The January democratic debate has dominated the news since Tuesday the 14th. This was an incredibly important debate — the last one before the Iowa caucuses — yet CNN managed to make it one of the worst, most dull, and most biased debates of the race.
CNN’s panel of moderators admittedly started strong by bringing up foreign policy, a domain where the U.S. executive branch has disproportionate power, and something that doesn't get nearly enough coverage in presidential politics. However, they quickly turned on Bernie Sanders, pressing him for supporting the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the Middle East. Sanders’ position is necessary to ending U.S. imperialism and restoring peace in the area, rather than continuing the trend of destabilization.
Much of the debate trod much the same ground as the previous litany of debates, resulting in a boring show of rehearsed talking points. They pressed candidates for their stances on recent trade agreements, again putting undue scrutiny on Sanders for his firm stances against these neoliberal trade deals. Sanders attempted to point out the environmental costs of trade agreements, but the CNN panel member attacked his answer since he dared try and talk about a complex issue with some sort of intersectional consideration.
However, CNN outdid itself with the most obvious show of anti-Sanders bias seen in this election yet when asking about the recent drama between himself and Elizabeth Warren. CNN began by asking Sanders if he did, in fact, tell Warren that he didn't think a woman could be president, a story that the same network reported. On Monday. Sanders denied the claim, citing his long record of affirming that a woman can be president — including in 2015 when he publicly asked Warren to run against Hillary Clinton; Sanders deciding only to run after Warren said she wouldn't. CNN then, rather than asking Warren to back up her charge with evidence, asked the Senator how she felt when he did say it to her, a classic example of a loaded question. This awkward exchange came to a head when Warren refused to shake Sanders’ hand at the end of the debate.
There has been endless talk about this handshake and the conversation that occurred during their interaction, but truly we should ask the question: who cares? Sure, it signifies an apparent end to their alliance and surely one of them is lying, but there are far more pressing issues to talk about. Australia is on fire, the U.S. is occupying Iraq while on the brink of war with Iran, there is record inequality in America, and the economy is potentially on course toward for worst crash in modern history. This is a bitter and divisive case of “he said, she said”: why are we focusing on candidates' squabbles and not their policy agendas, which may hopefully resolve the dire state of things today?