There is a laundry list of major economical and social problems facing the nation today: e.g. stagnant wages (minimum wages, misclassifying workers as "independent contractors" and wage theft), unemployment (offshoring, guestworker visas, bad trade deals and labor unions), wealth inequality (the estate tax, stock buy-backs, CEO pay and stock options), the Social Security trust funds (old age and disability), healthcare (prescription drug prices and insurance premiums), the skewed tax code (capital gains, corporate tax rates, tax dodgers and offshore tax havens), government budgets (lost revenues, budget cuts, debts and deficits), mass incarceration-for-profit, government corruption (campaign finance reform, voter suppression laws and the revolving door), etc, etc, etc.
The list is almost endless. So during the first Democratic debate, between 5 potential presidential candidates, there was a lot of ground to cover — and not too much time left over for debate moderators to pontificate, offer personal opinions, or to deliberately inject inflammatory comments into the debate in an attempt to influence public perceptions. But one moderator did that anyway.
Hillary Clinton has been saying in her campaign speeches that, in America, anyone can run for President — yes, even a woman — as if just having a first female president was a good enough reason for electing her.
But Anderson Cooper, one of CNN's moderators at the debate, seemed to be challenging that notion that "anybody can run" by his questioning of Senator Bernie Sanders: "You call yourself a democratic socialist. How can any kind of socialist win a general election in the United States? ... The question is really about electability here, and that’s what I’m trying to get at ... You honeymooned in the Soviet Union. And just this weekend, you said you’re not a capitalist ... "
Instead of wasting precious time on sensational sound bites, Anderson Cooper could have spent more time on the aforementioned subjects, rather than red-baiting a presidential candidate on national TV with useless gossip gleaned from Fox News about a trip Sanders took to the U.S.S.R. almost 30 years ago.
Anderson Cooper could have asked Bernie Sanders how we could raise the minimum wage. (No Mister Cooper, you can't claim "time restraints" on extremely important issues such as these.)
Or Cooper could have followed up on a question asked of Hillary Clinton about expanding Social Security. During the debate, another CNN moderator (Dana Bash) had asked Hillary Clinton: "Senator Sanders is talking about expanding Social Security and giving all Americans Medicare. What’s wrong with that?"
Hillary dodged her question and started talking about college tuition instead. Then after a few minutes the CNN moderator attempted to interrupt her: "Secretary Clinton..."
But Hillary ignored her and rambled on. Then the CNN moderator again asked: "Can you answer the..."
But still, Hillary continued to ignore the question and rambled on some more. Then the CNN moderator had said: "Secretary Clinton, the question was not just about tuition. It was about Senator Sanders’ plan to expand Social Security, to make Medicare available to all Americans. Is that something that you would support? And if not, why not?"
Finally Hillary replied, "Well, I fully support Social Security. And the most important fight we’re going to have is defending it against continuing Republican efforts to privatize it."
The CNN moderator then had to pointedly ask her, "Do you want to expand it?"
Hillary responded, "I want to enhance the benefits for the poorest recipients of Social Security. We have a lot of women on Social Security, particularly widowed and single women who didn’t make a lot of money during their careers, and they are impoverished, and they need more help from the Social Security system.” [Yes, good point, and we can all agree with that.] “I will focus on helping those people who need it the most. And of course I’m going to defend Social Security. I’m going to look for ways to try to make sure it’s solvent into the future."
But Hillary doesn't say how -- but Bernie says how when he cuts in and says, "...When you have millions of seniors in this country trying to get by [and not just women, as Hillary was clearly pandering to] ... you don’t cut Social Security, you expand it. And the way you expand it is by lifting the cap on taxable incomes so that you do away with the absurdity of a millionaire paying the same amount into the system as somebody making $118,000. You do that, Social Security is solvent until 2061 and you can expand benefits."
Then Anderson Cooper cuts in to let Hillary off the hook — and then completely changes the subject, rather than ask Hillary (or any another candidate) what they thought of Bernie's idea.
Bernie Sanders was referring to a bill he has sponsored in the U.S. Senate, the Social Security Expansion Act. This bill would expand payroll taxes so they would apply to earnings greater than $250,000. Among other provisions, the bill would also levy a new 6.2% tax on investment income over $200,000 for a single person or $250,000 for married couples, with no upper limit on the amount to be taxed. Social Security's chief actuary analyzed this proposal last March and concluded that it would extend the life of Social Security trust funds to 2065. (And it would probably be "means tested", so billionaires wouldn't quality for a Social Security check.)
Other than what she said during the last debate, it's not clear what Hillary Clinton would do to improve Social Security benefits for widows and single women — or for anybody else. What little she says on the subject is posted on her website. Basically, it's very generic, and it just says she's for reducing the price of pharmaceuticals for seniors and that she defends against the efforts to privatize Medicare and Social Security by the Republicans. Nothing very specific.
By contrast, Anderson Cooper's attempt to paint Bernie Sanders as a socialist that honeymoons in the U.S.S.R. failed to note that Sanders has not only proposed actual legislation for expanding Social Security, he also has a lot more to say on the subject. (There's more info here at Feel The Bern).
It's apparent that most of those in the media (such as Anderson Cooper) don't want the candidates to discuss real proposals — they want to use yellow journalism, sensationalism and petty scandals to drive advertising ratings. That's why when Cooper asked Sanders about Clinton's emails during the debate, Bernie had said the American people were sick and tired of hearing about Hillary's "damn e-mails". He wasn't so much defending Hillary per se, but he was just pissed off that people like Anderson Cooper wasted so much time on distracting the people from other important issues. And Bernie said so:
"You know? The middle class — Anderson, and let me say something about the media, as well. I go around the country, talk to a whole lot of people. Middle class in this country is collapsing. We have 27 million people living in poverty. We have massive wealth and income inequality. Our trade policies have cost us millions of decent jobs. The American people want to know whether we’re going to have a democracy or an oligarchy as a result of Citizens Union. Enough of the e-mails. Let’s talk about the real issues facing America."
Anderson Cooper wanted to continue to pound on the head of the "socialist" moniker with his big media hammer (as if we haven't heard it 1,000 times by now) in an attempt to make Bernie out to be less than qualified for the job of President because he is a big bad boogie-man "socialist".
When Bernie Sanders first became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he founded and chaired the Congressional Progressive Caucus — a group of progressives who value the principals of FDR and the New Deal. Bernie describes himself as a democratic socialist — but as PolitiFact points outs, based on his values, technically Bernie might be a social democrat. But we know for sure he's not advocating for the type of socialism there was in the old the U.S.S.R.
The Socialist Party USA (SPUSA) is not endorsing Senator Bernie Sanders. While Senator Bernie Sanders claims to be a "democratic socialist" (of the type we see in the democracies of Western Europe that the U.S. help build after WWII), as an "Independent", Bernie is a really a "Progressive" (just like FDR was). Bernie Sanders caucuses with "Progressives", something that even real socialists acknowledge:
Sanders shared a newly styled “progressive” mantle with [Senator Elizabeth] Warren, and together they became household names sounding a clarion call for the comeuppance of the “1 percent.” From there, a new populism centered around new “progressive” faces began to grow out of a community of left-leaning liberals and post-Occupy adherents ... When socialists support the trendy, progressive faces of liberalism, they not only contravene the principles of socialism itself, but also reinvigorate a position that has historically hurt and bifurcated parties like the SPUSA. And let’s make one more thing clear from the start: Despite any claims otherwise, Bernie Sanders is not a democratic socialist."
The Socialist Party USA will hold their 2015 National Convention on October 16-18, 2015 in Milwaukee, WI. (Their websites are here and here). Bernie Sanders won't be there. He'll be at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia in July 2016.
By contrast, during the debate Hillary Clinton (the self-proclaimed "moderate") flip-flopped and claimed she was a "progressive" because Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders ideas are more popular with the American people. As Warren said, "The American people are progressives."
Real progressives weren't very happy with Hillary Clinton's weak reply on Social Security at the debate. Progressive groups such as Democracy for America, The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and MoveOn.Org have been calling on candidates to speak to the concerns of the "Warren Wing" of the Democratic party — those who are progressive supporters of Senator Elizabeth Warren, who wants to expand Social Security.
Neil Sroka, a spokesman for the progressive group Democracy for America, said: "The allergy that Secretary Clinton showed toward the idea of Social Security expansion is honestly incredibly disappointing. Social Security expansion is a major priority for Warren Wing voters. She showed an extreme reluctance to even use the term."
So yes, Hillary Clinton did well during the debate — because Anderson Copper allowed her to dodge questions on Social Security and other important issues, and instead, focused on the usual media sensationalism. "The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!"
All-in-all, it appears that Anderson Cooper was using right-wing/conservative/Republican "talking points" in his questions that were inappropriate for a Democratic primary debate, and he should have asked more questions about the real concerns within the Democratic party (such as tax reform, Social Security, the minimum wage, etc.) — and if anything, saved his type of questions for a debate between the Democratic and the GOP nominees for the general election debates. Otherwise, Anderson Cooper should be working for Fox News, not CNN.