Elections 2020FederalHealthcareImmigration & BorderIssuesTaxes & SpendingDemocratic Presidential Contenders Sprint Hard Left in First Debate

The first debate in a crowded field saw Democrats working hard to separate themselves from the pack and placate the party's growing progressive base.
June 27, 2019
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Like Monty Python’s famous skit “Four Yorkshiremen,” Wednesday night’s first Democratic presidential debate saw the candidates jump at the opportunity to one-up their competitors with such alacrity that the British comedian quartet themselves would marvel at the spectacle.

The 10 candidates on stage last night were Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke; Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ); Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); former San Antonio Mayor and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro; Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI); Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH); Washington Governor Jay Inslee; New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio; and former Maryland Congressman John Delaney.

Right off the bat, Sen. Elizabeth Warren — who has many proposals for government restructuring of the economy — was asked “With 71 percent of Americans who believe the economy is doing well, including 60 percent of Democrats, what do you say to those who believe this significant change [from Warren’s plans] could be risky to the economy?”

Warren responded the economy only benefits “a thinner and thinner slice at the top.”

According to Warren, the only Americans benefitting from the economy are a medley of corporations each extending their profits at the expense of everyone else.

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For the month of May, the national unemployment rate was 3.6 percent. By comparison, Texas’ unemployment rate in May was below the national average at 3.5 percent.

And average hourly earnings for May are projected to be $27.83, up $1.85 from January of 2017.

Each candidate largely echoed the same message on the economy, with Mayor de Blasio bookending the discussion by emphatically repeating his campaign theme, “There is enough money out there, it’s just in the wrong hands.”

From there, the debate shifted toward healthcare (and quickly, abortion).

The combative posturing on that issue began with Gov. Inslee saying, “I am the only candidate up here who has passed a law protecting a woman’s reproductive health and health insurance.” To which, Sen. Klobuchar countered “There are three women up here who have fought pretty hard for a woman’s right to choose.”

Secretary Castro jumped in on the abortion topic by adding, “I don’t believe only in reproductive freedom, I believe in reproductive justice.” Which, Castro said, not only includes biological females, but also “trans females.”

However, as a matter of biological fact, men do not have uteruses and therefore cannot get pregnant.

Multiple candidates also affirmed their resolve to appointing judges who “understand the importance of Roe v. Wade.” No candidate who spoke on the topic specified whether or not they would put any limits on abortion despite Gallup polling showing nearly three out of four Americans in favor of partial or total abortion restrictions.

On healthcare overall, when asked who would give up their private health insurance for government-managed insurance, only Warren and de Blasio raised their hands

Despite not raising his hand, former Rep. O’Rourke’s “Medicare for America” plan has been accused of effectively banning private insurance by some healthcare experts as it would slowly phase out the individual and employer insurance markets.

For Texans, one of the most interesting parts of the night came with the discussion of the ongoing border crisis. Castro led off the discussion by saying, “We need a Marshall Plan for Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.” 

Senator Booker echoed this sentiment.

Shortly after, Castro brought up his plan to decriminalize illegal immigration. Booker followed by saying ICE “is ripping children from their families…and are creating fear in cities all across this country.”

With a slight detour, de Blasio emphasized that “the divisions in this country” were not created by immigrants, but by “the one percent.”

And in a bout of Texan on Texan clashing, Castro pressed O’Rourke for not supporting his decriminalization plan. 

Castro said that O’Rourke’s plan would still criminalize immigrants crossing the border illegally. “If you did your homework on this issue,” Castro quipped, “you would repeal this section.”

O’Rourke responded that he would protect “Dreamers” so they would never fear being deported. 

Some of the candidate’s positions on the border issue are in stark contrast to their past rhetoric, as the party has collectively moved from the belief that there is no crisis to saying Republicans are manufacturing a crisis to now almost unanimously stating there is a humanitarian crisis. 

Many Democrats, including O’Rourke, have since blamed President Trump and other Republicans for what’s happening at the border.

On guns, the candidates largely declared their desire for increasing background checks and banning so-called “weapons of war.”

Warren also stated that “guns in the hands of a collector…who’s never fired them and who takes their safety seriously,” are acceptable — separate from “guns that are sold and turned over quickly.” Warren has long advocated for restrictions on the Second Amendment, including past votes to ban high-capacity magazines.

Multiple candidates, including Inslee, also declared their intention to eliminate the Senate’s legislative filibuster in order to pass comprehensive gun legislation. 

Should that institutional mechanism be eliminated, it would require only a simple majority in the future — 51 votes in the Senate — to pass any number of policies ranging from gun control measures to climate change legislation to potential “Medicare for All” socialized medicine schemes were Democrats to regain the majority.

O’Rourke said it is imperative that young people “like the Parkland students” lead on the issue of gun control.

On climate change, there were less than 10 minutes spent on the subject with little mention of the so-called “Green New Deal,” despite its support among many far-left progressives. Inslee said, “We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change and are the last to be able to do something about it.”

Every candidate who spoke on the issue echoed a similar theme about the urgency of the matter. O’Rourke said he will, “Bring everybody into the decisions and the solutions to the challenges we face.” 

Overall, Booker was able to rattle off the most airtime with 11 minutes. O’Rourke was second with just over 10 minutes. And Castro amassed the fourth-most airtime with nine minutes, just behind Warren.

The next debate is tonight at 8:00 p.m. CST and features the remaining Democrats in the field, including former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), and South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad chairing the Edmund Burke fan club.