Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton squared off in the debate Thursday night, with Bernie’s supporters being much more raucous than Hillary’s.
Thursday night I was conflicted: I love New York and I love Brooklyn (even the new Brooklyn peering up at the stage through Warby Parker glasses). I hate boisterous debate crowds. And there was the city I adore, cheering and hooting and wooing at every Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton applause line, and even a few unadorned statements of fact.
But as irritating as the interruptions were, they were revealing, too.
Such as during the long back-and-forth on Israelis and the Palestinians. Sanders dug in on his argument that in 2014 in Gaza, Israel used disproportionate force — and he repeatedly talked about treating the Palestinian people with decency and humanity. The crowd rewarded him — this in a city known for toeing a hard line on Israel.
As columnist Peter Beinart tweeted, “Listen to audience when @BernieSanders talks about Palestinian ‘dignity.’ That’s future of the Democratic Party.”
While Sanders got more cheers Thursday, Hillary Clinton (seen after the debate with Chirlane McCray and Mayor Bill De Blasio) may get the last ovation later on.
I suspect the exchange played far better for Sanders in that room than it will among the broader electorate — the future isn’t here yet — but time will tell.
When Clinton broke into a conversation about the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court to chide debate organizers for asking not “one question,” over eight debates, “about a woman’s right to make her own decision,” the crowd rewarded her.
They lapped it up when she hammered Sanders for buckling to gun manufacturers on a bill shielding them from lawsuits. They clapped hard when she called for unifying the party.
Still, the enthusiasm for her couldn’t compare to the surges of near-euphoria every time Sanders riffed on his greatest hits, all of which boil down to accusing his opponent of being, essentially, a tool. (He was relentlessly negative.)
Sanders came off as very negative as he attacked Clinton for most of Thursdays debates, to the thrill of his supporters.
They went gaga when he attacked her use of the word “superpredator,” “because,” Sanders said, “it’s a racist term.”
Just a narrow river and a fabulous, privately funded park away from Wall Street, they were with him when he urged her to release her Goldman Sachs transcripts.
And when he banged the drum on climate change and the need for bold action.
And when he hammered Hillary for shifting positions on a $15 minimum wage.
With an audience that’s as far left as Thursday’s was, a woman whose specialty is describing the mechanics of reform plans can’t win an applause contest against a guy who talks passionately about principles and promises progressives the sky.
Hillary’s betting on the likelihood that she doesn’t get the most intense applause, but she’ll get the last ovation, on Nov. 8.