Clinton campaign chief strategist Joel Benenson told CNN on Monday there would be no further debates between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders indefinitely until the Sanders campaign changed its tone.
It resulted in the viral hashtag #ToneDownForWhat, which probably changed the Clinton campaign’s mind because Clinton has now apparently agreed to participate in a debate in New York.
I suppose this unnecessary controversy comes from the Clinton campaign’s frustration over having to fight so hard for what was supposed to be a ceremonial primary joust, but this is the public government we are talking about—the Presidency of the United States—and the job she is interviewing for is first and foremost one of public service. A public debate between two competitive candidates should not be stalled because one campaign is angry at the other’s surprising primary success. Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign comes across as suspiciously self-conscious when it evades committing to the extra debates that both campaigns had already tentatively agreed to back in February.
Democratic tendencies aside, what could Benenson have meant in suggesting Sanders was campaigning with a negative tone undeserving of further political debate? I was at Sanders’ rally two weeks ago in St. Charles, MO, and I saw first hand Sanders’ tone of professional public advocacy. Sanders advocates honest, democratic politics, and he happens to elucidate particular campaign differences between the way he is running for president and the way Clinton is running for president.
The contrasts are negative in substance rather than tone, in that they make Clinton appear less progressive than she claims to be, and it explains her campaign’s self-consciousness. There are very real differences between Sanders and Clinton that voters should be aware of to better make an informed decision for Election 2016, and Sanders is not running on negativity by campaigning with a rhetorical magnifying glass held up to Clinton’s unprogressive policy proposals. Sanders has every right to point out that his campaign is less calculated of a political movement.
In the last Democratic debate on CNN, the question of whether or not the candidates supported fracking was a particularly conspicuous contrast between the two candidates’ ideas of progressive politics. Clinton meandered a long answer of opaque support for continued fracking, but promised certain regulatory “conditions.”
“You know, I don’t support it when any locality or any state is against it, number one,” she said. “I don’t support it when the release of methane or contamination of water is present. I don’t support it, number three, unless we can require that anyone who fracks has to tell us exactly what chemicals they are using.”
Then she claimed that these conditions would not leave very many fracking sites still operating, but her noncommittal answer is exactly the kind of calculated political maneuver that Sanders’ supporters criticize.
In the past, Clinton has explained her fracking position saying “With the right safeguards in place, gas is cleaner than coal,” and “expanding production is creating tens of thousands of new jobs.” While technically accurate, it sounds a lot like selling out liberal energy and environmental causes to me, and it serves as a subtle hint that she might be willing to look the other way on fracking companies’ environmental abuses in exchange for some campaign money.
Even more suspect, Clinton has begun using the politically motivated phrase “energy-intensive energies” to refer to oil, coal and natural gas because of their negative association with pollution and environmental destruction. Though Clinton claims she will regulate most fracking sites out of existence, Sanders supporters have every right to punish her electorally for her lack of commitment in stopping energy companies from harming our planet for economic gain.
Following Clinton’s answer Sanders won the debate, and possibly Michigan’s primary, when he articulated his opinion on fracking:
SANDERS: “My answer is a lot shorter: no, I do not support fracking. And by the way Anderson, I’m glad you raised the issue of climate change, because media doesn’t talk enough about what the scientists are telling us, and that is, that if we don’t get our act together the planet that we’re gonna leave our children may not be healthy and habitable. I have introduced the most comprehensive lead-climate change legislation in the history of the Senate, which among other things calls for a tax on carbon, massive investments in energy efficiency, wind, solar, and other sustainable energy. This is a crisis we have got to deal with now.
COOPER: There are a number of Democratic governors in many states who say that fracking can be done safely and that it’s helping their economies. Are they wrong?
Sanders is right when he says that climate change is the most pressing issue of our time. Any energy plan for the future that does not wholly focus on investing in renewable energy sources to phase out “energy-intensive” energies is wrong for America and planet Earth. Solar is obviously the future of energy by every economic and environmental metric compared to NONRENEWABLE energy sources like oil, coal and natural gas, and Bernie, unlike Clinton, makes it perfectly clear where he stands on environmental issues.
This is why the Clinton campaign is so angry with the Sanders campaign’s “tone.” The Clinton campaign thought they had defeated Sanders after the South Carolina primary, but Sanders is continuing to win primaries and dominate caucuses. The momentum behind Sanders has pushed him into the lead in Wisconsin’s upcoming primary, and has made New York a suddenly much more competitive primary.
The “tone” controversy was rightfully shut down with #ToneDownForWhat, and it’s condescending for the Clinton campaign to try and stymie America’s democratic process by refusing to debate because Clinton is annoyed with Sanders’s democratic success.
Liberal voters have every right to be angry that Clinton will not commit to liberal causes as wholeheartedly as Sanders. Throughout the Democratic primary, Sanders has been said to be pulling Clinton to the left, but, with Sanders ceaselessly gaining on Clinton’s lead, he may just pass her on the left.