Former Maryland Governor and liberalism enthusiast Martin O’Malley was the only candidate on the stage, who wasn’t Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, that more than a handful of people had heard of but, although many of his policy positions would appeal to Democratic voters, he came across as a sleazy politician with some answers that we clearly rehearsed.
In his opening statements O’Malley drew attention to his liberal record on many issues whilst also identifying “a deep economic injustice that may tear our country apart” before following up with some standard politician platitudes. When asked about his record as the Mayor of Baltimore, O’Malley argued that “we saved a lot of lives” in regards to the policies he implemented, which seemed to ignore the real substance of the question which was about race-relations.
On the issue of guns O’Malley pointed to his record in Maryland which passed gun reform and said that “it was time to pass comprehensive gun control legislation as a nation”. Unfortunately, because he is a politician, he ruined this perfectly acceptable answer by saying that there was a family in the audience whose daughter had been killed in a mass shooting; I understand that you want to prove that you don’t like mass shootings, as if it wasn’t really obvious, but I always get a bad taste in my mouth when politicians use victims of tragedies to make political points especially when it is unnecessary to do so. He later said, to much applause, that the enemy he’s most proud to have made was the NRA.
On foreign policy O’Malley opposed Clinton’s plan to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria as well as calling out Clinton’s record on the Iraq War. He also, in an attempt to appear more credible as a candidate, added that he supported President Obama’s approach to the issue. O’Malley also said that if president he would “learn the lessons from Benghazi” by making sure that human resources and diplomatic services on the ground were properly funded.
When asked about the NSA and Edward Snowden O’Malley said “whistle-blowers don’t break the law, he shouldn’t have gone to Russia to get Putin’s protection”; Snowden didn’t run away to Russia to get Putin’s protection, he was trapped in Russia because the American government wanted to arrest him. Also the only reason the NSA is being discussed as a political issue is because Snowden revealed the agency’s unconstitutional practices; if Snowden didn’t reveal the information, the federal government would be acting against the constitution in complete secrecy.
In his attempt to come across presented, which actually came across as sleazy, O’Malley said that the Black Lives Matter movement “raises an important issue” and that “we need to address race-relations in our country”. This answer is totally unacceptable because it is devoid of meaning; political campaigns are about asking people to vote for you and trying to convince people that you have the best answer to political problems but all O’Malley did was acknowledge the problem rather than suggest a solution.
On banking reform O’Malley agreed with Sanders that Glass-Steagall should be reinstated and criticised Clinton for not reversing her position on Glass-Steagall “unlike other policies”. When speaking about the economy more broadly, O’Malley said that America would be better off economically if paid maternity leave and paid sick leave. He also spoke of the need to move to a totally clean energy grid by 2050 and to increase subsidies for alternative energy.
The final topic he spoke about at length was immigration. He began his remarks by pointing out that sick undocumented immigrants will still go to hospital and that will increase insurance costs; his solution was to allow these people to get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. O’Malley later criticised Donald Trump because of his rhetoric and went on to speak about how he passed in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants which he dubbed a ‘state-wide Dream Act’; technically this isn’t true as it was passed by ballot initiative so he didn’t pass it, but he did support it so I guess that’s enough.
Of the three candidates that consistently poll at less than 10%, O’Malley definitely performed the best. He set out his stall as a liberal alternative to the left of Clinton and to the right of Sanders, but his style of delivery is too polished and too professional for this election as the voters of both parties are crying out for an alternative to Establishment politicians.