Monday, November 16, 2015

Democratic Debate Recap: Sometimes, Nothing Much Happens

The relatively uneventful Democratic presidential debate on Saturday night, occurring amidst a relatively uneventful Democratic presidential nomination contest, left political analysts with a limited supply of hooks upon which to hang their post-game stories. The New York Times account reported that Hillary Clinton was "pummeled" by Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley, but if so, it was the most polite political pummeling in history. While Clinton was indeed a target of criticism—naturally so, given her front-runner status—none of it was particularly unexpected or harsh. If anything could interrupt Clinton's march to the nomination, it is unlikely to be an attack from either of her rivals on the debate stage.

Scrounging for a larger relevance to the event, several purveyors of Washington wisdom have suggested that Clinton made some remarks that might haunt her in a general election, including her invocation of 9/11 in response to the charge from Sanders that she is a captive of Wall Street, as well as her expression of sympathy with today's student protestors by noting that she was a child of the 1960s. But it's difficult to imagine either statement having much resonance a month from now, much less a year from now. The Republican Party, unlike Bernie Sanders, is not likely to attack Clinton for being too cozy with the financial industry, and any explicit suggestion that she is too old to be president is certain to backfire. In truth, this debate will come and go without leaving a lasting effect on either the nomination or the general election, and there's no dishonor in saying so.