First, Hillary Clinton is still not prepared to deal with real concerns about her ethics. Asked whether she would release transcripts of her richly paid-for speeches (in which she claimed to have warned Wall Street about the impending financial collapse), she said, “I will look into it.” That’s a “no.”
Second, Sanders, while sincere, is an ideological leftist in a way Clinton never will be. He proclaimed, “The business model of Wall Street is fraud.” Well, it’s not, and if one thinks so, as he plainly does, then the alternative is effective government control over our entire financial sector, which would suit him fine.
Third, Clinton, plainly infuriated with the attacks on her Wall Street ties, accused Sanders of an “artful smear,” essentially accusing her of corruption without saying so. She dared anyone to find an instance in which a donation influenced her vote on a particular issue. Consider for a moment that after all the years in government, Clinton still has no concept of the “appearance of a conflict of interest,” or the perception of corruption.
Fourth, Clinton is trying to play the grown-up in a party that wants no adult supervision. She pleads with Sanders that his “numbers just don’t add up.” (The same is true of her tax and spending plans, but at a less extravagant level.) She defends incremental change; the Democratic base aspires to the demise of capitalism. No wonder the left has never really embraced Clinton.
Fifth, Clinton may have a rotten foreign policy record, but Sanders seems to have no interest in foreign policy at all. The sum total of his foreign policy is that Clinton voted for the Iraq War and he did not. Here, Clinton had a perfect retort: “A vote in 2002 is not a plan to defeat ISIS.” Unfortunately, her own plan is essentially the same as the president’s — an incremental, and hence ineffective, effort that refuses to include necessary ground forces. More shocking than Sanders’s lack of interest in national security is the Democratic base, which does not hold it against him and shares the utter indifference to growing international threats. Maybe the base agrees it is all overblown, a result of watching too much TV.
Sixth, for all of Sanders’s loopy policy ideas and disregard for math, there is something delightful and engaging about Sanders. His facial gestures when Clinton was talking — bug-eyes one moment and bemused disagreement the next — can be more interesting than what Clinton is saying. He is, if nothing else, sincere and unintimidated by the Clinton machine. He is as whimsical and refreshing as she is staid and stale. No wonder young voters are gaga over him.
Seventh, none of what transpired is likely to make a difference in Tuesday’s balloting. Sanders is about 20 points ahead and shows no sign of faltering. The question remains what happens after that. Clinton sees the South as her “firewall,” and Sanders’s inability to connect with minority voters is a serious disadvantage. But let’s keep in mind that the FBI has the most important vote in the Democratic primary. If it “elects” to recommend prosecution, Clinton is a goner. And as hard as it may be to imagine, the goodwill Sanders has built up will make it hard to bring in a new candidate to prevent the nomination of a socialist, one who proudly — and loudly — embraces the label.