by: Sonali Mudunuri
This year has already been an eventful one in terms of the current Trump administration and the recent Democratic campaigns. The first week of February saw such incidents as President Trump’s State of the Union Address, as well as polling mishaps in Iowa, but most importantly, the eighth Democratic debate took place. The first democratic debate of this year was one filled with discussions of climate change, gender discrimination, healthcare, and foreign affairs. These topics resurfaced again in the early February 7th debate, and were hotly argued by the seven qualifying candidates: former vice president Joe Biden, former South Bend Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, billionaire executive Tom Steyer, and business founder Andrew Yang (who, on February 11th, announced that he would be dropping out of the race).
Among the many highlights of the debate, a notable one was Bernie Sanders’s assertion that he now supports universal background checks on all firearm purchases, and urges everyone to fight against “straw man provision” –– the act of purchasing a gun for someone else. In 1993, Sanders had voted against a bill that called for such background checks, and explained that after moving away from the viewpoints of those in rural Vermont, he now feels differently.
Joe Biden was an active participant in the debate; he discussed his stance on foreign affairs by criticizing Donald Trump’s decision to order a strike against General Qasem Soleimani, and stating that he believed a military presence in Afghanistan was necessary to prevent further conflict. Biden, who has always leaned more centrist, attacked Sanders’s socialist ideals and Buttigieg’s lack of diversity in his supporters.
Pete Buttigieg was also a strong debater at the event, using his time to make known that he wanted to increase the number of Supreme Court justices, and even appoint some through non-partisan processes. Buttigieg, who has always fallen short when it comes to garnering African American endorsement, was perhaps trying to pander to them. He had previously stuck chords with the community through his support of white policemen and empathy towards the criminal justice system that Sanders sees as corrupt and racist.
Amy Klobuchar discussed her stance on the drug war that has affected America, leading to over tens of thousands of deaths each year. She called to attention the massive drug court she ran, as well as her distrust and prosecution of big businesses that pushed those drugs to the public. Klobuchar also expressed her interest in an opioid tax, which would help fund rehabilitation programs for those with drug addictions.
Elizabeth Warren took a different position on military affairs; she called for troops to be brought home, believing that if there is a peaceful alternative to stopping conflict, it should be implemented instead. She shared Sanders’s belief that the criminal justice system was inherently oppressive of communities of color, and expressed her support for laws that would benefit marginalized groups, such as ones which would make it easier for black Americans to afford housing and education.
Of all the Democratic candidates at the early February debate, only the five just mentioned qualified for the upcoming February 19th. Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer were among the rest of the Democratic runners who did not, and both performed weakly at the debate they were present at. Steyer’s talking points were heavily based in race as well; he urged black and Latinx voters to cast their ballots on election day to beat Trump, and wanted black Americans to receive reparations. Yang advocated for a different kind of economy; one that still held its roots in capitalism, but which prioritized human wellness and the environment over all else.
It appears that going forward, Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders, and Warren are likely to hold the most power among the Democratic candidates. With policies ranging from extreme socialism to centrism, the party certainly is divided amongst its ideals; and the entire country is holding its breath to see which one emerges as the single candidate to run against Donald Trump.