Top 3 Takeaways From the 4th Democratic Debate

Hillary Clinton clung tightly to President Obama’s legacy, but no candidate put up much of a black agenda during the debate, which was co-sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute.

Democratic presidential candidates Martin OMalley, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) participate in the Democratic candidates debate on Jan. 17, 2016, in Charleston, S.C.
Democratic presidential candidates Martin OMalley, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) participate in the Democratic candidates debate on Jan. 17, 2016, in Charleston, S.C. Andrew Burton/Getty Images

The fourth debate between the candidates for the Democratic nomination for president in Charleston, S.C., Sunday night was an exciting affair if you had never seen or heard of, or had no familiarity with, the candidates. But if you are like most Americans who have any interest in politics, there was not much last night that happened that will change how you plan on voting.

If you’re a Republican, nothing that was said is going to change your mind. If you’re a Bernie Sanders supporter, or a Hillary Clinton supporter, your confidence in your candidate was restored. If you’re a Martin O’Malley supporter, your participation trophy will be in the mail shortly. So while no minds may have been changed, there were some new contours of the race that popped up that are going to play a major role in these final two weeks before the first primary.

1. Hillary Loves Obama

Clinton was hugging Obama so hard during last night’s debate, I thought Michelle was going to have to step in. Clinton, always concerned about a repeat of her 2008 loss to the surging Obama, went on the offensive last night against Sanders and did so from a perspective and mindset that you wouldn’t expect. Clinton actually attacked Sanders from the left, both on gun control and the Affordable Care Act.

Her first claim, that Sanders is soft on guns, is pretty difficult to back up. No one believes that Sanders is soft on guns just because he didn’t vote in favor of every piece of gun control legislation he saw in Congress, and it’s a stretch to argue that Sanders’ plans to improve the ACA amount to tearing it up.

Clinton, however, is not lying or even exaggerating when she points out that Sanders suggested that someone pose a primary challenge to President Obama when he was running for re-election in 2012. Her overall strategy, that she will continue Obama’s legacy and that Sanders will jeopardize everything in favor of his socialist utopia, may work in the primary season, but she’s underestimating one key factor: Many of the left-wing Democrats who vote in primaries agree with Sanders that Obama didn’t do enough for the progressive agenda. So Clinton’s superstrong backing of the sitting president may not win her as much enthusiastic support as she’d like.

2. There Is No Black Agenda

While a debate co-sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute isn’t explicitly a forum designed to address African-American needs, this was supposed to be a debate that focused on some key issues concerning African Americans. And generally, no one did it. While all of the candidates get credit for mentioning the shooting at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the killing of Walter Scott, both in South Carolina, they were thin on solutions.

No one specifically mentioned the importance of health care to the black community, or the importance of jobs to the black community. Clinton deserves some credit for criticizing Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan for his Flint debacle, which certainly has racial elements to it, but overall again, issues specifically dealing with the African-American community were ignored or generalized by the candidates.

3. The Moderators Continue to Disappoint