Democratic debate shows that healthcare and race are of huge importance

September 23, 2019 — by Sandhya Sundaram

On Sept. 12, the leading 10 candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination took the stage at Texas Southern University in Houston for the third Democratic debate. Among the issues discussed were health care, immigration, gun control, Afghanistan, education and institutionalized racism.

    In order to be able to challenge President Donald Trump after nomination, the Democratic nominee must be able to compromise on some issues and appeal to minority voters – specifically black and Hispanic people. Historically, gaining minority votes has given candidates an edge. After the primaries, compromise has also helped gain the votes of those who are undecided, independent or unsure.

    The night started off with discussion on health care. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for all plan is divisive across party lines for taking away people’s choice to remain with current health care providers. In the debate, South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg brought up the concern that Sanders’ plan takes away the trust in the people to make their own informed decisions. Many Americans, especially moderates, will never be able to agree with Socialist principles like those that Sanders espouses.

    Candidates later debated the merits of gun control measures. The month of August left 53 dead due to shootings in Odessa, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and El Paso. During the debate, Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman, vehemently asserted, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47, and we’re not going to allow it to be used against your fellow Americans anymore,” after the shooting in his hometown of El Paso. 

    While this was a powerful statement that resulted in applause, the reality is that much of the population, including gun owners, will never support such measures and will fight to keep their guns and vote. 

Immigration was the large concern of the night, prompted by Castro and moderators. When asked by moderator Jorge Ramos about his history of deporting 3 million people during the Obama presidency, former vice president Joe Biden responded by saying that it was Obama’s administration, not his. Biden has been criticized for taking credit for the better parts of the Obama administration, while denying full involvement in the more negative aspects.

Nevertheless, Biden still leads in polls. But Americans will continue to be skeptical and question him for his age and the 76-year-old’s ability to deny responsibility.

On the topic of institutionalized racism and mass incarceration, moderators pressed Harris and Klobuchar for their track records of not doing enough to combat racism in the criminal justice system. While Harris and other candidates like Buttigieg support reparations, Harris’ past and Buttigieg’s struggle to appeal to black voters may come to haunt them.

Biden was questioned on a previous statement he had made in 1975, when he said, “I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather, I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation, and I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.” 

In his response, Biden tried to absolve himself of responsibility and made a random remark about how lower income families should turn on record players to educate their kids. He was asked about the need to mend the legacy of slavery on black communities and responded with a long response that ended up confusing and concerning people. Although he has historically appealed to black voters, Biden’s record and his inability to take full responsibility during the debate has let down some supporters.

An underdog candidate who has gained a lot of publicity for his novel ideas, Yang elicited shock and laughter from the crowd and other candidates in his opening statement when he revealed his plan to give 10 families $1,000 to improve their lives and make the country better. Families must sign up on his website, and 10 will be chosen based on how they would spend the money.

The idea may not be super impactful, with only $10,000 being spent in total, but its concept of having people – rather than corporations – fund causes is unique and laudable. He has gained a lot of publicity for this, with skeptics even calling it illegal.

Currently ranking third among the candidates, Harris stuck with repeatedly attacking Trump during the debate; for example, calling him someone who “conducts trade policy by tweet,” when asked about her own trade policy. While her memorable lines resonated with the crowd, she did not elaborate on her policy as much as she should have, instead focusing on being a crowd-pleaser. 

As for the Democratic nomination, it looks as it is most likely between Biden and Warren at this point. Warren is rising in popularity, and with her success in this debate and clear policy plans, she may be able to give Biden a run for his money. After the debate, Warren announced her tax plan, calling for the uber wealthy to only pay a tax of two cents for every dollar after earning $50 million. Although she is not as much of a moderate as Biden and supports Medicare for All, she is trending upwards, and her clearly articulated plans have resonated with many Americans. 

With the trend of discussions about immigration, reparations, and criminal justice, it is clear that the minority votes are going to matter a lot. To earn the Democratic nomination, candidates must better appeal to the Latinx and black communities, while not straying too far to the left in future debates and policy plans.

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