Democratic debate: here’s what you missed

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Josh Haner // MCT Campus

Candidates duked it out on October 13, 2015 at the Democratic Presidential Debate.

Liam Higgins, Staff Writer

As Anderson Cooper put it, “Not only will Americans be electing a new president next year, we also will be electing a world leader.” On Tuesday, October 13, five Democratic candidates battled it out in a debate hosted by CNN in Las Vegas, Nevada, disputing over several issues that have become front and center in our country. This debate is essential to the electoral process, as it informs voters of all Democratic candidates policies. As Anderson Cooper said, “Not only will Americans be electing a new president next year, we also will be electing a world leader.” One of the candidates present may just become the next president of the United States. These five presidential hopefuls are Senator Bernie Sanders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator Martin O’Malley, former Senator Jim Webb, and former Mayor Lincoln Chafee.

Before the debate even started, it was marred by controversy. Many Democrats, including Martin O’Malley himself, claimed that the debate system was rigged. The Democratic Party said that it will only allow for six official debates to be held, and many of the candidates believe that this was done in order to support Hillary Clinton, who is currently the front-runner in the race.

Controversy aside, the debate went as planned. The five candidates went on stage to varying degrees of praise, with Sanders and Clinton receiving the majority of the applause. Clinton walked in very professionally with a friendly appearance, and Bernie looked as if he was a bit nervous, although eventually he calmed down. O’Malley looked quite presentable and diplomatic, while Chafee looked friendly, and Webb stern.

Right from the start, the candidates addressed several pressing issues in their opening monologues. Chafee described his years of progressive leadership, lack of scandals throughout his career, and also addressed income inequality and climate change.

Webb chose to talk about political corruption and social justice. He also spoke about the time he spent serving in Vietnam.

O’Malley discussed his history working in government as well as the issues of climate change, economic injustice, and his plans to raise minimum wage and to make college debt-free.

Bernie Sanders discussed how the middle class is struggling in the country, how the majority of wealth is going to the rich, how corrupt campaign finance has become, and how dire the climate change situation is. He also addressed the racial issues facing the United States and his plans to improve education and stimulate job growth.

Hillary Clinton chose to talk about her experiences as First Lady and Secretary of State, and also discussed her plan to invest in infrastructure, clean energy, science, and research. She also said that she wished to increase wages and close unjust tax loopholes. In terms of social issues, Clinton addressed equal pay for women, family medical leave, racial issues, and LGBT rights. These policy positions are often considered the reason why Clinton is leading in the race on the Democratic side. “The Democratic Party is taking a big leap with Hillary Clinton in the race, “said Junior Stephanie Gentiluomo.

Throughout the debate there were several attacks on all of the candidates, most notably the email scandal surrounding Hillary Clinton . She politely dismissed it, saying that it was a mistake, but nothing she had done was illegal at the time. Bernie Sanders even defended Clinton on her emails, saying that the American people were “sick and tired of hearing about your [Hillary’s] damn emails.” Clinton was also admonished for changing her opinion often, but she retorted that when presented with new information she is capable of changing her mind.

The moderator, Anderson Cooper, asked Sanders if he could elaborate more on his self-identification as a socialist and how he could be considered “electable” with that kind of title over his head. Sanders simply described what Democratic Socialism really means, and cited the prosperity of Scandinavian nations as proof of its viability. Sanders was also criticized for his uncharacteristically conservative  position on gun control, following with his statement that he wished to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them but did not believe in drastically expanding firearm regulation.

None of the three “underdog” candidates were spared from Anderson Cooper’s tough questions, either. Cooper discussed how Chafee had changed his political party several times and questioned him as to whether or not he would change again. Chafee responded that the Republican Party became too extreme and that his opinions were best suited for the Democratic Party. Cooper also challenged Chafee for his vote on the bill known as Glass-Steagall, which he voted against. Chafee responded by saying, “Glass-Steagall was my very first vote. I had just arrived. My dad had died in office. I was appointed to the office. It was my very first vote.” This was considered one of his worst moments of the night since it showed that he had voted on a bill about which he knew very little. Cooper asserted that O’Malley’s Zero-Tolerance Policy had not been beneficial to Baltimore, to which he responded that in the long run, the laws were effective in addressing the city’s issues with addiction and gang violence. Similarly, Webb was chastised for his claim that affirmative action was “racist against whites,” yet he chose to defend his opinion, despite the fact that it conflicts with that of the majority of Democrats.

The presidential-hopefuls were then asked to state the enemy they were most proud to have made. Chafee said he was most proud to have the coal-industry as an enemy. while O’Malley said that he felt accomplished to have the National Rifle Association as an enemy. Hillary was also proud of challenging the NRA, as well as drug companies, Iranians, and Republicans. Bernie Sanders, sticking to his populist economic message, took pride in antagonizing Wall Street and pharmaceutical companies. Webb, taking a different approach from the other candidates, said that he considers defeating an enemy soldier in Vietnam to be one of his greatest accomplishments.

Each candidate spoke of the issues that mattered most to them. For Clinton and O’Malley, one of those issues was this country’s lack of gun control. Webb had the opposite viewpoint; he once received an “A” rating from the NRA, and claims we should “respect the tradition” of owning guns.

All of the candidates on stage were able to agree that the Iraq War was a foreign policy blunder, though Clinton came under fire for her role in authorizing the troops. Sanders, Clinton, and O’Malley all defended the Black Lives Matter movement and urged Americans to push for police reform as well.  Sophomore Matthew Schector agrees with Black Lives Matter as well, saying that “Exclaiming black lives matter is much more important than saying all lives matter because while everyone knows all lives matter, our judicial system clearly does not.”

O’Malley also discussed how many Hispanic immigrants are “demonized” by the Republican Party. (O’Malley called Donald Trump a “xenophobe,” an “immigrant hater” and a “carnival barker” for his controversial comments on Mexican immigration). Sophomore Kiera Pagano stands with O’Malley in his remarks on Donald Trump. The tenth-grader said, “America would never have happened if it weren’t for immigration. Native Americans immigrated here from Russia. Christopher Columbus immigrated here from Spain. Why are we suddenly against it when it created our country?”

This debate was quite different from the Republican debates. Since there were much fewer candidates in the debate, each candidate was able to speak for a reasonable amount of time. Needless to say, the policy positions were vastly different in this debate. With the exception of Bernie Sanders, the candidates’ ideas stayed generally center-left, whereas in the Republican debate the most prominent candidates were relatively far-right.

News networks disagree as to which candidate was the winner. Following the debate, CNN and BBC claimed that Hillary was the winner, while The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and Fox News decided that Sanders had won.

When asked, several students felt that Bernie Sanders was the clear winner. “I personally think Sanders won the debate. However, the other candidates, such as O’Malley and Chafee, deserved more time to speak since Hillary and Sanders relied more on their popularity,” junior Dante DellaPorta said.

Two candidates, Chafee and Webb, have since dropped out after the debate.

Ultimately, the unquestionable winner in this debate was democracy, as the debates serve as a precursor to the rapidly approaching primaries.

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