Democratic candidates wrapped up the second night of the first Democratic presidential debate which—according to early national and state primary polls—featured four of the top five candidates: former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Senator Kamala Harris of California, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Joining them were:
- Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado
- Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York
- Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper
- Representative Eric Swalwell of California
- Author Marianne Williamson
- Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang
Several themes of Wednesday’s debate played a role in last night’s debate as well, with healthcare, gun reform, immigration, and income inequality being a few of the hot topics that were discussed. While Biden was expected to be the center of attention, the women—Harris in particular—dominated the debate. Other candidates, however, got lost in the mix.
Sanders kicked off the debate answering the first question regarding better benefits for middle class Americans such as universal healthcare, calling for a medicare system for all in which a vast majority of people will pay less then what they’re paying now but in turn face higher tax rates.
Marianne Williamson argued that a healthcare system that doesn’t invest in preventative care would be a system of “superficial fixes.” She believes that the US has a “sickness care system” where “we wait until somebody gets sick and talk about who is going pay for the treatment and how they will be treated.” Buttigieg weighed in on the topic stating every politician who is for the universal healthcare proposal needs to take responsibility to explain how they plan to enact it.
Despite some disagreement Sanders received for his “Medicare for All” proposal, all candidates showed unity in favor of a health care plan covering undocumented immigrants living in the US. Biden agreed with Buttigieg on the matter stating that “the humane thing to do” would be to provide people who are sick with healthcare, despite where they come from.
Candidates went after Trump for his administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy, which has led to the separation of thousands of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border. Williamson called the conditions at the detention centers where children are being held, “collective child abuse.” Bennet shared that he thinks of his mother when he sees migrant children being split from their families, because she was separated from her parents during the Holocaust. “What we should be represented by is the Statue of Liberty,” Bennet said, “not Trump’s border wall.”
Harris said that she disagreed with one of the few policies under the Obama administration where nearly three million people were deported. “The policy was to allow deportation of people who, by ICE’s own definition, were non-criminals.” She noted that as the Attorney General for California, she stood against the decriminalization of immigrants, so that all members of the community would feel comfortable with law enforcement.
On the topic of gun reform, Sanders stated that the United States is facing a “gun crisis” and spoke on his push for a ban on assault weapons. Swalwell called out Sanders’ plan, saying it “leaves them on the streets,” before asking Sanders if he would support a gun buy-back program. Buttigieg chimed in, “This is tearing communities apart. If more guns made us safer, we would be the safest country on Earth. It doesn’t work that way.”
The first question on climate change was handed to Harris, who immediately corrected the moderators, saying, “I don’t call it climate change, it’s a climate crisis. It is an existential threat to us as a species. The fact that we have a president who embraced science fiction over science fact is to our collective peril.” Hickenlooper was then asked to defend his position on making oil and gas companies partners in the fights to combat climate change. He responded stating that every business shouldn’t be demonized. Sanders refuted the “old ways” of approaching climate change deeming them to no longer be relevant. Swalwell offered a “solution” to climate change while simultaneously taking shots at Biden and Sanders’ age saying that it’s time to “pass the torch” to the new generation Americans that will ultimately face the effects of climate change.
Some memorable highlights of the night came from Senator Harris. She took the time to come to the defense of former Vice President Joe Biden who has faced recent controversy that he praised his working relationship with two segregationists at a fundraiser. “I will direct this at vice president Biden, I do not believe you are a racist and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground, but I also believe and it’s personal and it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country,” Harris said.
Biden immediately responded, “It’s a mischaracterization of my position across the board. I do not praise racists. That is not true. Number one.” He added, “Number two if we want to have this litigated on who supports civil rights, I’m happy to do that. I was a public defender. I was not a prosecutor.
As the conversation shifted to race issues, questions were directed at Buttigieg, specifically about a black man who was fatally shot by a white police officer in his city. When asked why the ratio of black police officers have not improved over his two terms as mayor, he replied “Because I couldn’t get it done.” He added, “Until we move policing out from the shadow of systemic racism and whatever this teaches us, there is a wall of mistrust put up one racist act at a time not from what happened in the past, but what happened in the present.”
The Hill released a report of which candidates got the most speaking time. Biden and Harris tied for having the most speaking time of a little over 11 minutes while Andrew Yang spoke for almost three minutes, less than any other contender on stage for either of the two nights of debates. Yang’s major talking point of the night surrounded his “Universal Basic Income” proposal where every american would receive $1,000 a month and The government would charge a 10% value-added tax on goods and services to pay for the program.
The second round of debates will be hosted by CNN in Detroit on July 30 and 31. The qualifications for the debate are the same as the first, however, the debates in September will be more strict. In order to qualify, candidates must receive two percent support in four approved national or early state polls and 130,000 unique donors from at least 20 states.
Hopefully this knocks the number down from 20 candidates for the next debates.