Thursday night, the 2020 Presidential Democratic Debate took place at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. The event occurred in partnership with ABC News and Univision.
With 3,500 audience members watching, reporters asked the ten candidates questions that they hoped would point to a clear winner. Candidates included Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Andrew Yang, Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro.
“We got one shot to make Donald Trump a one term president. And we cannot lose it by the way we talk about each other or demonize and degrade each other,” said Castro in his opening statement. “We can walk and chew gum at the same time.”
The Seven Takeaways
With 30 million Americans uninsured, all candidates stated support of healthcare coverage for all. The way to obtain this, however, differed among them.
Warren and Sanders said wealthier families should pay more for healthcare, allowing middle class families to pay less. Their ideal healthcare system is a comprehensive one. They aim to allow people to go to any doctor or any hospital, giving Americans the freedom to choose where they receive medical attention.
Klobuchar opposed a comprehensive healthcare system and supported a healthcare system like Obamacare. Buttigieg said that Sanders’ proposed bill gives Americans too much leeway with healthcare, stating that he does not trust Americans to make the right decision in choosing their healthcare coverage.
Kamala supported healthcare for all but wanted to offer Americans the choice of a private or public plan. Kamala stated that it is a goal of hers to prevent the Trump administration’s attempt to eliminate the Affordable Care Act.
O’Rourke proposed improving current insufficient healthcare coverages and insure the uninsured. Similarly, Castro’s plan aimed to cover everyone.
O’Rourke responded first to the racial justice questions by referencing the recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. O’Rourke stated belief in an improved education system is the basis for racial equality.
“We have a white supremacist in the White House [who] poses a mortal threat to people of color all across this country,” said O’Rourke.
Booker said that systemic racism from healthcare disparities and criminal justice systems is eroding the United States. He stated a plan to attack the issue by investing in historically black colleges and universities. Buttigieg agreed with this approach.
Castro, meanwhile, posed a police reform plan to diversify police staff and eliminate white superiority in authority.
An ABC news reporter questioned what she perceived to be reluctance to accept criminal justice reform on Harris’ end. Harris stated her approach to change social reform is from the inside through activism.
Klobuchar, however, planned to reduce incarcerations and work on social development post-incarceration. Similarly, Biden supported diverting people in criminal justice in the appropriate placings. As an example, under Biden’s plan, someone found in possession of marijuana would be directed to a rehabilitation center instead of being incarcerated. Biden also plans to improve post-incarceration rights.
With increasing mass shootings and controversial legislative approaches to gun control, the candidates have strong urgency to change gun legislation.
Biden stated that he strongly believes he is the only candidate who has successfully beat the NRA. He then referenced the passage of the 1994 bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and the Brady background check bill, both of which he was a part of, to support his claim. Biden said experience gives him a greater advantage to improve gun control, primarily when it comes to assault weapons. O’Rourke agreed with Biden’s proposed plan to remove all weapons purposefully designed to kill someone.
Klobuchar proposed an assault gun ban that would begin with a voluntary buyback, a process in which the government would provide an incentive to retrieve assault weapons from current owners.
Booker then stated that 83 percent of Americans agree with enforcing gun licensing. He and O’Rourke shared personal experiences with gun violence but agreed that it shouldn’t take those personal stories to demand change.
Candidates’ stances on immigration differed according to their experiences, both politically or personally.
Under Obama’s administration, the lives of immigrants were improved through the implementation of DACA and other services which Biden actively helped put into place. Biden stated an intention to change the guidelines for seeking asylum less strict so that each asylum seeker is heard.
Warren said that immigration is something that makes the United States stronger, not weaker. She stated a goal of creating an achievable and fair path to citizenship. She also wants the United States to play an active role in helping Central American countries decrease the number of people seeking asylum.
Yang, a son of immigrant parents, said he seeks to give each immigrant the opportunity to succeed in the United States just like any other American.
Buttigieg said he plans to implement the Community Renewal Visa, under which local governments in rural areas would seek work visas for immigrants. In turn, he said this would reduce some Americans’ fear and concern regarding immigrants potentially taking jobs away from them.
Buttigieg and O’Rourke both agreed that immigration reform is something that hasn’t happened since 1980. O’Rourke also stated a plan to harmonize the entry and exit system on the United States’ borders with Canada and Mexico.
Warren said she plans to work with United States allies in expanding diplomatic efforts. She stated an intention to fulfill a promise made by Obama’s administration that Trump did not keep: to bring the United States troops home from Afghanistan. Buttigieg, who is a veteran and former U.S. Nasal Reserve officer, and Biden also stated a desire to bring the troops back home.
Sanders said he plans to fight against terroism by making the right choices as commander in chief. Sanders plans to change the approaches to rule out terroism and disagrees with decisions like bombing Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yang said plans to protect young men and women troops, and Booker said he wants to come up with ways to improve veterans’ lives post-war.
O’Rourke said that his primary plan is to make sure there are no greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. His plan calls to spend $5 trillion to implement pre-disaster mitigation grants, become independent from fossil fuels and embrace renewable wind and solar resources. O’Rourke also plans to pay farmers for using their environment services and practice regenerative agriculture that can pull carbon out of the air that can sequester it into the soil.
Klobuchar supported a multifaceted approach to the issue of climate change which includes implementing the International Climate Change Agreement, bringing back clean power rules and changing gas mileage standards. In order to introduce this sweeping legislation, she said she plans to work with Congress, mayors and businessmen and set the project in motion for completion by 2050.
Warren said she plans to cut carbon emissions from buildings and cars by switching to a system that is electrically based.
Harris’ plan to defeat climate change included changing dangerous behaviors that negatively impact the climate in both companies and individuals, such as the use of petroleum and smoking.
Yang supported limiting the use of standardized tests, which he said are poor measures of students’ intelligence. In addition, he said he plans to pay teachers more and put money directly to families to effectively raise children.
Buttigieg said he strongly believes in public education. He suggested lifting teachers’ salaries, saying that paying teachers is a way to support a child’s life. A well paid teacher, he said, will teach students to use their full potential.
Harris, however, intends to use federal investment to close the teacher salary gap. But most importantly, give $2 trillion to a historically black colleges and universities for teachers to invest in public education.
Warren, the only candidate who is a former teacher, said her primary goals are to keep money in public schools, provide universal child care and pre-K, raise teachers’ salaries and cancel student loan debt.
Sanders stated that the United States has the highest child poverty rate, despite being a very wealthy country. He said he plans to increase teachers’ salaries to at least $60,000 per year and cancel all student-debt by imposing a tax on Wall Street speculation.