The Winners and Losers of the Democratic Debate: October 15, 2019


Tuesday night marked the fourth democratic debate at the University of Otterbein, and I took the liberty of sitting and watching it in its entirety (3 hours, to be exact). Before jumping into the debrief of each candidate and my general thoughts about the debate, I think it’s worth mentioning that not everyone might agree with what I will have to say about each of the 12 candidates. This review is more for releasing a bit of the tension that is very present in today’s political climate than trying to change anybody’s political stance. With that being said, let’s break down Tuesday’s debate. 

Joe Biden: Biden is either unable to articulate himself or is just really good at giving roundabout answers and dodging questions, I have yet to decide. As important as the impeachment topic is, it seemed as though he utilized Trump as a scapegoat rather than directly addressing the topic of his son serving on the board of a Ukrainian firm while he served as vice president. I felt as though he has used his years as VP as a crutch up until this point in the game, but he is noticeably losing traction as the go-to democratic moderate. 

Bernie Sanders: I was happy to see Sanders back in the game, although the recent issues with his health became a point of discussion when the moderators had asked if he can handle the pressure of the presidency after suffering from a recent heart attack. Sanders skillfully diverted the question to his frustrations with the health care system and big pharma, stating, “I get a little bit tired -- I must say -- of people defending a system which is dysfunctional, which is cruel, 87 million uninsured, 30,000 people dying every single year, 500,000 people going bankrupt for one reason, they came down with cancer”. His frustrations came across as heartfelt, genuine, and Bernie once again was able to win over the average American that is awaiting a radical change. 

Pete Buttigieg: I think that Buttigieg took the biggest hit Tuesday night, and I must say, I had been anticipating it. Although well-spoken, he came off as extremely rehearsed, and at times, condescending to the other candidates during heated discussions. “The yes or no question wasn’t answered”, he snaps at Warren after she’s been asked if taxes will be raised to fund her universal healthcare plan. In my opinion, his firm stances on private healthcare and maintaining big corps only helped him make a strong case for American moderates, but not really much more. 

Elizabeth Warren: Warren, once again, set herself apart extremely well. She had the longest speaking time out all the other candidates, but not once did it feel like she was dragging on on any particular issue. Her answers came across as succinct, passionate, and at times even moving, especially for being on the defense at this particular debate. I enjoyed her take on a “punitive approach” to taxing billionaires, but she could’ve saved herself some backlash by being clearer regarding her plan about wealth tax increases for the top 1%. Although universal healthcare was at the heart of her policy, she didn’t quite stand the heat when her plan was being questioned. I particularly enjoyed her rebuttal to Buttigieg’s “Medicare for all who want it,'' stating “So, let's be clear. Whenever someone hears the term Medicare for all who want it, understand what that really means. It's Medicare for all who can afford it. And that's the problem we've got”.

Amy Klobuchar: Klobuchar’s contribution to the questions at hand seemed few and far between unless you count odd one-liners and refuting every stance taken by Sen. Elizabeth Warren. She did not differentiate herself from any other candidate on the stage and doesn’t seem to have an issue that truly sets her apart, in terms of her policy. I think she is trying far too hard to get support from both sides of the aisle that by the time she has appealed to the moderates, she’s lost the attention of many democrats. 

Cory Booker: Booker was one of the candidates that kind of got lost in the background noise for me. Although I was impressed with his stance on raising the minimum wage and supporting unions, we didn’t get to hear from him on issues regarding health care or party strategy. I’m also not quite sure why he thought that the democratic debate was the best time to search for common ground.

Tulsi Gabbard: Not much to say, besides the fact that I was really disappointed to see that she didn’t, in fact, boycott the debate. 

Kamala Harris: More than anything, I was confused with Kamala Harris’ approach to standing out in Tuesday’s debate. Her campaign is visibly in decline, and I was anticipating her to really make a case for herself at the forefront of the discussion. Although she was very vocal about certain issues such as reproductive healthcare, her overall message struck me as extremely disingenuous, and frankly, quite repetitive. To top it all off, her attempt to demonize Warren regarding Trump’s twitter account was uncalled for and didn’t do much except raise a few confused eyebrows in the room.

Julian Castro: Julian Castro, too,  has yet to make a title for himself in the eyes of the American people. Although he was quite well-spoken on the issues of gun violence, universal childcare, and holding pharmaceutical companies accountable, he was more of an echo than the voice of a Commander in Chief on Tuesday’s debate floor. 

Tom Steyer: Steyer has joined far too late in the game to distinguish himself. He simply is the billionaire on the stage that ironically thinks billionaires shouldn’t exist. Big whoop. 

Andrew Yang: To be perfectly frank, I found myself turning to Andrew Yang for comedic relief more than anything else during Tuesday’s debate. Yang seems like the kind of guy that would be fun to have political debates with over a glass of wine, but the democratic debate, not so much. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the “MATH” pin, though. 

Beto O’Rourke: I’m saddened to admit that Beto O'Rourke has lost the charm he once had when he dropped an F-bomb on live television and has joined many of the candidates on the back burner. Although his stance on gun control is at the forefront of his policy, I don’t think he is quite ready to take on the pressure of facing off Trump post-primaries.

All in all, I think that at certain points the catty exchanges on the debate floor overshadowed the issues at hand, and wasted crucial time that could’ve been spent on other pressing matters, including climate change. Besides a few candidates mentioning the issue, it wasn’t expanded upon whatsoever, which was unfortunate. In my opinion, Warren was the clear winner of Tuesday’s debate. She was less concerned with the baseless attacks from the others, but rather spoke to those watching at home, to those looking for a glimmer of hope on that debate stage. As I mentioned, this is simply my take on the democratic candidacies, and I’m completely aware that people will disagree with what I have to say. But I also think political differences have been used to pit us against each other for far too long, and I would much rather use it to create dialogue and discussion.