The official Democratic party debates may be over, but today’s Brown and Black Forum moderated by Fusion Magazine was an excellent showcase of the very sharp contrasts between the candidates. The questions were hard-hitting and the atmosphere relaxed. The candidates were much more at ease, ready to answer tough questions from the panel and audience. Jorge Ramos, Alicia Menendez, FUSION contributor Akilah Hughes and New York Magazine Writer-at-Large Rembert Browne participated in the panel.
While former Governor Martin O’Malley participated in the forum, I am only covering Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in this post. To be honest, I see no point in covering O’Malley’s segment here. I have placed multiple iterations of the video player, set to start with each question I cover in full. I suggest you stop each video when the question is answered so you can move onto the next item.
Guns and Gun Control
Bernie Sanders was first to take part. Jose Ramos framed the first question, about guns and gun control, in the context of Hillary Clinton’s criticism that Sanders should admit he was wrong in voting for a 2005 gun bill that shields gun manufacturers from losses. Ramos didn’t seem to fully grasp Sanders’ explanation of the complexity that often goes into legislation and so Sanders took another pass at explaining the difference between closing the straw man loophole and manufacturer liability, using Ramos and Akilah Hughes as living examples:
Over the weekend, Sanders fired back at the Clinton campaign for attacking his bona fides and the consistency in his position on guns, when Clinton’s record has been ever changing. As a reminder, here is a quote from a 2008 New York Times article on Hillary Clinton’s riposte to then candidate Obama’s clinging to guns and bibles comment:
““I disagree with Senator Obama’s assertion that people in our country cling to guns and have certain attitudes about immigration or trade simply out of frustration,” she said.
She described herself as a pro-gun churchgoer, recalling that her father taught her how to shoot a gun when she was a young girl and said that her faith “is the faith of my parents and my grandparents.””
Mr. Sanders who tweeted a link to this article over the weekend, hasn’t been shy in reminding the audience of Clinton’s positions in the recent past. And, indeed, we are reminded by BuzzFeed of this mailer the Clinton campaign sent out a month after she criticized Obama. That mailer prompted candidate Obama to compare Clinton to Annie Oakley:
Same Clintonian tactic, different candidate, opposite position on the same issue, and the same assumption that no one will remember, notice, or care…
On Affirmative Action and how he would answer a resentful white student, Sanders was well-prepared. In a follow up question, Sanders was asked what he would do in the event the Supreme Court ended Affirmative Action. Again, Sanders was well-prepared, pointing out that the difference in funding for schools in the inner city and well-to-do neighborhoods is the dependence on property taxes to fund education. Sanders proposes, instead, to fund according to need from the Federal government in order to achieve adequate funding and equality in quality of education.
I was somewhat disappointed that Sanders didn’t have the opportunity to cover that prong of Affirmative Action that pertains to school enrollment and hiring in the workplace, or make a clear distinction between making education available to all, freely, and the reparative nature of Affirmative Action, and how, with free education, reparations are maintained as they were originally intended. The question was broad and the follow up somewhat imprecise, but it is a distinction that the public needs to hear, as there is still very little understanding of the original intent and purpose of Affirmative Action.
It is even more disappointing that Clinton wasn’t even asked about Affirmative Action in her rounds of questioning. That is an issue on which we need to hear her views and depth of knowledge.
Immigration Raids and Immigration Reform
Sanders was prepared, with policy details, to answer questions about deportation and reform in ways that Clinton wasn’t in her segment. When asked why he had opposed an immigration reform bill, Sanders explained the problems inherent in the bill and reminded the audience that even the largest immigration advocacy groups had opposed it. There was also a very stark contrast in both candidates’ world views when it comes to deportations, with Sanders clearly being the more progressive of the two.
Of note, Jorge Ramos begins his questioning of Hillary Clinton on mass-deportation and immigration policy with a disclosure that his own daughter works for the Clinton campaign. Clinton’s answers, as her usual, deviated from the narrow scope of the question. When compared to Sanders’ more humane and expansive policy prescriptions, Clinton came away as harsh, even when children are involved. While Clinton proposed providing unaccompanied children with counsel “to tell their story,” it is a far cry from Sanders’ statements on not sending children back to the dangerous places whence they came, his detailed explanation of the difference between refugees and immigrants who are here for purely economic reasons, and his promise to use executive power in the event Congress doesn’t pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Ramos took a second pass at the immigration question later in the forum, this time, asking what is the difference between Bill Clinton’s 1994 Operation Gatekeeper, building a wall to keep undocumented workers out, and Donald Trump’s idea:
Hillary Clinton: Family Leave
Alicia Menendez asked Clinton if she would veto the Family Leave legislation which is supported by Senator Sanders and includes a $1.61 a week tax to fund it. Clinton began her answer by saying she remembered addressing that question during the last debate and that she supports Senator Gillibrand’s bill. Here is Secretary Clinton on family leave during the last debate, for comparison:
Black Unemployment and Free Higher Education Redux
Rembert Brown in a follow-up question, ties Black unemployment with Affirmative Action, and asks how it isn’t far-fetched to propose free education. Sanders, in his answer, connects the jobs component of Affirmative Action together with education, and healthcare for all in his view of what should be considered normal, or natural, of a nation to provide its own.
Sex Education and Reproductive Rights
Sanders displayed both his mischievous sense of humor while displaying his long-held feminist values, no-nonsense approach, and dedication to real science and education.
Sanders: “When sexuality is an intrinsic part of human life, we should not run away from it. We should explain biology and sexuality to our kids on a factual basis. Period.”
Sanders: Breaking Up The Banks
This question and answer segment was most interesting as it revealed that the questioner, Jorge Ramos, was under the mistaken impression that breaking up the banks means shuttering them, leaving customers without a banking institution to bank at. Ramos, began by asking which of the banks Sanders planned on breaking up. As he kept listing bank names, Sanders cut in to encourage Ramos to keep going. Ramos then exclaimed: “But isn’t it too radical? Can the economy really work without the banks, banks which millions of Americans rely on?” Sanders immediately answered “no one is talking about doing away with banking,” and then went on to explain that under the law, it would be up to the Secretary of The Treasury to examine which of the banks, were it to fail, would require a bailout. Such banks would then be broken up.
Sanders: Marijuana Legalization and Incarceration
Sanders explains that his aim, through the legislation he proposed, is to stop Americans from being incarcerated for possession of marijuana, even when its purchase is legal, by decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.
Sanders: Campus Rape: Whose Jurisdiction?
This is yet another issue on which Sanders’ long-held views and innate feminist ethics shone right through in the most succinct, unequivocal answer: “Rape and assault is rape or assault whether it takes place on campus or on a dark street, and if a student rapes a fellow student, that has got to be understood to be a very serious crime. It has got to get outside of the school and have a police investigation. That has got to take place. Too many schools now are saying this is a student issue, let’s deal with it. I disagree with that. It is a crime, it has to be treated as a serious crime, and you are seeing now the real horror of many women who have been assaulted or raped sitting in a classroom alongside somebody who raped them.”
Sanders: Police Brutality and Black Distrust of Law Enforcement
Senator Sanders acknowledged that the Black community is justified in its distrust of law enforcement and begins his answer with what he identifies as the most obvious: police brutality has been going on for a long time and the difference, today, is the existence of cell phone cameras to capture it. First, Sanders identified the need for a radical rethinking of police procedures, and the relationship between police and the communities they serve, as an obvious starting point for reforms. Second, Sanders called for holding officers who have committed crimes accountable, in all cases. Third, Sanders called for demilitarizing police forces and transforming them from an occupying force, to an integral part of the community, including ensuring that the force resembles the community it is a part of, and that forces are trained to deal appropriately with the situations they confront.
How would a Clinton Administration prove that Black Lives Matter?
Clinton begins her answer with a mention of her past meetings with Black Lives Matter activists and a broad agenda that a new president will have to make a top priority, but Clinton continues her answer with proposals that stand in stark contrast to Sanders’ in that they are formulated only through the prism of the criminal system, are not necessarily specific to Black Lives Matter. Strikingly, Clinton draws on diversion and other existing programs, which all assume guilt, rather than addressing what needs fundamental change in an inherently racist in a system that criminalizes people based on skin color and assumes that the person discriminated against had a problem with drugs and alcohol to begin with. While Clinton stressed she wants to put an end to the school to prison pipeline, she proposes to model diversion programs after existing programs administered by sheriff’s departments and charities. During her entire answer, Clinton repeatedly referred to drug or alcohol addiction as the basis for arrest and incarceration, but never addressed the harassment, false arrests and convictions or the lack of prosecutions after police brutality cases come to light. Clinton talks about bringing resources to the poorest, most desolate communities, but names a community that is outside the scope of the question she is answering, and does not address the inequities against Black Americans of all classes, or Black women as a group. Clinton has consistently strayed from giving answers that satisfy the questions she’s been asked on racial justice. Of note is that racial justice is folded into criminal justice on the Clinton website, while racial justice is a standalone on Sanders’.
Sanders: Healthcare Reform
Sanders was asked about breaking up health insurance companies as a way to deal with the problem of the underinsured. His answer was so succinct, it is worth watching without further commentary.
Hillary Clinton on Reproductive Rights:
Clinton explained that she is in favor of repealing the Hyde Amendment so that poor women in urban and rural areas may have access to reproductive medicine; rich people will always have access. It is a pity that the interviewer didn’t follow up with a question about full coverage of abortion through private health insurance policies, either personal, job-related, or Obamacare-obtained policies. While Clinton couched abortion in terms of a universal right, her answer focused exclusively on poor women and leaves out working and middle class women.
Hillary Clinton: White Supremacist vs. ISIS Threat:
Rembert Brown asked Secretary Clinton to address the threat of white supremacists as opposed to ISIS. Secretary Clinton, in this answer, did the equivalent of what many people do when asked about Black Lives Matter: bring up Black on Black violence. Instead of addressing the Charleston Massacre, and the rise of white supremacist and neo-nazi groups, Clinton addressed the 33,000 deaths a year in the US, resulting from gun violence. When she finally addressed homegrown violence, she chose to use the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City first, again, bypassing the fresher, more pertinent example for this forum: Charleston. Clinton listed gang violence next, with Haddiyah Pendleton as a concrete example of violence.
Hillary Clinton: The White Privilege Question
Secretary Clinton’s rambling answer should be cause for self-examination for those among us who are Caucasian. All I will say is that her answer was not satisfactory, coming from the leader
Following is a pot-pourri of quick questions:
Questions included whether living in the White House is off-brand for a Democratic Socialist and if Sanders would pay off Puerto Rico’s debt.
Sanders: Racism or Sexism? Which has seen the most progress?
Sanders: What salary level constitutes rich?
What states likes Sanders the least?
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