The debate saw multiple attempts to knock Elizabeth Warren from her almost-front-runner status.
The Fourth Democratic Debate, on Tuesday, Oct. 15, was three hours long, and, if you’ve seen the first three, you’ve honestly seen this one. Even though this was the first time they bothered to talk about foreign policy, they still spent as much time as they possibly could on beating all of the dead horses that they killed three debates ago. But not all pandering politicians are equal, so let’s look at the winners and losers from this debate.
First, since the goal of these debates is to rile up as many people as possible with promises you can’t or won’t make good on, let’s look at speaking time. The figures put out by CNN show that Elizabeth Warren was the most successful in this regard by a mile, with about 23 minutes of speaking time. The next closest was Joe Biden with a little over 16 minutes, and the absolute lowest was newcomer Tom Steyer, who has forced his way into the debates by virtue of being a billionaire; he spoke for about seven minutes.
Every candidate on stage either supports medicare for all (M4A) or an expansion of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).In this regard, Pete Buttigeg has the strongest point of contention in regards to M4A: “I don’t understand why you believe the only way to deliver affordable coverage to everybody is to obliterate private plans, kicking 150 million Americans off of their insurance in four short years.” The topic of healthcare has been covered very extensively in previous debates, so I’ll leave it at that.
In the third debate, Beto O’Rourke made headlines for saying, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.” He did not make any similarly controversial statements, but he did reaffirm his stance on this issue.
Elizabeth Warren tried to dodge the question of whether or not her M4A plan would raise taxes on the middle class. Seeing as she is on course to definitively usurp the role of frontrunner, she was given the most time to speak and was also the subject of the most criticism.
Andrew Yang has finally found a stable foothold within the DNC establishment after his cult following allowed him to persevere this far. He displayed his now campaign slogan, “Make America Think Harder” (MATH), and was able to reasonably defend his Universal Basic Income proposal under the lens of preparation for future automation. He was given about 10 minutes to speak, which is still decidedly meager compared to establishment favorites Warren and Biden, but a substantial improvement when one considers that he was only allowed to speak for about four minutes in the first debate.
Unlike Warren, Bernie Sanders was willing to admit that his medicare-for-all plan would raise taxes on the middle class, but justified this by saying that the overall expense and net cost of health care would go down, even if the public burden increased. Additionally, he was able to brush off his recent heart attack as a fluke.
Amy Klobuchar has yet to qualify for the November debate and it is likely because of this that she focused much of her speaking time on attacking the new front-runner, Elizabeth Warren, criticizing the senator’s lack of rigorously-defined plans.
Joe Biden was only a front runner to begin with because everybody already knew his name, and now he is on course to be overtaken by Warren. After the Ukraine scandal with his son Hunter Biden, he defended himself by pretending there’s nothing wrong with the situation.
Tulsi Gabbard was the most searched candidate after the second debate, where she famously called out Kamala Harris for being a corrupt and sycophantic public servant. However, she said that she supported ending the “endless wars” in the Middle East by reducing U.S. involvement, which implied that she agreed with Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria, and we can’t allow any bipartisanship, now can we?
Kamala Harris is still in the race, despite the fact that her self-serving track record as California’s attorney general was publicly exposed in the second debate. She did make a pretty good point about how the debate format unfairly pigeonholes candidates into giving brief and insubstantial takes on issues by only allowing them a minute and 15 seconds to talk.
Tom Steyer claimed that 90 percent of Americans have not had a raise in the past 40 years, and this is a half-truth. The share of income taken by the bottom 90 percent has, in fact, decreased, but the average wages of the bottom 90 percent have increased beyond inflation in the past 40 years. Also, his argument loses all credence when one considers that he has no political experience and was only able to force himself into the running, Ross Perot style, by being a billionaire.
Cory Booker spent much of what precious little time he had to speak defending Biden for some reason. His performance was completely inoffensive and “safe.”
Julián Castro was also there.
The moderators obviously are not too keen on creating an environment where each candidate is given a platform to share their ideas, instead creating a sensationalist echo chamber where the people who were already polling the best are rewarded for being career politicians by being given three times as much airtime as people who are new to the scene. This rewards people who have PACs and super PACs and are therefore able to drill their names into the heads of voters, essentially rewarding sellouts for being sellouts. They concluded with a question about Ellen DeGeneres, just in case anyone was doubting my sensationalism contention there.
This article is already way too long, but I’d like to talk about candidates who did not make the stage this time around and who have not withdrawn their candidacy. I very seriously doubt any of them have a chance, and I feel like Charlie Brown running to kick that football when I support one of these people, but I’ll do it nonetheless.
Michael Bennet is a mild-mannered educator turned senator. Bipartisan compromise is a core tenet of his platform, and he seeks to reform education including free public preschool. “Politicians talk about free college because preschoolers can’t vote,” he says. He believes that the “my way or the highway” attitude adopted by many high-profile candidates is dangerous and counterproductive. He has failed to gain traction because he was late to enter the race and because of his general lack of charisma.
Steve Bullock, the governor of Montana, supports a $15 minimum wage, a reversal of Citizens United v. FEC and universal background checks with a voluntary buyback program for assault weapons.
John Delaney, a Representative from Maryland, believes in a mixed economy with a focus on encouraging competition. He identifies himself as a “pragmatic progressive” and has a strong record of working across the aisle.
Marianne Williamson is kind of crazy. She’s a spiritualist and she said in the first debate that she thinks Donald Trump has a “dark psychic energy” or something to that effect; I was unable to find the exact quote but she definitely used the word “psychic.”
Joe Sestak, a more recent addition to the pack of 2020 candidates, is a former Navy vice-admiral who supports neither M4A nor Obamacare, instead proposing a complete replacement for Obamacare. He supports student debt relief programs and a ban on assault weapons.
Tim Ryan, a Representative from Ohio, wants to revitalize U.S. manufacturing and do so in an environmentally sustainable way. He favors M4A and supports stricter regulations on firearms without banning any type of firearm completely.
It is regrettable that some candidates with incredible ideas are never given a chance to share their platform simply because they fail to energize people with witty half-true one-liners and catchy slogans. Regardless of this, however, 2020 will be an interesting election year no matter who the DNC ultimately nominates.