5 highlights from the 2nd Democratic debate
Thursday night’s Democratic debate had more fireworks than the first installment the night before, with a memorable back and forth between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris, in which Harris by most accounts came out on top. Health care, foreign policy and race relations were among the other issues the 10 candidates addressed. Here are five of the most revealing moments:
Harris goes at Biden over race
The biggest moment of the night and the one that could reverberate through the rest of the campaign was Harris confronting Biden over his nostalgic remarks about working with segregationist colleagues when he was a young senator in the 1970s. Harris, who is black, recalled being bused to school as a child in Berkeley, and charged Biden with opposing busing for integration.
“There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public school, and she bused to school every day,” Harris said. “And that little girl was me. So I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats. We have to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly.”
Biden said Harris mischaracterized his remarks and that he hadn’t praised segregationists, and mentioned his work as a public defender, presumably to contrast with Harris’s long career as a prosecutor. His defense of his position on busing was hard to parse: He said he didn’t oppose it, but was against busing “ordered by the Department of Education.”
Harris’s campaign tweeted out a photo of the senator as a young girl on her way to school.
Biden fends off attacks from all sides
Biden, who has led in nearly every primary poll, took shots from all corners during the evening. He was pushed early in the evening by Rep. Eric Swalwell of California to “pass the torch” to a younger generation of Democrats. He was hit by Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado for saying he could work with Republicans in the Senate. Sen. Bernie Sanders hit him on his vote for the Iraq War, drawing a contrast between the pair’s foreign policy histories. The moderators pushed as well, asking him about the Obama administration’s record on deportations.
During the debate, New York magazine reported that “a source close to the Biden campaign tells me his staff is ‘freaking out’ about his poor performance tonight.” A spokesperson for the Biden campaign denied the report, simply replying “Nope.”
Health care for undocumented immigrants
As it was on Wednesday night, health care was a key topic in the first hour, with candidates debating single payer versus public option proposals and whether private insurance should be eliminated. (Sanders and Harris put their hands up in support of eliminating private insurance, concurring with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.) The candidates were unanimously in favor of coverage for undocumented immigrants, with all 10 raising their hands in agreement when the issue was posed.
“You cannot let as [Buttigieg] said, you cannot let people who are sick, no matter where they come from, no matter what their status, go uncovered, you can’t do that,” said Biden. “It’s just got to be taken care of, period. You have to, it’s the humane thing to do.”
President Trump’s Twitter account — perhaps not the president directly, as he is in meetings at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan — promptly criticized the position.
“All Democrats just raised their hands for giving millions of illegal aliens unlimited healthcare. How about taking care of American Citizens first!? That’s the end of that race!” he exclaimed.
Buttigieg talks police shooting
When questioned about why his city’s police force in is 6 percent black in a city that is now 26 percent black, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg flatly responded, “Because I couldn’t get it done.”
The topic spurred debate about racism in policing and police accountability after Buttigieg brought up the recent shooting of a black man, Eric Logan, who was killed by a white officer. It sparked outrage from South Bend’s black residents, forcing the presidential candidate to return home and respond.
“This is an issue that is facing our community and so many communities around the country,” said Buttigieg. “And until we move policing out from the shadow of systemic racism, whatever this particular incident teaches us, we will be left with the bigger problem of the fact that there is a wall of mistrust put up one racist act at a time.”
Swalwell suggested Buttigieg fire the police chief. Spiritualist author Marianne Williamson brought up reparations and Harris as “the only black person on stage” said the issue of race isn’t “talked about truthfully and honestly.”
An introduction to Yang and Williamson
Thursday night was the national political debut for entrepreneur Andrew Yang and author Marianne Williamson. Yang mainly focused on promoting his universal basic income plan, a “Freedom Dividend” that would pay every American 18 and over $1,000 a month. Williamson was more eclectic in her positions, promoting progressive causes like the Green New Deal and reparations while calling the government’s policy of family separation a “state-sponsored crime.” She also pushed the idea of running against Trump on a platform of “love” rather than the “plans” of other candidates. She said her first act as president would be to call the prime minister of New Zealand to correct her on the best country in the world to raise a child: It is, Williamson said, the United States.
Kadia Tubman contributed to this story.
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