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During the fourth Democratic Party debate Bernie Sanders was the most searched candidate according to Google Trends. This is good for his campaign, it shows the debate gave him public exposure. The debate was sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus and it aired on NBC News and YouTube. It also attracted more younger viewers than the last two Democratic debates with 31% (3.17 million) being between 25 and 54 years old. NBC said that in addition to its TV audience, another 1.3 million streamed it online, and more than 500,000 saw a rerun of the debate on MSNBC.
The fact that people all across the United States were Googling Sanders is important because the points he was making resonated with the audience. Clinton began by attacking him on his gun record, but he stood up to her attacks saying she was “disingenuous.”
Like in previous debates, Sanders stuck to his progressive policies, the issues facing this country, the grassroots movement behind him, the small donors who support his campaign, but not Wall Street like Clinton did. Now it is clear that between the two it’s a choice between radical change or continuity. She represents the corporate democratic establishment and the perpetuation of the Obama regime. She named Obama time and time again linking herself to all his accomplishments. Chuck Todd from NBC said she was “wrapping herself in Obama.”
At one point Clinton brought up the issue of police killing Black people, specifically mentioning Walter Scott and said he was “killed by systemic racism” and that “1 out of 3 African Americans may end up going to prison.” What Clinton conveniently forgot to mention is (and what the host of the debate did not ask her) her cozy relationship with the corporations that run our prison system: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the Geo Group (GEO). Lobbyists for these companies are serving as top fundraisers for Hillary Clinton. She was a staunch supporter of her husband´s ‘tough on crime’ and ‘three strikes and you’re out’ laws. The consequence of these ‘laws’ was to increase the number of predominantly Black prisoners in jail, which explain why 1 out of 3 African Americans are in jail. Like with her donors in Wall Street, there is a conflict of interest in what she says and what she has and will do.
The Geo Group, in a disclosure statement for its investors, noted that its business could be “adversely affected by changes in existing criminal or immigration laws, crime rates in jurisdictions in which we operate, the relaxation of criminal or immigration enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction, sentencing or deportation practices, and the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by criminal laws or the loosening of immigration laws.”
After all, these prison entities need prison labor to make a profit. And they are relying on Clinton to keep the production going.
In sharp contrast to her, in September of 2015 Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a bill to ban the federal government from awarding contracts to private prisons, saying, “Private prisons are not cheaper, they are not safer, and they do not provide better outcomes for either the prisoners or the state.” Sanders cited studies showing that private prisons, because of their profit motive, have an incentive to spend as little as possible on inmate care and rehabilitation. These companies also routinely pressure lawmakers to pass bills that will guarantee them more inmates by criminalizing low-level offenders.
During the debate he said that, “We have a criminal justice system which is broken. Who in America is satisfied that we have more people in jail than any other country on Earth, including China? Disproportionately African-American and Latin@. Who is satisfied that millions of people have police records for possessing marijuana when the CEOs of Wall Street companies, who destroyed our economy, have no police record?” And indeed not many of us do, except the CEOs and the politicians who work for them.
The other issue is Wall Street and big banks. One of the things widely discussed during the debate was Goldman Sachs. And this is important in reference to Clinton’s intimate relation with Wall Street. Sanders brought it up in relation to the “outrageous” settlement of Goldman Sachs this week.
Clinton replied, “So I’m going to defend Dodd Frank, and I’m going to defend President Obama for taking on Wall Street, taking on the financial industry and getting results.”
Sanders retorted, “I have doubts when people receive huge amounts of money from Wall Street. I am very proud, I do not have a super PAC. I do not want Wall Street’s money. I’ll rely on the middle class and working families.” Sanders also said that his plan to break up big banks would differ from his Democratic rival and would not take money from big banks. Adding that, “I dont get personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs.”
The differences are starkly clear, one is embedded in the corporate model and prison systems while the other is trying to fight them. Sanders answer is to get the money out of politics, to overturn Citizens United and to create a political revolution that will bring millions of young people into the political process. Show them that it belongs to all of us, not just a “handful of wealthy contributors.”