The last Democratic Debate of the year has just come to an end. Hosted by PBS NewsHour and POLITICO, the sixth debate was brought to Los Angeles. This time, only 7 Democratic candidates made it to the stage given the tightened rules set by the Democratic National Committee: Sen. Warren, Sen. Klobuchar, Sen. Sanders, Mayor Buttigieg, former VP Biden, Tom Steyer, and Andrew Yang. Two candidates that are still in the race who participated in the last debate, Sen. Booker and Rep. Gabbard, didn’t qualify for the debate. However, Gabbard pledged not to participate “regardless of whether or not there are qualifying polls.”
Major discussion points
Like almost every other debate, this one started with a discussion of Donald Trump. Tonight’s debate presented an opportunity for the candidates to savor the news of impeachment instead of taking shots at Trump in their opening statements as they had done during the previous debates. However, neither of the candidates answered the moderator’s question about how they can convince Americans to support the removal of the President given that the majority are not favoring it. Biden just shrugged it off as a “constitutional necessity.” Sanders made a swipe at Trump’s policies, calling him a “pathological liar” and accusing his administration of being corrupt. Klobuchar made a reference to the Watergate, questioning the White House’s refusal to let his aides testify. Andrew Yang, who spoke last, stood out with his suggestion to solve the actual problems that Americans face instead of “being obsessed over impeachment, which unfortunately strikes many Americans like a ballgame where you know what the score is going to be.”
USMCA trade deal
USMCA has been approved by the House of Representatives earlier on Thursday. It is no wonder that moderators jumped on that question right after the impeachment discussion as it helped to highlight the differences in policies between the candidates. They were all more and less united in support of impeachment, but Sanders and Klobuchar disagreed on key points of the USMCA. “What we need is a trade policy that stands up for workers, stands up for farmers,” said Sanders after admitting that the agreement has been a “modest improvement” comparing to NAFTA. He also added that the deal is not addressing climate change in any way and he will not support such a bill in Senate. Klobuchar acknowledged certain issues with USMCA but decided to vote in favor of the bill. “We’ve got better labor standards, better environmental standards, and a better deal when it comes to the pharmaceutical provision,” Klobuchar said.
The debate slowly transformed into a discussion about the economy. And while there are several signs of a healthy economy, Democrats denied that notion and disagreed that it works for all Americans. “The middle class is getting killed. The middle class is getting crushed,” said Biden. Several Democrats lamented about poverty in America. “Today in America, we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on Earth,” said Sanders. Democrats continued to make their cases for how to solve economic issues and help working families and the poor. Warren was asked about her wealth tax program. She spoke at length about how this 2 percent tax will work and generate enough revenue to fund her proposed programs. However, she avoided answering the question of how she would respond to her critics claiming that this tax will “stifle growth and investment.” “Oh, they’re just wrong,” said Warren with excitement.
Things got interesting when one of the moderators asked if any of the candidates will support funding for relocations of the families from the places impacted by climate change. Klobuchar hesitated to give a positive answer. Steyer boldly said that he would declare a national emergency on day one of his presidency. He also called on Buttigieg “to prioritize this higher because the people in his generation understand that this is a crisis that we have to go on right now.” Biden responded that he is willing to risk and move some jobs from the gas and oil industry. Democrats agreed on an assessment that climate change is a global issue, with Sanders concluding that the United States must lead the world in this matter. “Just maybe, instead of spending $1.8 trillion a year globally on weapons of destruction, maybe an American president, i.e. Bernie Sanders, can lead the world, instead of spending money to kill each other,” said Sanders.
Democrats also talked about the US-China relationship during the debates. It was especially important to address the situation in Hong Kong and the imprisonment of thousands of Uighurs in camps. Buttigieg suggested going as far as to isolate China: “they will be isolated from the free world, and we will lead that isolation diplomatically, and economically.” Yang mentioned that he has spent some time in Hong Kong where his family lives. He was worried about artificial intelligence that the Chinese government uses in order to identify protestors. And Biden warned that his administration would even go overseas to protect those harmed by China. “We have to be firm. We don’t have to go to war. But we have to make it clear this is as far as you go, China,” said Biden.
This was the segment where most of the Democrats skewed to the left in an attempt to win over the progressive base. That was the part with the boldest statements, such as offering a fast track to citizenship to families impacted by separation policy or giving legal status to 11 million illegal immigrants. There was also a question of reparation to those children who will have a life-lasting trauma because they were separated from their parents at the border. Steyer argued about the importance of immigration shifted the debate to Trump: “He’s been vilifying nonwhite people. He’s been trying to inflame his base and scare them that if, in fact, white people lose control of this country that they’re going to lose control of their lives.”