Jack Ohman

Debating with that bitter-beer face

Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton appear during a Democratic presidential primary debate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Friday.
Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton appear during a Democratic presidential primary debate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Friday. The Associated Press

Watching the Clinton-Sanders debate in Milwaukee, the home of domestic beer, left me feeling two things:

Great Taste. Less Filling.

And a little lite-headed.

For those who feel the Bern, the debate Thursday night offered great taste. Bernie Sanders is the thick Guinness of the Democratic Party id, saying what many Democrats secretly think but know, in their dirty little pragmatic hearts, can’t really happen.

For those who prefer the pale pilsner of Hillary Clinton, there was lots of foam and less-filling rhetoric. She doesn’t want you to vote for her because she’s a woman. She wants you to vote for her because, well, it’s her turn. And maybe because she is a woman, too, assuming you don’t want your own special place in hell.

What she doesn’t know is that the Clinton Era is over.

It ended when she lost what should have been a cakewalk to the White House in 2008. She was running against a first-term U.S. senator from Illinois, and Sen. John Edwards, who was fathering children out of wedlock while his wife had cancer.

President Barack Obama, fearing that the aging Clinton Machine would make his life miserable, made her secretary of state, just like President John F. Kennedy made grumpy Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson his running mate in 1960. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Now Democratic voters are faced with a choice: someone they probably want to win but mostly likely won’t, and someone they probably don’t want to win but probably will.

Of course, anything can happen. Benghazi is played out. Clinton’s lack of candor regarding her speeches to Goldman Sachs still lingers, and the Clinton Foundation’s money-gathering operation just got subpoenaed.

I assume, for example, that if she delivered a scolding to the Goldman Sachs crowd that had paid her $675,000 for three speeches, that would be a first in American honoraria. My guess is she said soothing things about their good intentions, and, by golly, we all need to work together to make sure This Sort of Thing never happens again.

In the debate, Bernie looked like a college professor walking you through the syllabus again and again, shouting at key points while straining his eyes over the glare of an overhead projector. “People! This is important! Write this down! It’ll be on the final.”

Hillary radiates a perplexed yet detached patronizing air. When she talks about young voters, it’s not like an angry mom would, as some have suggested. It’s like the manner a second wife would talk to her teenage stepchildren.

“Listen. I know you don’t like this arrangement. But you’ve got to live with it, and there’s a new sheriff in town. You don’t support me, but I’ve got to support you. So shut up. I’m here.”

In the Republican race, pollsters discuss an Establishment Lane, an Evangelical Lane and a Voter Anger Lane. For the Democrats, it’s the Love Hillary Lane, the Not Crazy About Hillary But What Are You Gonna Do Lane, and the Bernie Lane that appears to be under construction.

Had Sen. Elizabeth Warren entered the race, my guess is that she would have had a surprisingly warm reception, as she is a rather clever hybrid of Sanders’ often-correct observations, coupled with Clinton’s historic attempt to be the first woman president.

Instead, we have the laughable gall of Clinton’s husband asserting without irony that Sanders encourages sexism. We have Clinton surrogates suggesting Sanders, who actually went to the 1963 March on Washington, isn’t, you know, sensitive to civil rights.

So have that Milwaukee beer, Democrats. You’ll need it. Maybe three.

After all, elections are all about who you’d rather have a beer with. Or not.

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