Sanders, Warren defend Medicare for All and other highlights from the second Democratic debate
IF the first round of debates in June were an introduction to the candidates running for the 2020 Democratic nomination, the second round of Democratic debates this week in Detroit was a cementing of those candidates’ stances and policies.
On Wednesday, July 30 and Thursday, July 31 the 20 candidates who qualified were split in half and randomly assorted in the two-night affair in Detroit where there was a clear ideological split among progressives, moderates and those who toe the line between those two credos.
Over the course of the two-night affair, health care was the name on everyone’s lips as candidates got into the nitty-gritty of the Democratic conversation around the affordability and accessibility of public health care.
Both Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren argued for the progressive stance of imposing a Medicare For All plan, a universal public health care model that would eliminate rising premiums and deductibles in favor of funding the program through increased taxes on the 1%.
“Let’s be clear what this debate is about. Nobody can defend the dysfunctionality of the current system,” Sanders explained. “What we are taking on is the fact that over the last 20 years the drug companies and the insurance companies have spent $4.5 billion of your health insurance money on lobbying and campaign contributions.”
Moderate Democrats like former governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper and former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland agreed that the idea of Medicare For All is too “extreme.”
“It comes down to that question of Americans being used to being able to make choices, to have the right to make a decision,” Hickenlooper said, reinforcing the moderates’ argument that Americans should choose whether or not to opt for Medicare, and if “it expands, the quality improves [and] the cost comes down eventually you could get [to Medicare For All], but it would be an evolution, not a revolution.”
But Warren argued that that approach fosters a convoluted insurance system that forces “people to have to fight to try to get the health care coverage that their doctors and nurses say that they need.”
On the second night, Vice President Joe Biden made a case for the idea that the solution to the nation’s health care woes is to maintain and expand Obamacare.
“My response is Obamacare is working,” Biden said. “The way to build this, and get to it immediately is to build on Obamacare. Take back all the things that Trump took away, provide a public option, meaning every single person would be able to buy into that option if they didn’t like their employer plan.”
On the topic of immigration, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julián Castro detailed pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants “who haven’t committed a serious crime” as well as instituting a “21st century Marshall Plan with Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala so that we can get to the root of this challenge so people can find safety and opportunity at home instead of having to come to the United States.”
Protestors in the audience of the second debate night interrupted Biden’s remarks on his immigration plans, yelling out “3 million deported,” referencing the number of undocumented immigrants deported under President Barack Obama. Biden defended himself, assuring that the deportation rate would “absolutely not” increase if he’s elected.
Candidates poured over the current situation at the border and the “broken immigration system” that has resulted in “inhumane” detention centers riddled with abuse and neglect. But entrepreneur Andrew Yang, the son of Taiwanese immigrants, made a case of uplifting the success stories of immigrants rather than using tragedy as a political approach.
“I’m the son of immigrants myself. My father immigrated here as a graduate student and generated over 65 U.S. patents for G.E. and IBM. I think that’s a pretty good deal for the United States. That’s the immigration story we need to be telling,” Yang said. “We can’t always be focusing on some of…the distressed stories. And if you go to a factory here in Michigan, you will not find wall-to-wall immigrants; you will find wall-to-wall robots and machines. Immigrants are being scapegoated for issues they have nothing to do with in our economy.”
Candidates from both nights had their fair share of quips and one-liners that made the rounds on social media, like when Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio interrupted Sanders’ listing out the benefits of Medicare For All, telling the senator, “You don’t know that, Bernie” to which Sanders replied, “I do know it, I wrote the damn bill!”
On the second night, Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii — one of two AAPI candidates on the stage along with Yang — sparred on the issue of criminal justice reform and the issue of police brutality
Throughout the campaign, Harris has emphasized her criminal justice background as California’s attorney general and as a district attorney of San Francisco, arguing that her efforts “became a national model for the work that needs to be done.”
“Senator Harris says she’s proud of her record as a prosecutor and that she’ll be a prosecutor president. But I’m deeply concerned about this record. There are too many examples to cite but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was ever asked if she ever smoked marijuana,” Gabbard said, garnering applause from the audience.
As expected, both the Republican Party and President Trump himself downplayed the candidates’ policies and attacks on the Trump administration, warning of the dangers of the expansion of progressive ideals of the Democratic field.
“Proving that nothing is impossible, Democrats moved even further to the left tonight,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. “As the Democrat field narrows, our country will continue to thrive under President Trump’s winning agenda of rising wages, new jobs, and a booming economy. Not a single Democrat candidate can compete with President Trump’s record, and the American people are ready to re-elect him in 2020 to keep up this great American comeback.”
“No original thoughts for Democrats. Plenty of socialist stupidity — eliminating private insurance, decriminalizing border crossings, higher taxes, getting rid of fossil fuels. Goodbye Pennsylvania. Goodbye auto industry. Goodbye Midwest. Another win for President Trump,” Kayleigh McEnany, National Press Secretary for the Trump re-election campaign, wrote in a statement.
The next Democratic debate will be held in Houston, Texas on September 12. The Democratic National Committee has imposed a polling and donor threshold that candidates must meet in order to participate in the next debate: they must be polling at least 2% in four national DNC-approved polls and at least 130,000 unique donors stemming from at least 400 donors in 20 or more states.
The deadline to achieve these qualifications is August 28; and, so far, the only candidates to have met this threshold are Biden, Harris, Sanders, Warren, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)