The 2020 Presidential Race: October’s Democratic Debate

Shree Manivel ’23

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On October 15, 2019, a record-breaking 12 candidates took the stage at the Rike Center of Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, for the fourth Democratic Presidential Primary Debate. The candidates included former Vice President Joe Biden, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard, California Senator Kamala Harris, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, billionaire businessman and activist Tom Steyer, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett of CNN, as well as Mark Lacey, National Editor for the New York Times, moderated the three-hour-long debate.


The debate started off with Cooper posing a question to Senator Warren: “With the election one year away, why shouldn’t voters decide Trump’s fate instead of pursuing impeachment?” In response, Senator Warren asserted that the President has broken the law, and should, therefore, be impeached as soon as possible. After Warren’s immediate response, all the candidates were in favor of pursuing impeachment, some offering varied perspectives of this common idea. Senator Sanders said that Trump is the most corrupt candidate. Senator Klobuchar said that we have a constitutional duty to pursue impeachment. Leaving an ally like the Kurds to get slaughtered benefits the Russians, and does not help America’s image in the Middle East. Lacey asked the next question, which was targeted toward one of Senator Warren’s previous concerns: universal, accessible healthcare. This part of the debate specifically addressed the “Medicare for All” movement supported by a majority of Democrats, and whether this would raise taxes for the wealthy. To this question, Senator Warren proposed a bill based on the concept of “Medicare for All” funded by a wealth tax. In response, both Mayor Buttigieg and Senator Klobuchar stated that Senator Warren’s plan for funding the healthcare bill was not clear enough. Senator Warren swiped back stating that she wanted to know why the other candidates were interested in supporting the billionaires, instead of the entire generation of Americans. Meanwhile, California’s Senator Harris stressed the importance on women’s access to reproductive rights, which gained her some applause from the audience.


Another major topic during the debate was the loss of jobs due to the threat of automation. To address this topic, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, referenced what he calls the “4th Industrial Revolution,” and stood by his previously proposed notion of Universal Basic Income. After his explanation, Representative Gabbard agreed that Yang’s idea of Universal Basic Income was a good idea, as people will have the security and freedom to make their own employment choices that fit their everyday lives.  Senator Sanders’ responses to this question also stood out as he referenced various topics, including the growing number of jobs in infrastructure, climate change (including the Green New Deal, which will give rise to 20 million jobs), childcare, healthcare, and free college tuition for all. Similarly, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro referenced the Green New Deal, Universal Childcare, investment in infrastructure, but also stood out by briefly talking about the wind turbine industry.


It appeared that Senator Warren was seen as an increasingly popular candidate among the voters as well as an increasingly tough opponent, as the other candidates repeatedly attacked her bold policies, especially the wealth tax and healthcare. Overall, both former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren are still untouchable frontrunners, especially due to their prior experience and contributions to the United States Government.


The Republicans referred to the twelve Democrats on stage as “clowns who would wreck the economy,” and they also shared an image of a recent Moody’s Analytics Model that predicted that President Trump would win virtually every swing state in the country. Ronna McDaniel, chairman of the Republican National Committee, stated that Democrats do not have a positive vision for America, and “it’s going to cost them the ballot box next November.”


This early debate included a large number of candidates, and while many Democratic voices were heard, future debates as the campaign narrows to just a few candidates will determine the outcomes of the 2020 Presidential Election.