The Democratic candidates--Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton--have another debate tonight. I’ve been missing some of these over the past months, but from the few that I’ve watched, and the close attention I’ve paid to the candidates’ pronouncement, there are a number of things I wish they would address in the course of the debate.
For Hillary Clinton:
-I wish that Clinton would acknowledge that her flip-flopping on environmental, energy, labor, trade, regulation, and a host of other issues is real and remains a major stumbling block for many voters. This also makes her a potentially weak candidate in the general election. I wish she could find some way of saying something convincing about her commitment to pursuing the policies and parameters she has begun discussing in the past several months.
-I would like to hear Clinton say something about how--given the pathological hatred the Republican Party has of her--her proposals stand a better chance than those of Sanders of getting through Congress. She's been given a free pass by the media when she paints herself as the practical candidate with realistic policies. Does she anticipate somehow creating massive Democratic majorities, or that GOP opposition will evaporate with her election? If not, we’re left with two candidates who aren’t likely to accomplish much of substance, but one of whom (Sanders) is likely to continue changing the terms of the debate for the better.
-I would like to see her talk seriously about public higher education, and in serious terms about why she doesn't believe we can create the same opportunities in higher education that her generation enjoyed. Hint: I don’t want to hear about Donald Trump’s kids.
For Bernie Sanders:
-I would like Sanders to say something about how he intends to accomplish his policy goals. I'm less worried about the nitty gritty of the policy--that's something that can be worked out at a later stage, and that will likely change in the face of shifting economic, social, and political realities--than about his capacity to deliver. How will his revolution work? How will he harness his support, and build the size of that support base, in order to pursue actual policy change or development? I support his campaign, but I will admit to being deeply sceptical on this point.
-I am still waiting, months later, to hear Sanders say something coherent or compelling about foreign policy. He is right in his criticisms of Clinton, and I think he has broadly solid instincts, but that's not enough. Who are the people he will listen to when trying to craft an alternative to the neocons' murderous and self-destructive foreign policy. When it comes to international policy, Hillary Clinton and the Republicans are literally a menace. They threaten our own country’s security and the lives of millions of people around the world. We need a serious replacement for the poison underpinning their foreign policy.
For both candidates:
-I would like to hear the candidates say something about where the balance of benefits in both short and long term is when it comes to the social infrastructure of our country. For a long time--partly because of the dysfunction of our government--incremental, piecemeal welfare construction has been the norm. This hasn’t proved to be very robust or functional over the long term outside of core programs. Does it make sense--and is our country even capable of--to try to find consensus to do some more serious welfare state-building?
-Both candidates (Sanders with some reservations) have expressed support for the drone programs that have become part and parcel of the American war-making machine. Do they see any problems with the fact that as of about a year and a half ago the President’s targeted killing program had murdered 1.046 people who were not terrorists or even known to the U.S. government to kill 41 people on that list?
I have few hopes that the candidates will address any of these issues. But in tone and substance, the debate will undoubtedly be better than the absurd, unhinged, fascistic pit into which the Republican Party has descended.