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A disappointing NY Dem debate

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders shake hands before the CNN Democratic presidential debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on April 14, 2016. Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Jewel Samad

We heard most of it before. Repeatedly. Perhaps not with quite the sharpness and chippiness we heard Thursday night in round nine of this serial drama known as the Democratic presidential debates.
But in the end, on virtually every issue, we’ve heard it all before.
Which made it a very disappointing debate for us locals. Oh, the anticipation. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were in New York City, where both have roots, in the Duggal Greenhouse in the iconic Brooklyn Navy Yard. They’ve been buzzing around the region for close to two weeks now, eating the food, mixing with residents, visiting churches and neighborhoods.
And we were treated to exactly zero questions about New York City. Everything was a repeat or permutation of something asked in earlier debates (though thankfully nothing about her “damn emails”). That’s not to say they aren’t important issues, but for Coney Island’s sake, right now they’re fighting to win the New York primary on Tuesday and victory for each is critical.
But — no questions on the crying need in the region for affordable housing. Nothing about crumbling transit infrastructure, failing wastewater systems, threats to clean water, homeless and mentally ill people, or federal cuts to anti-terror funding. For a lighter moment, CNN’s questioners could have asked about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s carriage horses.
New topics might have thrown them off-kilter enough to blunt some of the testiness that increasingly defines the relationship between Clinton and Sanders. With all the interruptions and flashes of anger from each, plus Sanders’ eye-rolling and finger-wagging, not to mention his occasional sarcasm (“they must have been really crushed,” he said to her contention she called out Wall Street banks for their behavior), they seemed almost Republican. And they were performing for a raucous Brooklyn-style audience whose factions were determined to bring their candidate home.
Once again, Clinton’s responses to Sanders’ attacks were complex and nuanced (alternate interpretation: she was ducking and evading). Once again, he stated his positions more clearly and forcefully (alternate interpretation: his views are too simplistic).
Once again, Sanders’ supporters were left asking why Clinton can’t answer a yes-or-no question with yes or no. Once again, Clinton’s supporters were left thinking it must be great to be Sanders and see everything in black-and-white with zero shades of the grey that actually is the world.
But for all that, for all the sharper and more frequent punches, the result was the same as in the previous slugfests: no knockout either way.
And that’s probably not great news for Sanders.
Despite his string of recent successes, he’s still very much the challenger and with the calendar getting shorter and the opportunities to dig into Clinton’s substantial lead even among pledged delegates, he needs a win on Tuesday. Just as she does to quell the nervousness in her camp about the passion and stubbornness of Sanders and his supporters.
But then, we’ve heard that before, too.