Good evening, and welcome to NPI’s live coverage of the seventh Democratic presidential debate of the 2016 cycle. I will be watching and sharing impressions of the debate as it progresses. This debate is being held in Flint, Michigan, and is being broadcast by CNN. You can livestream the debate from CNN’s website.
There are two candidates left seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Tonight’s debate will be the first since Super Tuesday. The next debate is scheduled for March 9th, 2016 at Miami Dade College in Miami, Florida.
The moderator will be CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
We will begin our live coverage at 5 PM, when the candidates take the stage.
UPDATE, 5:04 PM: We heard really strong opening statements from Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, who each called on Republican Governor Rick Snyder to resign (if he won’t, Clinton suggested he should be recalled.)
UPDATE, 5:07 PM: Refreshingly, the first question comes from a black woman who lives in Flint, Michigan. She asked: “As President, what will you do to help the people of Flint regain their trust in government?”
Clinton took a stab at answering the question first. She says she supports the actions taken to date by President Obama to help the people of Flint, such as expanding Medicaid. “I would concentrate resources on this city,” she says.
UPDATE, 5:08 PM: “Children in America should not be poisoned,” Sanders says, saying if state and local government can’t or won’t act, the federal government must step in and act. People should not be paying a bill for poisoned water, and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) should be coming in check the health of the people of Flint. Finally, Sanders says, we need to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, including our pipes and water treatment systems.
UPDATE, 5:13 PM: Anderson Cooper asked Hillary Clinton if she would fire the head of the EPA over the catastrophe in Flint. Clinton says she would hold accountable everyone who knew about the problem and did not act to fix it. Sanders concurred and said that he would do the dame.
UPDATE, 5:18 PM: This has been a good debate so far, but Anderson Cooper’s framing of questions has been based on right wing concepts about government, which is bad. This is a Democratic debate; the framing should be progressive.
UPDATE, 5:19 PM: Clinton and Sanders fielded a question from a skeptical member of the media who basically asked, what took you so long to come to Flint, and how can we trust that you’ll still care about us after Flint fades from the headlines? Both stressed that they would not forget about about Flint.
UPDATE, 5:20 PM: We’re actually seeing real people at the microphone asking questions in this debate. How refreshing!
Current question: “How will you encourage companies to keep factories here in the U.S. instead of moving them to other countries?”
UPDATE, 5:25 PM: Sanders is going after Clinton on her trade record, criticizing her for supporting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Clinton tried to hit back by criticizing Sanders for voting against the legislation that created the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), also known as the bank bailout.
UPDATE, 5:26 PM: Clinton says she voted against CAFTA while a senator, and opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership now that she knows what’s in it.
This is starting to feel like a good old fashioned debate…
UPDATE; 5:30 PM: Sanders defended his record, saying he wanted the wealthy to pay to bail out Wall Street, not middle and low income families, and that he supported rescuing the auto industry and the subsequent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that President Obama asked Congress for.
UPDATE, 5:36 PM: We sort of segued from trade to Wall Street accountability, but Anderson Cooper is bringing the discussion back to trade by showing a Bernie Sanders tweet critical of Hillary Clinton.
UPDATE, 5:40 PM: For the first time in the Democratic debates so far this year, we’re talking specifically about the Export-Import Bank, which Clinton supports and Sanders opposes. Sanders was alone among the Senate Democratic caucus in opposing the reauthorization of the bank, which was a major priority for Washington’s congressional delegation last year.
UPDATE, 5:42 PM: Sanders criticized the Export-Import Bank as the “Bank of Boeing”, suggesting the bank is really just another form of corporate welfare. Clinton pointed out that Boeing is one of only two major commercial airplane manufacturers in the world, and that Airbus, Boeing’s European competitor, receives financing and subsidies from the governments of France and Britain.
UPDATE, 5:45 PM: We’re heading to our first commercial break.
UPDATE, 5:51 PM: We’re back from the break, and talking about gun responsibility. The question is “What will you do to address the epidemic of mass shootings in the United States?” Clinton is answering first.
UPDATE, 5:53 PM: Clinton says we need stronger gun safety laws, and we need to have a conversation about changing our gun culture. Sanders says he agrees with Secretary Clinton that we should close loopholes in the background check system and prohibit sales of assault weaponry designed to kill people.
UPDATE, 6:01 PM: The candidates just engaged in a pretty lengthy back-and-forth about legislation that shielded gun manufacturers from liability. Sanders voted for it, while Clinton voted against it, and it’s been a major point of contention in this and past debates.
UPDATE, 6:02 PM: We’ve moved on to the topic of criminal justice. Don Lemon asked why black people should trust Clinton to end the era of mass incarceration, given that she supported the 1994 get tough on crime bill signed by Bill Clinton?
UPDATE, 6:03 PM: Clinton says some of the provisions in that legislation haven’t worked and she favors their repeal. Sanders, who voted for the same legislation, pointed out that he voted for the bill because it had good provisions in it as well as bad provisions, and on balance, he believed the good outweighed the bad.
UPDATE, 6:15 PM: CNN’s Don Lemon is asking the questions now (they’re not very good questions, but the candidates are fielding them pretty well). The candidates have been talking about how they’d improve race relations and how their personal experiences have shaped their views on issues of equity.
UPDATE, 6:25 PM: Finally, a question about education policy. “Where does fixing schools fall on your priority list?”
UPDATE, 6:27 PM: “We should be ashamed of how we treat our kids and our senior citizens,” Bernie Sanders says, criticizing Republicans in Congress who fight for more tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, but can’t find the money to recruit and retain good teachers in our nation’s poorest neighborhoods.
UPDATE, 6:28 PM: Clinton says she would bring back a federal government initiative to modernize and weatherize schools in communities that can’t pay for those improvements. Clinton also says she’d set up an “education SWAT team” (for lack of a better phrase) in the Department of Education to help the federal government figure out how to better support teachers.
UPDATE, 6:31 PM: The bad questions keep on coming from Anderson Cooper. “Do you think unions protect bad teachers?” Seriously? That right wing canard?
“A lot of people have been blaming and scapegoating teachers,” Clinton pointed out in response, rejecting the framing of Cooper’s question.
UPDATE, 6:34 PM: We’re back on the topic of infrastructure. Don Lemon asked Clinton if her plan is ambitious enough to tackle the big infrastructure deficit, which engineers have estimated will cost at least a trillion dollars to fix.
UPDATE, 6:36 PM: Yay, a question on fracking from a young Democrat! “Do you support fracking?” Clinton gets to answer first.
UPDATE, 6:37 PM: Clinton hedged. She says she doesn’t support fracking when local communities are against it, or when companies refuse to say what chemicals they’re using. That would mean she opposes fracking in most instances.
UPDATE, 6:38 PM: Sanders says his answer is a simple no… he opposes fracking. “Fracking is doing terrible things to water supplies all over this country,” he says.
UPDATE, 6:41 PM: Sanders and Clinton are both touting their plans to address the climate crisis. Clinton says her focus is on how we make the transition.
UPDATE, 6:45 PM: Another break.
Before Anderson Cooper went to commercial, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders each earned loud applause for pointing out tonight’s Democratic debate has once again been substantive and meaningful, while the Republican debate was another circus in which the candidates talked about the size of their body parts.
UPDATE, 6:49 PM: Sigh. First thing Anderson Cooper did after CNN came back from the break is ask about Hillary’s emails. To paraphrase Bernie Sanders: We’re sick and tired of hearing about the emails!
UPDATE, 6:53 PM: And now, a question about God. “Do you believe God is relevant, and why do you feel that way?” Sanders is fielding it beautifully.
UPDATE, 6:58 PM: When it was her turn, Clinton did an outstanding job, too. She was asked, do you pray, and if so, who do you pray for?
UPDATE, 7:01 PM: We just heard closing statements. Clinton and Sanders did a good job wrapping up. Sanders circled back to the Flint water crisis, and Clinton looked forward to the general election, saying she would run an uplifting campaign no matter who Republicans pluck out of the gutter to be their nominee.
That’s the end of our live coverage for tonight. Thanks for following along!