Dear Commons Community,
Last night’s Democratic Party debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders was a draw in my opinion.
The first part focused almost entirely on the coronavirus and rightfully so. They agreed on how to address the coronavirus pandemic in the short-term. They didn’t agree on whether it’s time to talk about the long-term.
Biden’s and Sanders’ plans to address the pandemic looked very similar: Both called for free medical testing and treatment, establishing mobile testing sites, expanding hospital capacity, ensuring paid time off and expanded benefits.
During the debate, Biden was focused on the short-term. Sanders wanted to talk more about the future. Specifically, he wanted to make the case for his signature “Medicare for All” health insurance system, which would guarantee government-sponsored health insurance for all Americans.
I thought Biden showed more empathy. “People are looking for results, not a revolution. They want to deal with the results they need right now,” Biden said. “That has nothing to do with the legitimate concern about income inequality in America. That’s real. That’s real. But that does not affect the need for us to act swiftly and very thoroughly and in concert with all of the forces that we need to bring to bear to deal with the crisis now so no one is thrown out of their home. No one loses their mortgage. No one is kicked out of their house. No one loses their paycheck. No one is in a position where they have a significant financial disability as a consequence of this.”
Sanders in response had probably the best line of the night when he said:
“The first thing we’ve got to do, whether or not I’m president, is to shut this president (Trump) up right now, because he is undermining the doctors and the scientists who are trying to help the American people. it is unacceptable for him to be blabbering with unfactual information which is confusing the general public.”
They then moved to a discussion of social security, a prolonged exchange between the two over the former vice president’s history of supporting Social Security cuts. It’s a vulnerability that Sanders has sought to expose for some time, but he previously hadn’t had the chance to have an uninterrupted back-and-forth with Biden on the subject.
Biden actually brought up the topic while claiming that one of Sanders’ television advertisements, which blasts Biden for previously supporting Social Security cuts, is inaccurate.
But in the conversation that followed, Sanders managed to catch Biden flat-footed. Even as he denied calling for the cuts, Biden admitted that “everything was on the table” ― including Social Security cuts ― when he participated in bipartisan budget talks as part of the Obama administration.
Biden tried to claim that the talks did not constitute support for Social Security cuts because he and the Obama administration discussed them “in order to get the kinds of changes we need on other things.”
But Sanders argued the reason didn’t matter ― the conversation had still occurred. “Maybe it’s a good reason, maybe it’s not,” he said. “All that I am saying is you were prepared to cut and advocated for the cuts.”
There followed a lengthy discussion on climate change. I thought both addressed this well although Biden emphasized the need for the United States to be a world leader again as it was during negotiations for the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
Perhaps the most interesting outcome of the debate was Biden’s commitment that if nominated, his pick for vice president will be a woman.
Sanders said that “in all likelihood” he would pick a woman also to join him on the ticket.
“To me, it’s not just nominating a woman,” Sanders said. “It is making sure that we have a progressive woman, and there are progressive women out there.”
This Democratic field for the presidential nomination started out as the most diverse in U.S. history, featuring a record number of women and several people of color. But as the race went on, only Biden and Sanders ― two white men in their 70s ― gained traction with the voters.
Good evening of policy exchanges and much better than the previous free for all bickering that characterized the earlier debates.
May the best candidate win!