Having a presidential debate come to town is apparently just like intense gentrificaiton: it makes your beloved borough look like anywhere else in America, and the people behind it act like they don’t give a shit about the people who already live there. Last night’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders at the Navy Yard was billed on CNN as the “Brooklyn Brawl” (though we preferred to call it the Thrilla in Clinton Hilla), but there was nothing remotely “Brooklyn” about it.
As WNYC’s Brian Lehrer tweeted, the debate had “no sense of place” — it felt like the same ol’ debate topics we always hear, trapped in the CNN echo chamber forever. It’s an extremely rare thing to have any candidates for president actually campaign in New York, let alone spend so much time in Brooklyn, but last night’s debate treated us to the debate standbys again: Social Security, campaign finance reform, what one candidate said about the other oh snap you gonna take that? Why didn’t the debate cover anything that might actually change New York voters’ minds?
Local viewers went into the broadcast last night hoping for at least a few local issues for the candidates to chew on: affordable housing, the government’s role in gentrification, immigration, climate change causing rising sea levels that threaten our coasts, stop and frisk, police accountability, our cities’ crumbling public transit infrastructure, traffic fatalities and of course whether that rainbow bagel is really a big deal or if everyone should just relax about it already. Reproductive rights and women’s health didn’t get mentioned; when Hillary sprang that huge mention she’d been powering up to for the whole debate, the moderators still ignored her like she was selling candy bars on the subway. The only Brooklyn-y thing about it was how rowdy the crowd got, which was a little annoying tbh, but we get it, we have all this political energy and nowhere to put it. And that’s part of the problem.
We’ve harped on this issue a lot lately, because it’s annoying: campaigns blow through our state when they need votes for the primary, but then a lot of the issues that are valuable to New Yorkers never get brought up again for the rest of the campaign, because people living in a giant, diverse, mostly well-functioning metropolis are always considered less important than a handful of undecided voters at an Applebee’s in Ohio. Last night this was the fault of the moderators who didn’t steer the conversation to anything local at all: Wolf Blitzer (a terrible bag of pens in a suit), Dana Bash (terrific, give her Wolf’s job) and NY1’s Errol Louis — why the fuck wasn’t Errol Louis asking more questions? Louis said on Brian Lehrer this morning NY1 submitted local issues to cover, but they didn’t make the final cut of questions.
The answer to this is obvious: If there’s another NY debate, the moderators should be Errol Louis, Brian Lehrer and Pat Kiernan.
Here’s some of the local reactions to the debate:
Sorry Brooklyn. This #DemDebate, like all the others, has no sense of place. No NY issues, same old national go-rounds again. BL
— Brian Lehrer Show (@BrianLehrer) April 15, 2016
Even at a #DemDebate held in Brooklyn, still no questions about affordable housing, mass transit, or homelessness. Don't cities matter?
— Mark D. Levine (@MarkLevineNYC) April 15, 2016
CAN WE HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT BROOKLYN PLEASE #DemDebate
— Andrea Bernstein (@AndreaWNYC) April 15, 2016
— Lauren Young (@LaurenYoung) April 15, 2016
Latinos are 30% of NYC…
Immigration questions? Discrimination, housing, economy for these communities?#DemDebate
— Samy Nemir Olivares (@Samynemir) April 15, 2016
— Noelle Lake (@noellelake) April 15, 2016
And of course, there were the Brooklyn jokes:
I am literally watching my grandparents at dinner
— Rebecca Fishbein (@bfishbfish) April 15, 2016
When the G train never shows up. https://t.co/LWMNRSlQHO
— Akilah Hughes (@AkilahObviously) April 15, 2016
That awkward moment when Hillary & Bernie leave the debate only to find there's just one bike left at the Navy Yard's Citi Bike dock.
— Brooklyn Spoke (@BrooklynSpoke) April 15, 2016
— Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) April 15, 2016
"I am one of the poorest Senators. I took the Chinatown bus here." — Bernie #DemDebate
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) April 15, 2016
We can all agree on one thing-
The crowd at this debate are trash who behave worse than the people in flyover states they make fun of.
— scharpling (@scharpling) April 15, 2016
— Sara Pocock (@saraspot) April 15, 2016
Bernie is just like us. He procrastinates on his taxes!
— Kara Smoke (@kbsmoke) April 15, 2016
when you're trying to get your check at any bar in brooklyn https://t.co/M7XexYDkUg
— Micah Grimes (@MicahGrimes) April 15, 2016
What did you think of the debate? Tell us in the comments!
Follow Tim, who votes for Errol, @timdonnelly.