Gabbard’s military experinece sets her apart from most of the field. courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Gabbard and Steyer look to use their debate spots to shake up the field

With the whistleblower scandal ratcheting up every day, it will no doubt come up in the debate.

The fourth Democratic Debate will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 8 p.m., with coverage by CNN News. Anderson Cooper will be one of the moderators for the night.

Despite the critical importance of this debate in shaping how things will turn out for the various candidates moving forward, it seems like a hurricane of events has shadowed this debate, and the newcomers surrounding it, in the past weeks.

The biggest trending story right now is the ongoing impeachment proceedings of President Donald Trump, the person whom the 12 Democratic candidates are being groomed to run against. Right now, Trump is under fire for allegedly coercing the Ukrainian government into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter and his involvement with Ukranian energy oligarchs. Throw in some nifty Adam Schiff drama, and you have a great big mud-wrestling fight of he-said-she-said taking place on Capitol Hill … again.
This impeachment battle has left Democrats split on whether to push forward on impeachment in the hopes of getting the president removed, or to simply wait, lick their wounds and try to beat him in the 2020 Presidential election. Pushing forward with impeachment runs the risk of distracting from their own candidates and making everything about Trump ⁠— something that Trump might actually relish and attempt to use to his advantage.

This impeachment drama is a shame because right now it is distracting most political onlookers from another subject: the two new democratic candidates who have managed to meet the prerequisites to enter the next debate.

Joining the 10 candidates from the September debate are Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and California Billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer. Both these candidates are different from each other in various ways, and both of them help to improve the Democrat field’s diversity ahead of a tough selection process.

First, you have Tulsi Gabbard, the first ever Samoan-American member of congress and the first Hindu member of congress in American history (she took her congressional oath of office with her hand over a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu holy book, instead of a Bible ⁠— the first American politician to do so). She is also an Iraq War veteran: she was deployed there as a combat medic, and this seems to have influenced her political perspectives. Her best known policy position today is military isolationism and an emphasis on preventing America from getting embroiled in any more regime change wars. She is also a proponent of marijuana decriminalisation.

Gabbard was present at the first two democratic debates, back when the field hadn’t yet been whittled down from 20 to 10, and half the candidates were debating on stages separate from the others. During one of these debates, Gabbard gained nationwide attention for a strong put-down of fellow candidate Kamala Harris: she attacked Harris for her record of having put 1,500 people in jail for cannabis-related drug charges before joking about smoking weed in an interview. Not only did this put-down permanently damage Kamala’s standings in the polls (and give way to a Twitter firestorm), it also brought much-needed attention to Gabbard’s campaign, putting her ever closer to serious contention for the democratic nomination. However, things quickly took a bad turn for Gabbard.

When the third debate rolled around and the field was whittled down from 20 to 10, Gabbard was unable to make the debate because she did not meet the requirements: to be polling at at least 2 percent in four separate DNC-approved polls. The polls on which the DNC relied were not made public knowledge, leading many to feel that Tulsi had been cheated. Now, however, she’s back in with strong enough polling, and she promises to be as passionate (and possibly outspoken) as ever.

And then you have Tom Steyer, who lacks the congressional or military experience of Gabbard, but who has experience in an entirely different field ⁠— the field of business. Steyer is a self-made billionaire who graduated from Yale in the 1980s before opening up a very successful investment firm in San Francisco. He has been very vocal in his support for impeaching Donald Trump and can in many ways be seen as the Democrat mirror image of Trump, due to their similar backgrounds in business. Recently, Steyer has dedicated his life to philanthropy, and he now wants to attain the highest leadership in the nation with his presidential bid.

Unlike Gabbard, Steyer was not a part of the previous debates, but his candidacy, self-funded in a fashion similar to Ross Perot (the independent candidate who ran against Bill Clinton in 1992), has gained momentum in the previous months. A strong performance on Oct. 15 could go a long way in creating a snowball effect to push his campaign forward.

These candidates making their way into the field now is a good thing for the Democrats, who are looking for the man ⁠— or woman ⁠— who can drum up the most support to beat Donald Trump. In recent months, Democrats have found themselves divided between moderates looking for more voter-palatable stances, and more far left leaning candidates, who oppose Trump with a vehement obstruct-at-all-costs mindset. Right now, it is impossible to say which approach will help them the most towards winning an election they can’t afford to lose, unless they want to see Trump’s policies gain an extra four years of time to be enacted fully. But more options and more diversity of policy are a great start, since there is bound to be one of the 12 who will truly stand out.

It has also yet to be seen how Joe Biden’s campaign will be affected by his son’s ties to the ongoing Ukraine story, but this might damage his campaign and leave the door open for someone else to take the lead in the polls. More importantly, the democrats do not want to leave their voter base alienated like they did in 2016, when it seemed like things were rigged in Hillary Clinton’s favor against Bernie Sanders- a policy that likely cost them the election against Trump. That’s why the inclusion of these two candidates to a field that is already filled with unique faces and policies should be seen as a positive thing by all.

On a side note, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders suffered a heart attack last week while campaigning in Nevada, but he has made a full recovery and has been released from the hospital. He is expected to be up there on the stage with Gabbard, Steyer, et. al. on Oct. 15. Whatever you think about Senator Sanders and his policies, it is nonetheless good to see that he has made a full recovery and will not be hindered from debating.

Post Author: A.C. Boyle