Takeaways/Video Highlights – Second Democratic Presidential Debate!

Democratic Debate – Candidates Night Two

Dear Commons Community,

Last night was the second debate of the 2020 presidential cycle with 10 more Democrats gathering in Miami.  

The time again was very limited for each candidate but there were more fireworks in this debate than in the first one on Wednesday.  Joe  Biden was attacked by several of his colleagues and the exchanges were heated especially the one with Kamala Harris.  Here are some takeaways.

1. Joe Biden Was Attacked by Several Candidates

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has led in nearly every primary poll, took shots from all corners during the evening. He was pushed early in the evening by Rep. Eric Swalwell of California to “pass the torch” to a younger generation of Democrats. He was hit by Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado for saying he could work with Republicans in the Senate. Sen. Bernie Sanders hit him on his vote for the Iraq War, drawing a contrast between the pair’s foreign policy histories. The moderators pushed as well, asking him about the Obama administration’s record on deportations.

The biggest moment of the night and the one that could reverberate through the rest of the campaign was Kamala Harris confronting Biden over his nostalgic remarks about working with segregationist colleagues when he was a young senator in the 1970s. Harris, who is black, recalled being bused to school as a child in Berkeley, and charged Biden with opposing busing for integration.

“There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public school, and she bused to school every day,” Harris said. “And that little girl was me. So I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats. We have to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly.”

Biden said Harris mischaracterized his remarks and that he hadn’t praised segregationists, and mentioned his work as a public defender, presumably to contrast with Harris’s long career as a prosecutor. His defense of his position on busing was hard to parse: He said he didn’t oppose it, but was against busing “ordered by the Department of Education.”

2. Health care for undocumented immigrants

As it was on Wednesday night, health care was a key topic in the first hour, with candidates debating single payer versus public option proposals and whether private insurance should be eliminated. (Sanders and Harris put their hands up in support of eliminating private insurance, concurring with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.) The candidates were unanimously in favor of coverage for undocumented immigrants, with all 10 raising their hands in agreement when the issue was posed.

3. Buttigieg talks police shooting

When questioned about why his city’s police force in is 6 percent black in a city that is now 26 percent black, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg flatly responded, “Because I couldn’t get it done.”

The topic spurred debate about racism in policing and police accountability after Buttigieg brought up the recent shooting of a black man, Eric Logan, who was killed by a white officer. It sparked outrage from South Bend’s black residents, forcing the presidential candidate to return home and respond.

“This is an issue that is facing our community and so many communities around the country,” said Buttigieg. “And until we move policing out from the shadow of systemic racism, whatever this particular incident teaches us, we will be left with the bigger problem of the fact that there is a wall of mistrust put up one racist act at a time.”

Swalwell suggested Buttigieg fire the police chief. Spiritualist author Marianne Williamson brought up reparations and Harris as “the only black person on stage” said the issue of race isn’t “talked about truthfully and honestly.”

4. Intorductions to Yang and Williamson

Thursday night was the national political debut for entrepreneur Andrew Yang and author Marianne Williamson. Yang mainly focused on promoting his universal basic income plan, a “Freedom Dividend” that would pay every American 18 and over $1,000 a month. Williamson was more eclectic in her positions, promoting progressive causes like the Green New Deal and reparations while calling the government’s policy of family separation a “state-sponsored crime.” She also pushed the idea of running against Trump on a platform of “love” rather than the “plans” of other candidates. She said her first act as president would be to call the prime minister of New Zealand to correct her on the best country in the world to raise a child: It is, Williamson said, the United States.

In summary, Kamala Harris probably had the best night of all of the participants.  Joe Biden did not look sharp in his responses to criticisms relying too much on what he did over his decades of service to the country.  Bernie Sanders did too much of his finger waving while answering questions. Kirsten Gillebrand seemed desperate to get the moderators’ attention.  Pete Buttigieg was the most articulate.  The Democrats have to get their field of candidates down to a manageable number of probably no more than five or six.

Below are video highlights via MSNBC.


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