What Social Movements Can Learn From the First #DemDebate

Thoughts on the First #DemDebate:

1. Sanders has the best message, but he's not the best candidate.

The democratic primary electorate is ready to hear a message about democratic socialism that's anti-oligarchy and calls upon regular people to come together to change the political system. Sander is a lovable dude to many (including me #JewishSocialistsWhoYellALot), but he's also a crabby old man who doesn't really get into the details or speak from the heart. He is the floor of what's possible for that message, not the ceiling. If the movement(s) organized a candidate who was more personally appealing with that message, they could absolutely win a primary.

2. Voters of color will determine the election -- and Sanders can't win unless he gets better at addressing their concerns.

Sanders doesn't realize that voters of color will determine who wins the primary. He needs to much more to address their concerns, not just when the question is about Black Lives Matter or immigration. His policies in favor of free college, free health care and expanded social security have huge implications for people of color, and would do a great deal to shift racial disparities in wealth and income. He could also note how the financial crisis destroyed black wealth at a significantly higher rate than other communities, and how Wall Street has always preyed upon racial injustice. He somehow managed to talk about marijuana decriminalization without mentioning race, an indicator of how far he has to go on issues that impact voters of color.

3. Debating capitalism vs. socialism on national TV is a huge opportunity and socialists of all stripes should be excited.

The fact that Democratic Party presidential candidates have to defend capitalism, or explain their socialism, is an opportunity for us to massively increase the public's understanding of what socialism is or could be. That said, Sanders didn't nail the answer about how he defines democratic socialism; it should be about not denying people the basics they need to survive based on whether they have money.

4. The real winner of the debate was the movements.

Hillary Clinton is running to the left of Obama and it's not because of her convictions. She -- and the rest of the field -- has been pushed to the left by BlackLivesMatter, Fossil Fuel Divestment, Occupy Wall Street and the DREAMers. Millennials are leading, and the politicians are following.

5. Bernie isn't serious about winning because he won't attack Hillary's donor base.

Hillary's policy proposal on Wall Street reform came out to mixed reviews -- but the fact that big Wall Street banks and hedge funds keep funding her campaign suggests they're not scared by her. Bernie passed up plenty of opportunities to call out this difference -- indicating he's concerned about attacking her in a way that could damage her for the general.

6. Hillary is boring AF, but a professional politician.

Hillary's raison d'etre is very simple: we need a democratic president, she can win, and she's a woman. If there was anyone else on stage who democratic primary voters could imagine as a president, this would not be enough for her to win. Unfortunately, there isn't anyone else on stage who people can imagine as president. Her real victory came months ago when Elizabeth Warren decided not to run.