Why Hillary Doesn’t Want to Debate Bernie

By | 4/04/2016 Leave a Comment

The media has been full of headlines during the past several days on the ongoing back-and-forth between the Clinton and Sanders camps over scheduling a debate in New York ahead of its April 19th primary.

Initially the Clinton campaign attempted to ignore Sanders’ requests to debate in the Empire State. Despite having agreed to hold three additional debates as the race progressed, one in March, one in April and one in May (a deal struck earlier in the year after Sanders agreed to a late-scheduled debate in New Hampshire), the Clinton team seemed reluctant to make New York the focus of the April debate, despite her healthy lead in the polls there.

When the calls were ratcheted up (i.e. ignored private requests were turned into public ones) and avoidance was no longer possible, the argument then turned from not if but when. The Clinton campaign offered three dates, none of which were found acceptable to Sanders, one of them being on the same night as the NCAA finals and another on ‘Good Morning America’ – hardly opportunities with which to garner a wide and varied viewing audience.

But why has Mrs. Clinton shown such an unwillingness to engage in this debate, and, when forced into a corner, shown such a willingness to keep it as little noticed as possible? She is, after all, a formidable debater by any estimation. She was by far the superior debater during the 2008 campaign against Mr. Obama, who despite his vaunted ability to make soaring, impassioned speeches had a tendency to falter and fumble his way through one-on-one encounters. And her command of policy and ability to summon facts and figures to bolster her arguments is almost without equal.

And let’s not forget that this is the same person who said during that 2008 nomination race that a presidential candidate should be willing to debate “anytime, anywhere” given the importance of the job.

Perhaps it all comes down to the message – she simply doesn’t want people to hear what Bernie Sanders has to say. Time and again in this race we’ve seen that when given greater exposure, his message and cause has resonated strongly with large sections of the electorate and voters have shifted their allegiance, his stunning victory in Michigan being a case in point, where he trailed Clinton by 20 points just weeks before the vote. 

Everyone knows who Hillary Clinton is  she’s been a part of this country’s political consciousness for a quarter of a century. But to a great many, Bernie Sanders remains something of a mystery. And while many question Clinton’s trustworthiness, she is nevertheless a known quantity, whereas there’s a natural human tendency to distrust what one doesn’t know – and many don’t yet know Sanders. 

He wants to change that. She doesn’t.  

She’s fashioned her pragmatic campaign message around small, incremental change and her ability to get things done, while deriding Sanders' lofty proposals as “pie-in-the-sky.” But the more that voters are made aware of just what that pie is all about, the more they seem to want a piece of it.

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