From the beginning of the Democratic debate held in South Carolina on February 25, 2020, it was clear that all of the candidates realized that the stakes were high.
- Amy Klobuchar noted, “If we spend the next four months tearing our party apart, we’ll spend another four years watching the country tearing apart.”
- Pete Buttigieg contended, “We have to restore the credibility of the United States.”
- Bernie Sanders posited, “We need to have the largest voter turn out in the history of the United States.”
- Tom Steyer put it simply: “We need to win a huge victory across the board.”
Sanders, the victor in the first few Democratic caucuses, served as a target for the other candidates. According to Michael Bloomberg, for example, if Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, he “will not beat Trump.” Pete Buttigieg contended that Sanders’ support of the filibuster is not in the past tense. Amy Klobuchar posited that it would cost 50 trillion dollars to finance Sanders’ programs. Joe Biden pointed out, “Bernie voted five times against the Brady Bill.” (Despite all the criticism of Sanders, however, none of the candidates mentioned the obvious: the fact that Bernie’s self-described title of “Democratic Socialist” is an oxymoron.)
Veering away from the “beat Bernie” bandwagon, Elizabeth Warren noted that Michael Bloomberg has funded more than one right-wing senator, including Lindsey Graham, and added, “The core of the Democratic Party will never trust him; he is the riskiest candidate.”
This debate seemed to focus more on the issues than the previous debates did. Biden said, “We should be imposing sanctions on Russia for interference.” He added that (referring to President Trump’s behavior regarding the Chinese dictator) “You don’t negotiate with a dictator.” When questioned as to his stance on gun control, he noted that he is prepared to take action against gun manufacturers.
Bloomberg stated that we should “decriminalize possession” of marijuana. He also said that he supports the United States maintaining troops in areas of the world that might harbor terrorists because “We have to be able to stop terrorism.”
Buttigieg emphasized the importance of supporting public educators and noted that he’s “married to one.” In the area of International affairs, he said, “The (current) President has vanished from the stage” and noted a need to “restore the credibility of the United States.”
On the issue of gun control, Klobuchar reiterated, “I have long supported the assault weapons ban.” She emphasized the necessity for healthcare in rural areas and also pinpointed a need to build a coalition between urban and rural areas. Regarding the issue of higher education, she said that she favored offering free college to students who were working towards one-or two-year degrees. She also stressed the need to help people get off drugs.
Sanders noted that his platform is very much as it was four years ago: He wants to raise the minimum wage, he supports government funding for those who want to go to college, and he plans to initiate Medicare for all. In reference to gun control, Sanders said that he would expand background checks and do what the people, not the NRA, want. In the realm of education, he commented, “Kids’ education should not depend on the ZIP Code where they live .”
Finally, regardless of whether the issue is climate change or infectious diseases, Sanders contended that “This is a global problem,” and as such, we have to work with other countries to find solutions.
Tom Steyer said the biggest challenge today is climate change. When questioned about gun safety, he replied, “Corporations have bought Washington, DC.” (He didn’t propose a plan for addressing that issue, however.) On an entirely different note, he said that he believes in “reparations for slavery” but did not elaborate on how he would accomplish that goal.
Emphasizing the importance of public schools, Elizabeth Warren stated, “We must invest in the future of our children.” When questioned as to where she would send U.S. military troops, she said that the plan should be “not to use our military to solve problems that cannot be solved militarily,” adding that we should not send troops to hazardous zones without a plan to get them out.
Elephants and Egos
The fact that one of the people on stage would need to beat President Trump in the general election in November In order for the Democratic Party to regain control was a given. Each of the candidates presented reasons why he/she is the best person to receive the Democratic nomination and go on to beat Trump.
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Biden used his position as former Vice President under Barack Obama to strengthen his position. For one thing, he emphasized the fact that he was the only person on stage who had dealt with world leaders. He also noted that he was "part of the team that didn’t let the Ebola virus take over.” When asked to give a quote that would define him, Biden replied, “Everyone’s entitled to be treated with dignity, no matter who they are,” and added, “I am loyal. I do what I say.“
Bloomberg announced that, based on his experience, resources, and record, he is “the one candidate that makes sense.” He pointed to some of his accomplishments when he served as mayor of New York City: He noted that there were 175,000 units of affordable housing in New York City and also took credit for creating jobs and housing for students in the city.
He contended that his attention to public health concerns was so great that when he retired as mayor, the life expectancy of New Yorkers was three years greater than the national average. As his defining quote, Bloomberg chose, “When I get it [the nomination? the presidency?] I’m going to do something rather than just talk about it.”
Buttigieg pointed out, “This is about 2020. We won’t win by discussing the Cold War.” His defining quote: “If you would be a leader, you must first be a servant .”
Klobuchar took the same tack as did Buttigieg when she said, “We need to go forward rather than just talk about what we did in the past.” She went on to lambast the current President: “North Korea is emboldened,“ and added that Trump “tweets in his bathrobe” rather than addressing the issues. She promised, “I would work with our allies.” Her quote: “politics is about improving peoples’ lives.”
Sanders continued to emphasize the main points of his “democratic socialism“ platform and made it clear that “I have opposed authoritarianism all over the world.” When asked what the biggest misconception about him would be, he replied, “That the ideas I’m talking about are radical. They’re not.” Near the end of the debate, Sanders quoted Nelson Mandela: “Everything is impossible until it happens.”
Steyer stated, “Every day I tell myself to tell the truth and do what’s right.”
Emphasizing the importance she placed on public education, Warren pledged that her secretary of education “Will be someone who taught in public schools.” (She previously had mentioned that she herself had been a special education teacher.) when asked for a quote that defined her, she replied, “For one, this is how we treat other people and how we lift them up.”
A somewhat surreal element of the 10th Democratic debate was the fact that two of the major commercials that were shown during the debate were ads promoting Michael Bloomberg. At first, it actually seemed that they were part of the debate, until the viewer heard these words: “I’m Mike Bloomberg, and I approve this message.”
For quite a while it seemed that the moderators were calling on Bloomberg far more than they addressed the other candidates. In fact, they ignored Biden to the extent that he became visibly annoyed and at one point said, “Gentlemen don’t get treated very well up here.”
It never was clear why Tom Steyer was part of the debate forum...or why, for that matter, he thought that he had even a remote chance of receiving the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar didn’t come on nearly as strong as they had in previous debates, despite the fact that the moderators called on Klobuchar quite a bit. Ironically, Elizabeth Warren received some criticism for coming on too strong (although I’m not quite sure why that would be a bad thing).
Finally, this clearly was the most contentious of any of the debates thus far. Quite a few times the candidates actually were yelling at one another. At one point Sanders was carrying on to such an extent that his voice actually canceled out what Buttigieg was attempting to say.
It will be very interesting to see which of the candidates are still standing after Super Tuesday. To paraphrase a popular song: “It’s only just begun.”
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.