On the evening of April 14th, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders met in Brooklyn's Navy Yard for the ninth Democratic debate this election cycle. This debate came after several days of intense campaigning in New York City, with Clinton holding rallies in the Bronx and Brooklyn, and Sanders rallying in Washington Square Park and joining the Communication Workers of America in their strike against Verizon. Both candidates have flaunted their ties to the state: Clinton served as a senator from 2001 to 2009 before ultimately leaving that position to become President Barack Obama's Secretary of State, and Sanders was born and raised in Brooklyn by his parents, who immigrated to the city from Poland.
This debate was by far the most aggressive. While neither candidate specifically addressed issues that plague New York, both were quick to broach several topics that have been contested since the beginning of the election cycle.
Breaking up Banks
The crux of Sanders' campaign is founded in the idea that Wall Street banks, oftentimes dubbed by politicians as "too big to fail," hold unfair sway over the American economy. He reiterated his views during the debate, stating that: "These banks, in my view, have too much power. They have shown themselves to be fraudulent organizations endangering the well-being of our economy." Sanders went on to argue that banks should decide, internally, how to restructure once they are targeted by the government, claiming that this power did not fall under the jurisdiction of the Treasury.
Clinton cited Dodd-Frank, passed in 2010, as a potential tool that could be used to dismantle these banks, and attacking Sanders for his lack of a clear plan to implement his ideas. She then argued that executives of these organizations should face financial penalties if they prove to be fraudulent and purposely impacting the economy for self-gain, and that the shadow banking industry was, perhaps, the larger enemy in this situation. Clinton then criticized Sanders for voting to "deregulate swaps and derivatives," claiming that it was this lack of regulation that ultimately led to the collapse of the Lehman Brothers in 2008.
Each candidates' views on gun control can be summarized quickly. Clinton believes in very strict regulations and claimed that a majority of the gun-related crime that was committed in New York was perpetuated by someone who purchased a gun out of state. Sanders believes in banning assault weapons, but ultimately believes in a less harsh gun control policy. Clinton received an F rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA) while Sanders received a D- .
Employment, Job Creation, and Minimum Wage
While addressing the topic of employment and poverty in the United States, each candidate discussed the importance of reinstituting the power of America's manufacturing industry, as well as raising the federal minimum wage.
When the counterargument was brought up that American-produced goods would be more expensive and ultimately impact the buying power of low-income communities, Sanders said the following: "While it is true we may end up paying a few cents more for a hamburger in McDonald's, at the end of the day, what this economy desperately needs is to rebuild our manufacturing sector with good-paying jobs." Clinton emphasized the importance of focusing on advanced manufacturing and laying out a clear plan.
Sanders argued that a $15 per hour minimum wage would be necessary for all Americans to earn a living wage, as opposed to the $7.25 that individuals receive now that traps them in a cycle of poverty. Clinton claimed that New York's journey to create a state-wide minimum wage at $15 was a "model for the nation," but falsely asserted that she had always supported raising the minimum wage for $15. However, she argued against this several weeks ago, claiming that the jump to a $15 minimum wage was simply too much and would throw the economy in flux.
Racism, the Prison Industrial Complex, and Anti-Crime Bills
The most charged segment of the debate centered around racism and imprisonment in the United States. The U.S. has incarcerated more individuals than any other nation on Earth, with one in every nine American adults facing prison time at least once in their lives. It is well known, however, that the prison industrial complex disproportionately impacts the African American community, with one in every three African American men incarcerated in their lifetime. One of the primary reasons for this is the 1994 Anti-Crime Bill, passed by former President Bill Clinton.
On her husband's policies, Clinton claimed the following: "My husband has apologized. He was the president who actually signed it ...voted for it. I'm sorry for the consequences that were unintended and that have had a very unfortunate impact on people's lives. I've seen the results of what has happened in families and in communities. [...] I also want people... especially I want -- I want white people -- I want white people to recognize that there is systemic racism. It's also in employment, it's in housing, but it is in the criminal justice system, as well."
Sanders proposed that in order to end mass incarcerated, the entire prison system needed to be dismantled and built from the ground up. He also discussed lowering recidivism rates, and that as a nation, "We should be thinking about education, not jail or incarceration [for young African Americans]." He also proposed increased job training in order to better integrate the formerly incarcerated back into mainstream society.
Energy and the Environment
Each candidate's views on energy policies are quite straightforward: Sanders believes in a carbon tax and a push for clean energy, claiming that we should focus on retrofitting older buildings with solar panels and rebuilding mass transit. Clinton likewise believes in moving towards green energy, but claims that we are currently too dependent on fossil fuels and require a "transition period" in which we focus on the use of natural gas. She hopes to "every home in America with clean energy" within 10 years.
Foreign PolicyMiddle East
Each candidate has a wildly different approach to the issues we currently see in the Middle East. Sanders criticized America's oft-used tactic of overthrowing regimes before thinking about the potential consequences, claiming that "wanting democracy" did not necessarily warrant intervention. He urged politicians to prioritize, stating that Wanting democracy is different from intervening, and overthrowing a government without knowing what the consequences will be. "Right now," he said, "our fight is to destroy ISIS first and then deal with Assad second." Clinton had a different view, claiming that "We have had a far greater disaster in Syria than we are having in Libya right now," as a result of the U.S.' failure to intervene. She also stated that, "We did a great deal to help the Libyan people after Gaddafi's demise. We helped them hold two successful elections"
While both candidates believed that Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorism, Clinton fought for a two state solution, claiming that Palestinians could have already had their state had they agreed to two previous compromises. Sanders argued that, "Israel has a right to defend itself, live in peace, and ward off terrorism." However, he noted that there is a tremendous civilian expense; a disproportionate attack against Palestinians who are not necessarily at fault. He argued that, "If we are ever going to bring peace to that region that has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity."
Both candidates have faced similar criticism in regards to this debate that they have in others: Sanders is criticized for clearly identifying these issues, but not offering concrete solutions; his supporters wish to see him speak more methodologically. Clinton is criticized for constantly shifting her opinions to put her on the right side of history; while her rhetoric is excellent, many of her claims are simply untrue. Clinton is currently projected to win New York State in Tuesday's primary.