The 8 Most Important Things Bernie Sanders Did In The Democratic Debate

Overall, I have to say I was very pleased with the Democratic debates on CNN last night. Some people thought they were “boring,” but the thing is, actual debates about politics and policy are kind of supposed to be a little dry. I am much more comfortable, altogether, with people who can calmly explain their positions in a civilized manner, than blowhards just yelling at each other about who loves Jesus more and who is and is not a “loser.”

I would honestly be pretty comfortable with anyone up there as the eventual nominee–even Jim Webb, whom I do believe won the award for “most likely to make people very uncomfortable at dinner parties,” would be preferable to any GOP nominee. “At least they’re all smart people,” I kept telling myself throughout the debate. Everyone had good moments–even Lincoln Chafee, who received some criticism for not being “memorable” enough, had a very good moment where he said Edward Snowden should not be prosecuted.

But, if you ask me, I think Bernie Sanders won the hell out of that debate.

Here are the things I liked best.

1. He didn’t mention his family or who he was related to in his opening remarks.

I loved this. I absolutely loved this. It was a very subtle, but very significant “No bullshit for me, thanks” move on his part. Because no, no one needs to know your life story, or who your kids are, or who your parents were. Everyone’s related to someone, most people love their families or are going to at least pretend to if they’re running for office, so let’s just get down to business. Which is what he did. I think with that move, he set the tone for the evening.

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2. Meanwhile, his wife is the actual best.

Can we talk about how much I loved Jane? Because I love Jane O’Meara Sanders. Jane just looks like she could be one of your mom’s friends. Look at that poncho! She is a regular lady who happens to have excellent taste in jewelry. Jane would totally schlep around Marshall’s for two hours and buy only a candle that was on sale. Jane is my people.

3. Bernie caused people to actually look up the word “Socialism.”

I will forever and ever be grateful to Bernie Sanders for this. People who don’t know fuck all about Socialism except that it’s bad and they’re against it have been the bane of my existence since elementary school, when I got in trouble for telling a teacher that public school was actually a form of socialism. Apparently, during the debate, there was a huge spike in the amount of people looking up the definition of Socialism online. Look at that! A debate that inspires voters to further educate themselves! Cool!

It was actually really glorious to see a bunch of people on stage at a Presidential debate in America intelligently discussing socialism without it being a “dirty word.”

4. He said, flat out, “Black Lives Matter” without any hesitation or mitigation.

This is important. Very, very important. Although the issues of racism and police brutality were not discussed to the extent that I would have liked, and I don’t think the question regarding this was phrased particularly well, I think it’s important that Sanders was very clear on why it was important to say “Black Lives Matter” rather than “All Lives Matter.” He was very clear on the problem of the over-incarceration of black men, and I think made an excellent case for why economic justice is important for everyone rather than just white people.

Even if this stance was merely in reaction to the BLM activists who have targeted him, I see that as a plus. It means he’s willing to listen to what is important to other people, rather than just blowing them off.

5. He openly criticized Citizens United and Super PACs and was clear on how they corrupt the political process. 

Bernie was absolutely right about this–you can’t fight the people who are paying your bills. Not only has he talked the talk on campaign finance reform, he explained that he’s walked the walk, and is running his campaign on small donations. (Which he made sure to ask for at one point on stage — do you, Bern!) It’s an important thing to discuss, because yeah–it is hard to trust other politicians when they’re being bought and sold by billionaires.

6. He kept insisting that the wealth inequality in this country was out of control.

It is. It absolutely is. It is absurd to pretend otherwise, because if we keep on a track where all of the economic growth in this country is going in the pockets of the megarich, we are going to implode. It’s not just unjust, it’s unsustainable.

7. He was the reason, I would argue, that parental leave and free college even entered the debate in the first place.

I’m telling you, these are not things most politicians would bring up on their own. I like Hillary a lot, but I’m not sure she’d even be discussing these things if not for Bernie. Despite the fact that these things are commonplace in other countries, they’re considered practically radical in America.

From what I saw, everyone on that stage was trying to compete with him on policy even more than Clinton — and that’s a good thing.

8. He was, in essence, a bullshit vacuum.

Everyone is talking today about the “Enough with your damn emails!” statement — which was, I think, an incredibly powerful moment in the debate. I think most Americans are kind of bored to death with “scandals” and other crap that isn’t particularly substantive. It’s exhausting, and it takes away from the real issues that actually affect us day to day, which is what we need to be talking about instead of freaking email scandals.

I think Bernie Sanders, by merely being on stage being Bernie Sanders, almost makes it impossible to sling bullshit. It looks even more patently ridiculous than it already does, simply by comparison. Personally, I don’t care a ton about polish, or really good speeches, or looking “Presidential.” It’s not a thing for me and quite honestly, I find it a little icky. I think his presence kept everyone on task and talking about the issues that matter.

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I think most outlets are going to say that Clinton won the debate. I’m not so sure. I think she won in terms of polish, but I think Bernie won the night in terms of substance. What do you think?