Bernie Sanders’ Call for an Early Debate: Could it Work?

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In an interview on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” Senator Bernie Sanders, Democratic presidential candidate, declared that he wanted to debate the Republican presidential candidates right now so he can expose their “reactionary agenda.” Sanders believes that debating these candidates on the presidential issues instead of allowing the media to focus on polling and fundraising will expose their policies that favor the wealthy.

Traditionally, the presidential primary candidates only face each other. Republican presidential candidates debate among themselves as do Democratic presidential candidates. But never before in modern years have the individual presidential candidates within each party debated across party lines. Before candidates Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, presidential debates weren’t even an aspect of the elections. That only happened because Lincoln kept following Douglas on his campaign trail, goading him into arguments. So is that same pattern of events going to be set in stone by Sanders?

Sanders is primarily running on reducing the income inequality gap in America—which is extremely important considering the top 20 percent of U.S. households own more than 84 percent of the wealth and the bottom 40 percent own about .3 percent of the wealth. Sanders’ primary purpose for this debate would be to question the Republicans on their future plans regarding Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, which are all hot topics considering America’s economic situation.

While Sanders’ call for a debate between the presidential candidates may seem a little outlandish, he has valid points. After the Great Recession, the top 1 percent has had a positive 36.8 percent increase in income but the rest of the country has experienced a negative change in income, at about .4 percent. The top one percent has an average income of $1,303,198 and the bottom 99 percent has an average income of $43,713.

Sanders wants to capitalize on the Republican presidential candidates’ plan for economic reform. Sanders is particularly focused on raising the minimum wage to a living wage and making education affordable for every American. That’s somewhat consistent with Hillary Clinton, who has supported numerous efforts to change the economic system as well, including raising the minimum wage and fighting for women’s equal pay.

But some of his Republican presidential candidates are trailing more closely to the income inequality issue than others. Jeb Bush’s economic policies still focus on cutting back taxes and rolling back regulations on industry, but Bush also recognizes a major problem, stating, “If you’re born poor today, you’re more likely to stay poor.”

So Sanders’ call for a debate between the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates might seem a little extreme, he has some fair points. Many of the major campaign contributors are big banks, such as Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. By calling out for a debate, Sanders is trying to confront all of the presidential candidates on their economic plans for the future. Considering the dire income disparity in America right now, that’s not a bad plan.

Sarina Neote
Sarina Neote is a member of the American University Class of 2017. Contact Sarina at staff@LawStreetMedia.com.



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