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Thursday, February 2, 2023

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Democratic Debate: What happened in the first debate of 2020?

Seventh Democratic Debate took place in Iowa on Tuesday, the last event before the primary season begins. The debate featured only 6 candidates that made it to the next round: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Mayor of South Bend, In., Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Vice President Joe Biden, and philanthropist Tom Steyer. The debate lasted for two hours and allowed Presidential hopefuls to highlight their differences in policies before the first caucuses in February. This explains a rating bump that CNN managed to get this time around in comparison to the last two debates with 2.11 million viewers. With the primary season just around the corner, Democratic voters who didn’t follow politics closely got a chance to take a glance at the policies proposed by top contenders before they go to the voting booths.

Iran crisis and foreign politics

The debates started with questions on foreign politics following the Iran conflict that has escalated in the past weeks. Moderators asked candidates why they are best prepared to be commander-in-chief with regard to handling the situation in the Middle East. Sanders, who answered first, reminded the audience that he had opposed the war in Iraq and continues to take an anti-interventionist stance.  “I am able to bring people together to try to create a world where we solve conflicts over the negotiating table, not through military efforts,” he said after pointing out that he is willing to work with Republicans on those issues. Biden was called out on his record of supporting the war in Iraq and he acknowledged that he had made a mistake, though his years of work with Obama helped to end that conflict. Klobuchar tried to appeal with a promise to return the US into Iran nuclear agreement, a policy widely criticized, especially among Republicans. Biden, Sanders, and Buttigieg all voiced their support for the Iran deal as well. “The very president who said he was going to end endless war … now has more troops going to the Middle East,” said Buttigieg in response to the question of whether he will send more troops overseas.

Trade

The debates moved to the questions about trade policies next and started with Sanders criticizing Trump’s USMCA agreement that will likely be approved by Congress. “This deal — and I think the proponents of it acknowledge — will result in the continuation of the loss of hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs as a result of outsourcing,” he concluded. He lamented that this agreement doesn’t properly address climate change and thus he will not vote on a bill that doesn’t lower fossil emissions. Warren, on the other hand, supported USMCA, calling it a modest improvement to trade wars initiated by Trump. “It will give some relief to our farmers. It will give some relief to our workers,” said Warren. Buttigieg also backed the agreement, highlighting his concern for climate change. Biden and Steyer both sounded off about the importance of taking climate issues into consideration, too.  “I’m the only person on this stage who says climate is my number one priority. I would not sign this deal, because if the climate is your number one priority, you can’t sign a deal,” said Steyer.

Can a woman win Presidential election?

Things got heated when one of the moderators turned to the controversy that came up in the last two days. Primarily, whether Sanders actually said to Warren that he believes a woman can’t win the election. Sanders vehemently denied this allegation, pointing out to his record of encouraging Warren to run in the 2016 race. “There’s a video of me 30 years ago talking about how a woman could become president of the United States,” he said. Sanders brushed off this claim with a reminder that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote back in 2016. Nonetheless, the moderator immediately asked Warren what she thought when Sanders said that to her, causing an eruption of laughter in the audience. Warren just said, “I disagreed,” and continued talking about the fact that two women on the stage had every single election while men collectively lost 10.

Health care

The moderators started with Sanders again, grilling him on his refusal to say how much his “Medicare for all” plan would cost. This program is estimated to cost billions of dollars, but Senator is yet to reveal a price tag. This time Sanders lifted the curtain a bit and explained that his plan guarantees comprehensive health care to everyone with just a 4% tax on income exempting the first $29 000. Biden immediately responded that this revenue doesn’t come even close to 30 or 40 billion over the ten-year period. He proposed to rebuild Obamacare and expand it, though Sanders disagreed with him on this policy. “Over two-thirds of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate are not on the bill that you and Sen. Warren on,” Klobuchar chimed in, also criticizing the idea of Medicare for All. Warren surprisingly also supported the defense of the Affordable Care Act, though she previously laid out a plan similar to Sanders’. Senator was pressed once again whether his bold plan would bankrupt the country. “What we will do through a Medicare for all single-payer program is substantially lower the cost of health care for employers and workers, because we end the $100 billion a year that the health care industry makes and the $500 billion a year we spend in administrative — the administrative nightmare of dealing with thousands of separate insurance plans,” he adamantly concluded. The presidential hopefuls also discussed prescription cost and astronomical profit of pharmaceutical companies at length.

Upcoming impeachment trial

The moderators shifted conversation into discussion impeachment trial. Biden was asked first whether if it’s going to be harder to run if Trump is acquitted. “It doesn’t really matter whether or not he’s gone after me. I’ve got to be in a position that I think of the American people,” said Biden. He also mentioned that the Republican party lied repeatedly about his only surviving son. Klobuchar also stated that she is not concerned if the President is acquitted. She hopes that Republicans allow witnesses, otherwise “they may as well give the president a crown and a scepter. They may as well make him king.” One of the moderators asked Warren if it will be a problem being away from the campaign trail in this important moment. She responded that it is her responsibility and “some things are more important than politics.”

Climate crisis

This discussion started with Buttigieg sounding the alarm on the urgency to address climate change. “This is no longer theoretical and this is no longer off in the future. We have got to act, yes, to adapt, to make sure communities are more resilient, to make sure our economy is ready for the consequences that are going to happen one way or the other,” he said, stating that he plans to use federal funds in order to help those affected by climate change. Steyer reminded everyone again, as he had done in previous debates, that he will declare a national emergency on day one of his presidency. Warren said that she will bring farmers in order to address climate change. And Biden referred to his record of being the first to introduce a climate change bill. “I headed up the Recovery Act, which put more money into moving away from fossil fuels to — to solar and wind energy than ever has occurred in the history of America.”

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