Fifth Democratic Debate


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(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Musa Jabbour

Last Wednesday, on November 20, the fifth democratic debate took place in Atlanta, Georgia. There were ten Democratic candidates on stage, but according to many critics, there were only a select few that really stood out.

Since the last Democratic debate, we have seen some candidates drop out and others join the race. Candidates whose voices have not been heard in the past are now able to express their opinions and plans to better the country, all due to the pullback from some candidates. At the time of the first democratic debate, we had 20 candidates and two different dates for future debates. Fast forward to the fifth democratic debate and there’s only ten candidates on stage. This has made it easier for viewers to get to know the candidates and the ideas they bring to the table. It’s also clear that they have evolved over time. In the past, viewers would criticize the fact that candidates only focused on their plans and not how they were going to implement them. However, candidates have done a good job at explaining their plans to the public within the constrains of the time limit they were given.

(Photo: MSNBC/ Washington Post)

Who were the candidates that shined in this debate?

Pete Buttigieg was one of the candidates to do the most talking throughout the debate, according to many critics. His recent rise in the polls has made him a political target, as was clearly seen in this debate. At one point in the debate, Kamala Harris took a shot at Buttigieg over his uniformity and his lack of support among African-American voters. However, Buttigieg’s response to her comments showed humility. He talked about his own experience as a married gay man who had personally experienced and understood discrimination. “I care about this because while I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country,” he said. This response not only surprised Harris, but all of the candidates on stage.

Another candidate who stood out from the rest was Amy Klobuchar. She is widely known for her fight to combat the opioid crisis, drug addiction, and the increasing cost of prescription drugs. According to the New York Times, this was Klobuchar’s best debate yet. She demonstrated throughout the debate that she is capable of leading the United States. She also had the opportunity to take a shot at Buttigieg when he was talking about the issue of experience. Klobuchar mentioned that even though she had appreciation for his good work as a local official, she thinks experience should matter. However, a highlight of hers was when she joked, “My first Senate race I literally called everyone I knew and I set what is still an all-time Senate record. I raised $17,000 from ex-boyfriends.”

(Photo: John Bazemore/AP)

Cory Booker did not let down either. Critics say he used his time wisely and did not waste any time during this debate. He targeted Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax, arguing that Democrats should be talking about “[h]ow to give more people opportunities to create wealth, to grow business, [and] to have their American dream.”

What made this debate different from the past ones? 

In addition to the pressing issues and propositions each candidate spoke about, the impeachment hearings played a major role in this debate. The night started out with a discussion of the possible impeachment of President Donald Trump, and the thoughts each candidate had on the subject. Elizabeth Warren said, “The President felt free to break the law again and again and again, and that’s what’s happened with Ukraine.” It was clear to the public that the candidates were on the same page as Warren for that matter.

Another moment that surprised the crowd was when candidate Andrew Yang complimented Tom Steyer for his contributions to help with the fight against climate change. He said, “First, I want to stick up for Tom. We have a broken campaign finance system, but Tom has been spending his own money fighting climate change. You can’t knock someone for having money and spending it in the right way.” To which Steyer replied, “Thanks, Andrew.” This moment between both candidates led to a round of applause from the crowd. It allowed the viewers to see that not everything is rivalry between the candidates.

Different from past debates, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders were not as strong as seen in the past. Biden and Sanders tried to contribute, but everything they attempted to bring up was quickly shut down by the other candidates. According to the New York Times, polls show that they are still leading this race, but experts think that Buttigieg and Klobuchar may catch up to them if nothing is done on the part of Warren, Biden or Sanders. Furthermore, the rise of Buttigieg in recent polls have lead critics to argue that this has become a four-way race between Warren, Sanders, Biden and Buttigieg.

What Now? 

Although there have been changes from past debates, this one did not bring any new ideas to the table. The candidates are still divided between Medicare for all versus a public option, foreign policy, and climate change. But they did reach a consensus in regards to President Donald Trump and the recent impeachment trials. Recently, the former governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, announced that he will be joining the race. It will be interesting to see what he brings to the table in future debates, and if he is able to stand out from the rest. It’s not clear what might happen in the next debates. Many questions have not yet been answered, and candidates are still looking for a way to unite the country. We will have to wait until the next debate in December to see how the impeachment hearings affect the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary race and if candidates are going to introduce new ideas based on these hearings.