Good evening, and welcome to NPI’s live coverage of the sixth Democratic presidential debate of the 2016 cycle. I will be watching and sharing impressions of the debate as it progresses. The debate is being organized and broadcast by PBS affiliates like KCTS 9, and simulcast by CNN. If you don’t get PBS over the air, or you don’t have cable, you can livestream the debate online with YouTube.
There are two candidates left seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
This sixth overall debate will be the second one with just Clinton and Sanders on stage, going head to head. Tonight’s debate will be the only debate held between the New Hampshire Democratic primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses on February 20th. The next debate is scheduled for March 6th, in Flint, Michigan, following the South Carolina Democratic primary and Super Tuesday.
The moderators will be PBS’ Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff.
We will begin our live coverage at 6 PM, when the candidates take the stage.
UPDATE, 6 PM: Here we go! Our moderators have arrived.
UPDATE, 6:04 PM: Bernie Sanders is giving his opening statement first. He’s reiterating his campaign themes — blasting income inequality, money in politics, establishment politics, and establishment economics.
UPDATE, 6:08 PM: Hillary Clinton has now delivered her opening statement, stressing her commitment to building on the progress that President Obama has made (though she did not mention Obama by name).
UPDATE, 6:11 PM: We’re back from a brief break. First question goes to Bernie Sanders — and sadly, it’s rooted in right wing framing: How big you believe government should be? (Bad question, Judy. The big/small dichotomy is not what’s important. What progressives are after is government that is effective.)
UPDATE, 6:12 PM: Sanders responds by pointing out that we need to pool our resources to tackle our gaping infrastructure deficit and live up to our moral responsibility of providing healthcare for all.
UPDATE, 6:13 PM: Clinton jumps in and suggests that implementation of Sanders’ plan would make the federal government 40% bigger.
UPDATE, 6:15 PM, “In my view, healthcare is a right for all people,” Sanders says, defending the idea of Medicare For All.
UPDATE, 6:16 PM: “I’ve set forth very specific plans on how to get costs down,” Clinton says, arguing that it makes more sense to incrementally build on the Patient Protection Act than to try to move quickly towards Medicare For All.
UPDATE, 6:18 PM: Sanders responded by pointing out the United States is the only major developed country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee healthcare to its people as a right. Wanting the last word, Clinton declares that we’re not France, the United Kingdom, or Canada, and again assails Sanders’ plans as unrealistic.
UPDATE, 6:24 PM: The candidates are agreed on the principle of lowering the cost of college, but each claims the other’s plan is inferior to theirs.
We’ve heard much of this exchange before…
UPDATE, 6:29 PM: “I’m not asking people to support me because I’m a woman,” Clinton says, after listening to Sanders field another silly question about how he feels about his candidacy potentially preventing America from electing the first woman president in 2016.
UPDATE, 6:32 PM: Sanders just delivered one of his finest debate answers yet, slamming Republicans for hypocritically wanting the federal government to dictate women’s reproductive decisions while nonsensically pushing for 1790s-size, 1890s-size, or 1950s-sized federal government.
UPDATE, 6:33 PM: Finally, a decent, substantive question: How would you address the disproportionately high black male prison population?
UPDATE, 6:34 PM: Sanders and Clinton agree: we need to demilitarize our police and insist on criminal justice reforms (policing, sentencing) that will end prejudicial practices by law enforcement personnel. Systemic racism needs to be combated more broadly as well, as Hillary Clinton noted. “We have to talk about jobs, education, housing,” Clinton noted.
UPDATE, 6:38 PM: Sticking with the same theme, Judy Woodruff asks, “What would you do to improve race relations?”
UPDATE, 6:40 PM: Clinton praises President Obama for his work digging America out from the ditch President Bush left the country in, but notes we can’t rest. The advent of social media, she points out, has helped expose a lot of the discriminatory practices in our country that have continued, even in the wake of the civil rights victories of the 1950s, 1960s, and beyond.
UPDATE, 6:45 PM: Sanders draws the connection between disastrous trade and economic policies and underemployment, income inequality, and economic injustice.
UPDATE, 6:47 PM: Moving on to comprehensive immigration reform…
UPDATE, 6:48 PM: Sanders says new Americans would not need to fear deportation under a Sanders presidency. “I disagree with his recent deportation policies,” Sanders says of Obama, after praising Obama for his executive order on immigration, which is being litigated right now at the Supreme Court.
UPDATE, 6:49 PM: Clinton agrees… “I’m against the raids,” she says. “I was one of the original sponsors of the DREAM Act,” she adds.
UPDATE, 6:51 PM: After being criticized by Clinton, Sanders defended his 2007 immigration vote by pointing out that the legislation contained an awful, immoral guest worker program that was opposed by the AFL-CIO, Southern Poverty Law Center, and other progressive groups.
UPDATE, 6:56 PM: “If elected President, I will do everything I can to expand Social Security,” Sanders declares, answering a question from Facebook (“How will you ensure the basic needs of senior citizens are met?”)
UPDATE, 6:58 PM: Clinton agrees that Social Security should be expanded, but says she wants to focus on helping those who are most at risk first.
UPDATE, 6:59 PM: Sanders challenges Clinton on her commitment to expanding Social Security, noting that groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) have asked Clinton to commit to scrapping the cap. Clinton reiterates that she thinks she and Sanders are in “vigorous agreement” about expanding Social Security, but declines to endorse Sanders’ approach.
UPDATE, 7:03 PM: Next question… “What influence will your campaign contributors have on your administration?”
UPDATE, 7:06 PM: We’re having quite a vigorous debate about the influence of money in campaigns affecting public policy. Sanders is making the point that unfettered corporate electioneering has had a negative effect on our country, and that Wall Street doesn’t donate to super PACs just for the fun of it. Clinton notes that Barack Obama pushed for and signed Dodd-Frank into law even though he was the recipient of Wall Street’s largesse. Sanders retorted that while he supported for Dodd-Frank and got an amendment into the bill, it didn’t go far enough.
UPDATE, 7:10 PM: We’re heading to an intermission.
UPDATE, 7:16 PM: We’re back. And to our dismay, the first question is a lame follow-up from the bad first question that was asked at the beginning of the debate (Is there any aspect of government you’d like to reduce or get rid of?) Sanders and Clinton both gave short answers at first, though Sanders wisely opted to tack on to his by noting that our defense budget is bloated and has many wasteful programs.
UPDATE, 7:17 PM: Next question is about whether we are ready for the next attack against the United States. Clinton has the first opportunity to respond.
UPDATE, 7:23 PM: The back and forth is getting more lively now. Clinton is leveraging her experience in her answers, responding to Sanders’ criticism that she voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq by saying, “I do not believe a vote in 2002 is a plan to defeat ISIS,” Meanwhile, Sanders continues to points out that past American meddling around the world has produced unintended consequences.
UPDATE, 7:29 PM: Wow. Sanders just unloaded, completely, on Henry Kissinger and attacked his record as Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State.
UPDATE, 7:34 PM: We’re still talking foreign policy, discussing what’s the best approach to Russia’s empire-building ambitions and intervention in the conflict in Syria. (Russia has been military assisting the Assad regime in fighting the Syrian rebels that nations in NATO and the West support.)
UPDATE, 7:40 PM: Next question is, “What more should the U.S. do to lead the effort to help refugees?”
UPDATE, 7:41 PM: Sanders is recounting his visit to a refugee camp in Turkey. He goes on to declare: “I very strongly disagree with those Republican candidates who say, ‘You know, we’ve gotta turn our backs on those women and children who are fleeing’ ” from the violence in Syria and other troubled places in the world.
UPDATE, 7:46 PM: Asked to name one American leader and one foreign leader that would inspire his decisionmaking, Sanders cites FDR and Winston Churchill.
UPDATE, 7:47 PM: Sanders and Clinton are going at it over Sanders’ support (or lack thereof) for President Barack Obama.
UPDATE, 7:50 PM: Sanders hit back at Clinton over her criticisms by noting he didn’t run against Barack Obama, then segued into his closing statement, in which he explained why he believes a political revolution is necessary to prevent our country from heading down a very dark road.
UPDATE, 7:51 PM: Clinton’s turn for a closing statement. She wasted no time in taking an apparent shot at Sanders, saying she’s not running as a single issue candidate. (Sanders would no doubt laugh at the criticism that he is a single-issue candidate.) “I’m going to keep talking about tearing down all of the barriers stopping America from living up to its potential,” she says.
UPDATE, 7:53 PM: And with that, we’re done. It was another feisty debate, particularly at the end. We wish there had been questions asked about education, transportation, and the climate crisis, instead of how big government should be.