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Breakdown of the Democratic Presidential Debate
October 23, 2019
On Tuesday, October 15, the top 12 polling Democratic candidates took to the debate stage for the fourth time to fight for the 2020 party nominee. The event, located in Columbus, Ohio, was both broadcasted and coordinated by CNN and the New York Times.
The presidential hopefuls include Former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Representative Tulsi Gabbard, Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Amy Klobuchar, former Representative Beto O’Rourke, Senator Bernie Sanders, businessman Tom Steyer, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and businessman Andrew Yang.
“I really felt like this debate per usual did a bad job at giving everyone a fair amount of coverage,” said Sam Cuttle (‘20)
Here's how the latest 3-hour #DemDebate ended…
Ellen's friendship with George Bush: 22 minutes
Climate crisis: 0 minutes
LGBTQ+ rights: 0 minutes
Immigration: 0 minutes
Racial justice: 0 minutes pic.twitter.com/os6r7GevWM
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) October 18, 2019
To qualify for the debate, candidates needed, “to attain at least 2% in four separate Democratic National Committee-approved polls and receive contributions from at least 130,000 unique donors, including at least 400 donors from 20 different states.”
Topics discussed ranged from impeachment, to universal health care, gun control, to unlikely political friendships.
“Some of these questions asked seem so pointless; they do not belong in a primary debate. Why are we discussing Ellen and George Bush’s friendship before climate change, immigration, housing, etcetera,” said Chloe Moussa (‘20).
Here are each candidates highlights
It's time to live up to the promise of a high-quality public education for every student. My plan makes big, structural changes that would help give every student the resources that they need to thrive.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 21, 2019
Warren, being the frontrunner of this debate, faced multiple attacks from multiple opponents. Both Buttigieg, O’Rourke, Biden, Harris, and Klobuchar named Warren’s policies (specifically her wealth tax plan) “unrealistic” and “vague.”
O’Rourke called Warren’s plan “punitive.” In response, Warren said, “I’m really shocked at the notion that anyone thinks I’m punitive.”
“I have made clear what my principles are here: Costs will go up for the wealthy and for corporations and for hard-working middle-class families, costs will go down,” Warren said.
Throughout the debate, Warren made it clear she supports an impeachment inquiry, even though a possible inquiry may take her off the campaign trail. She said, “…sometimes there are issues that are bigger than politics, and I think that’s the case with this impeachment inquiry.”
“I would say Warren stood out to me the most. One, because I felt like the other candidates were quick to attack her. Two, she is the most realistic with her plans and ideas,” said Cuttle.
Donald Trump has asked three foreign governments to interfere in our elections on his behalf. In full view of the American people, he has violated his oath of office and betrayed our nation.
He must be impeached.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 21, 2019
Almost immediately Biden address him and his son’s accused relations with the Urkanian government. “My son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong. I carried out the policy of the United States government rooting out corruption in Ukraine. And that’s what we should be focusing on,” Biden said.
Although Biden had only recently announced his support of the congressional impeachment proceedings, he was quick to accuse Donald Trump during the debate. He said Trump was the “most corrupt president in history.”
He did credit himself for his past position as Vice President. “I’m going to say something that is probably going to offend some people here. But I’m the only one on this stage who has gotten anything really big done,” Biden said.
The statement was quick to offense Warren and Sanders.
Biden was vague on his policy during the majority of the debate. He did however mention plan of expanding Obamacare in response to Warren and Sanders universal healthcare plan.
No person needs to have tens of billions of dollars while others sleep out on the streets. We're going to tax the ultra rich and use the revenue to guarantee decent housing for all.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 10, 2019
Sanders started off the night with his catchphrase, “as the one who wrote the damn bill,” when responding to a question relating to universal healthcare.
The Vermont Senator, who had recently suffered a heart attack, addressed concerns relating to his health. “We are going to be mounting a vigorous campaign all over this country. That is how I think I can reassure the American people,” said Sanders.
In response to the statement, Booker joked that “Mr. Sanders also supports medical marijuana,” to which Sanders responded “I’m not on it tonight,” promting a laugh from the audience.
Sanders made it clear he supports impeachment proceedings multiple times during the debate. “Mitch McConnell has got to do the right thing and allow a free and fair trial in the Senate,” said Sanders, speaking about the topic of impeachment,” said Sanders.
In the second hour, Sanders commented on Trump’s recent order to take U.S. troops out of Syria. “Turkey is not a U.S. ally when they engage in another mass slaughter,” he said forcefully in the second hour of the debate,” he said.
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) October 16, 2019
Buttigieg spent majority of the night attacking his opponents, sparking arguments with O’Rourke, Warren, and Gabbard. It was clear the Mayor was attempting to appeal to more moderate Democrats.
When addressing gun control and a mandatory buy-back program, Buttigieg named O’Rourke’s plan improbable. He said, “Your signature, senator, is to have a plan for everything. Except this.”
When O’Rourke attempted to rebuke his claim, Buttigieg said, “I don’t need lessons from you on courage.”
Buttigieg claimed Warren’s healthcare plan would “obliterate” the private health insurance. He then imagined his own alternative plan, “Medicare for all who want it.”
When asked about the withdrawal of troops from Syria, Buttigieg said, “When I was deployed, I knew one of the things keeping me safe was the fact that the flag on my shoulder represented a country known to keep its word. And our allies knew it. And our enemies knew that. You take that away, you are taking away what makes America America. It makes the troops and the world a much more dangerous place.”
The response evoked an argument with Gabbard, the only other verteran on stage.
Gabbard said the situation was “yet another negative consequence of the regime-change war that we’ve been waging in Syria.” However, placed the blame on “both parties” as well as “the mainstream media.”
Buttigieg immediately responded, “respectfully, Congresswoman, I think that is dead wrong. The slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence. It’s a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal by this president of American allies and American values.”
Gabbard then said, “Really, what you’re saying, Mayor Pete, is you would continue to support having troops in Syria for an indefinite period of time, to continue this regime-change war?”
To which Buttigieg replied, “Part of what makes it possible for the United States to get people to put their lives on the line to back us up is the idea that we will back them up, too. I would have a hard time today looking at an Afghan civilian or soldier in the eye after what just happened over there, and it is undermining the honor of our soldiers. You take away the honor of our soldiers, you might as well go after their body armor next.”
Right now in America:
→A minimum-wage worker can't afford rent for a one-bedroom
→Children are drinking toxic water
→Trump is committing crimes and selling out the American people in plain sight
Justice is on the ballot.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) October 18, 2019
Harris’ most notable moment occurred during the healthcare portion of the debate.
She was the first candidate to bring forward women’s reproductive rights; a hot topic issue due to recent heartbeat bills.
“This is the sixth debate we have had in this presidential cycle and not nearly one word with all of these discussions about health care on women’s access to reproductive health care, which is under full-on attack in America today. And it’s outrageous. There are states that have passed laws that will virtually prevent women from having access to reproductive health care, and it is not an exaggeration to say women will die. Poor women, women of color will die because these Republican legislatures in these various states who are out of touch with America are telling women what to do with their bodies. Women are the majority of the population in this country. People need to keep their hands off of women’s bodies and let women make the decisions about their own lives,” said Harris.
Similarly to her opponents, Harris endorsed the idea of impeachment. She thinks the inquiry will move quickly. “As a former prosecutor, I know a confession when I see it,” she said.
Harris fought with frontrunner Warren multiple times throughout the night. The Senator stressed the idea of having Trump’s twitter account removed and was frustrated when Warren would not support the statement. Warren said, “I don’t just want to push Donald Trump off Twitter, I want to push him out of the White House.”
The California Senator also expressed the need for gun control during the debate. “I’m done,” she said. “And we need action. And Congress has had years to act and failed because they have not had the courage.”
However, Harris failed to address any specific policy or plans she would conduct to solves these issues if elected.
“I noticed that a common thread in many candidates was that they drastically changed the topic, often to climate change or reproductive rights. I wonder what topics the candidates may not be able to speak about because of this unnecessary organization,” said Laura Caroline Jung (‘22).
That's a wrap on tonight’s #DemDebate! I hope I made you proud and represented the values we're fighting for—with just 4 months until voting begins, we need to make the most of this moment. Chip in to help us build the kind of campaign it takes to win: https://t.co/vPp45enwM6 pic.twitter.com/TQKkudfKVD
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) October 16, 2019
In addition to Harris’ statement, Booker followed in addressing reproductive rights. He said, “We are seeing all over this country women’s reproductive rights under attack. God bless Kamala. Women should not be the only ones taking up this cause and this fight.”
Like all other candidates before, Booker mentioned his support of impeachment and his opposition of Donald Trump.
“You know, we’ve got one shot to make Donald Trump a one-term president, and how we talk about each other in this debate really matters,” Booker said.
When describing allegations of Trump Putin relations, Booker said, “the moral leadership of this country into a dumpster fire.”
While these statements produced cheers from the crowd, Booker did little during the debate to differentiate himself from his opponents. Like Harris, he mentioned little specifics of policy and plans.
Booker did continue to “preach love,” cutting off candidates who were attacking one another. “You cannot love your country unless you love your fellow countrymen and women. Love is not sentimentality, it’s not anemic. Love is struggle, love is sacrifice,” he said.
“Cory Booker definitely stood out to me during the debate – especially when he managed to steer the conversation away from the candidates attacking each other and each other’s plans, to more conductive discussions of major topics. He was able to bring up the issue of reproductive healthcare that was being grossed over even after Kamala Harris brought it up,” said Kara Petitt (‘20).
Right now the law bans Medicare from negotiating for lower prescription drug prices on behalf of 43 million seniors. I lead the bill to get rid of the ban that prohibits Medicare from negotiating and as President I’ll get it done — Americans deserve a better deal.
— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) October 22, 2019
Klobuchar did not receive much screen time during the debate. She did, however, spark applause from the crowd when bringing up the opioid epidemic.
Klobuchar joined her fellow opponents in support of the inquiry. When asked about its importance, she said “I just don’t want to screw this up.”
We’ve got to win for the sake of humanity.
— Andrew Yang🧢 (@AndrewYang) October 22, 2019
While most candidates spent their first few minutes of speaking time address the need for impeachment, Yang encouraged Democratic voters to focus on the “economic problems that paved the way for Trump’s win in 2016.”
Yang spent the majority of the debate focusing on his one major policy plan: universal basic income. His“Freedom Dividend” plan provides $1,000 per month to every American adult above the age of 18.
He faced backlash from almost all candidates, most notably frontrunner Warren. The Massachusetts Senator said, “I think the thing closest to universal basic income is Social Security.”
She then asked to “see the data.” To which Yang quickly replied, “I have the data.”
Freedom is being able to go to school without being afraid of getting shot. https://t.co/MMB3VtBx8b
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) October 16, 2019
“I really like Beto O’Rourke for many reasons, but especially because he emphasizes gun control. In my opinion, gun regulation is one of the most important issues currently affecting our age group,” said Tess Ricco (‘20).
O’Rourke’s most notable moment was him and Buttigieg’s heated argument on gun control, as previously mentioned above.
“Let’s decide what we are going to believe and what we are going to achieve. And let’s bring this country together in order to do that. Let’s … not be limited by the polls and the consultants and the focus groups,” O’Rourke said.
I learned how to show up for my country and my community from my parents.
From my father, who quit his job as a lawyer to join the Navy after Pearl Harbor and then prosecuted Nazis at Nuremburg.
From my mother, who taught at the Brooklyn House of Detention.
How do you show up? pic.twitter.com/1q7zJhfI0H
— Tom Steyer (@TomSteyer) September 22, 2019
This debate marked Steyer’s stage debut, as he entered the primaries later than any other hopeful.
He immediately mentioned his “Need to Impeach” campaign, noting that he supported the idea of impeachment long before any of the other candidates on stage.
Rather than attacking his opponents, Steyer took a similar approach to Booker. He said every Democratic candidate was a “more decent and patriotic than the criminal in the White House.”
Though he had limited screen time, Steyer advocated for a tax on the wealthy, an end to Trump’s tax cuts, and an increase of the minimum wage.
I didn’t start my campaign with big donor lists or huge infusions of cash. We’ve built grassroots support, so that I could speak truth to power—and now we need to raise $800k to stay in this race.
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) October 21, 2019
Castro did not receive as much attention compared to the other Democratic candidates.
His most memorable moment was in a dispute against O’Rourke’s mandatory gun buyback plan.
The former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro brought to light a possible consequence of the buybacks. Under the proposed policy, police officers would go door to door to collect firearms. Communities of color, which commonly face police violence, could fall victim.
“In the places I grew up in, we weren’t exactly looking for another reason for the cops to come banging on the door. “I am not going to give these police officers another reason to go door to door in certain communities, because police violence is also gun violence, and we need to address that,” Castro said.
Castro promises a complete reform of the police force if elected to office.
.@HillaryClinton, your foreign policy was a disaster for our country and the world. It’s time for you to acknowledge the damage you have caused and step down from your throne. https://t.co/r95HYvTjML pic.twitter.com/tSwCRx82sU
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) October 23, 2019
Gabbard received the least amount of screen time out of all candidates, and is currently polling last out of the 12 that participated in the debate.
While every other presidential hopeful favored impeachment, Gabbard disagreed, stating that impeachment would only “divide the country further.”
She called out past democrtic presidential nominee Hilary Clinton with her statement, “when I look at our country, I don’t see deplorables. I see fellow Americans.”
Her focus revolved completely around foreign policy. She used the phrase “regime change war” nine times.
“During the debate Gabbard was constantly contradicting herself. She’s literally an Assad apologist and refuses to acknowledge his role in the killing of thousands of his own people,” said Moussa.