie or Bust” folks to see just how bad Trump would be,” said Escott. “While [Clinton] is far from ideal, she would be light years better than Trump as president. The Sanders-Trump debate could really help highlight the differences. Just because they are both running anti-establishment campaigns does not make them the same!”
“Sanders is right on big economic issues. But I don’t think he has any chops on international affairs. And international affairs are going to be at the heart of economic questions as the world grows more modern,” said Tom. “A debate would help people see that with greater clarity.”
Others saw at least some opportunity for improving Bernie’s position as Hillary is under siege, even from journalists who have so far handled her with kid gloves, over her email woes.
“Unbelievably to us political junkies, [Bernie] and his ideas are still unknown to many, thanks to minimal coverage by the mainstream media which is giving us wall-to-wall Trump 24 hours a day,” said Butler. “When people hear him, they love him. Even his demeanor will make Trump look what he really is-pathetic.”
Brenda Shouten-Beckett concurred: “Any time people actually get to listen to Bernie, they realize he is the only candidate capable of leading us out of the mess we are in.”
And Carole Lutness said, “Bernie will run circles around Trump. He is a man of principle and substance. Trump is a clown and schoolyard bully.”—though you might want to be careful there as the Republican primary field is littered with much-practiced politicians who underestimated Trump’s slipperiness and bluster at their peril.
At LA Progressive, we think the debate would have given Sanders much-needed airtime in front of what doubtlessly would have been a huge audience. The mainstream media have largely closed Bernie out, barely now able to complete a sentence without asserting that “delegate math” says he can't win the nomination.
But, the fact that this debate possibility captured people's attention for a couple of days brought more attention to Bernie's campaign. And let’s not forget Hillary's promise-breaking refusal to debate Sanders.
Editor, LA Progressive