NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

What to watch for in the November 2019 Democratic presidential candidates’ debate

On Wednes­day, the ten lead­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates will meet in Atlanta, GA, for the fifth pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry debate of this elec­tion cycle.

The can­di­dates on stage will be as follows:

  • For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden
  • Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren of Massachusetts
  • Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders of Vermont
  • May­or Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana
  • Sen­a­tor Kamala Har­ris of California
  • Sen­a­tor Cory Book­er of New Jersey
  • Sen­a­tor Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
  • Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Tul­si Gab­bard of Hawaii
  • Tech entre­pre­neur Andrew Yang
  • Bil­lion­aire activist Tom Steyer

The stage will be back down to just ten podi­ums on one night as it was for the Sep­tem­ber debate. View­ers might miss a cou­ple of famil­iar faces, such as for­mer Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Beto O’Rourke (who dropped out of the race at the start of this month) and for­mer Hous­ing and Urban Devel­op­ment Sec­re­tary Julián Cas­tro, who failed to meet the cri­te­ria to qual­i­fy for the Novem­ber debate.

This round of the debates had the most rig­or­ous cri­te­ria yet for entry: can­di­dates had to earn 3% in four nation­al polls, or 5% in two ear­ly state polls, and their cam­paigns had to have at least 165,000 unique donors, six hun­dred of whom had to be from at least twen­ty states.

The debate will to some extent be over­shad­owed by the ongo­ing impeach­ment process in Wash­ing­ton D.C., espe­cial­ly with the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives hav­ing began tele­vised hear­ings. As Mar­garet O’Mara – an Amer­i­can his­to­ry pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton – put it, there is now “an even big­ger tele­vi­sion event that’s over­shad­ow­ing them.” Although none of the can­di­dates are direct­ly involved in the impeach­ment process, five of them are sit­ting Sen­a­tors who may even­tu­al­ly have a say in whether Pres­i­dent Trump is removed from office.

The impeach­ment inquiry will also be an oppor­tu­ni­ty for all the can­di­dates to empha­size their uni­fied oppo­si­tion to Trump’s actions as the cur­rent occu­pant of the pres­i­den­cy, as they have done in pre­vi­ous debates.

Anoth­er issue that is guar­an­teed to come up in this debate is health­care, which has played a dom­i­nant role in the pre­vi­ous debates.

This time, how­ev­er, Eliz­a­beth War­ren could have an edge, hav­ing recent­ly released a com­pre­hen­sive, ful­ly-cost­ed plan for imple­ment­ing Medicare for All.

In October’s debate, War­ren’s weak­est moment came when Joe Biden and oth­er can­di­dates bat­tered her for evad­ing ques­tions about whether her plan will raise mid­dle-class tax­es; now she will be able to con­fi­dent­ly tell her oppo­nents that her ambi­tious pro­pos­al won’t raise mid­dle class tax­es by a dime, while rais­ing the stan­dard and fair­ness of health­care in the coun­try enormously.

It is hard to see how Biden and oth­er neolib­er­al Democ­rats will be able to counter this, beyond dredg­ing up the Repub­li­can-style talk­ing points that have already been debunked by Warren’s cam­paign and pro­gres­sive thinkers.

The issue of repro­duc­tive jus­tice is almost cer­tain to come up, espe­cial­ly since MSNBC and The Wash­ing­ton Post have cho­sen an all-female pan­el to mod­er­ate. How­ev­er, there is unlike­ly to be much sub­stan­tial debate over this issue, since all the can­di­dates’ posi­tions are more or less aligned.

This will be anoth­er oppor­tu­ni­ty for the Democ­rats to lam­bast the Trump regime over its oppo­si­tion to wom­xn’s repro­duc­tive freedoms.

Wednesday’s debate will be held in Atlanta, a hub of black cul­ture and activism, and ques­tions con­cern­ing racial, crim­i­nal and social jus­tice are bound to arise.

Joe Biden has the most to lose here; although he has strong sup­port among black vot­ers, his long and prob­lem­at­ic record on racial issues (he sup­port­ed “tough on crime” poli­cies that dec­i­mat­ed nlack com­mu­ni­ties, opposed deseg­re­ga­tion bus­ing, and boast­ed about his “civil­i­ty” towards open­ly racist seg­re­ga­tion­ist senators).

War­ren – who has had trou­ble mak­ing inroads with the black com­mu­ni­ty – will want to use the oppor­tu­ni­ty, but it is unclear what path she could take to do so.

Bernie Sanders has a strong base of sup­port among mil­len­ni­al African-Amer­i­cans, who tend to be far more left-lean­ing and activist than their elders and will prob­a­bly use ques­tions con­cern­ing race to cri­tique the broad inequal­i­ties plagu­ing America.

Beyond issues cen­ter­ing on racial jus­tice, the fact that the debate takes place in Geor­gia may prompt some ques­tions about the state’s polit­i­cal future.

While Geor­gia has been a reli­ably red state for a num­ber of years, Democ­rats have high hopes of flip­ping it to blue, espe­cial­ly since both of the state’s seats in the Unit­ed States Sen­ate are up for grabs next year.

Stacey Abrams’ pio­neer­ing guber­na­to­r­i­al can­di­da­cy showed that Democ­rats could be com­pet­i­tive in Geor­gia. Abrams lost a close race to Repub­li­can Bri­an Kemp, who used his pow­er as Sec­re­tary of State to put tens of thou­sands of African-Amer­i­cans’ vot­er reg­is­tra­tions on hold until his vic­to­ry. The issue of vot­er sup­pres­sion is a vital one in Geor­gia, and Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates would be smart to come to the stage with ideas of how to fight back.

(Abrams will be in Seat­tle this Sun­day for a fundrais­ing brunch in sup­port of Jay Inslee, who is run­ning for a third term as Gov­er­nor of Wash­ing­ton State.)

Giv­en the tight­en­ing in the polls between the can­di­dates and the fact that the field is now in a head­long rush towards the Iowa cau­cus­es in Feb­ru­ary, view­ers should expect some fierce inter­per­son­al sparring.

War­ren and Biden are both the front-run­ners and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the par­ty’s two major con­flict­ing wings, as well as hav­ing a long his­to­ry of per­son­al dis­like for one anoth­er. These two have already sparred fierce­ly in pre­vi­ous debates and there seems no rea­son to doubt that this will hap­pen again.

War­ren and Sanders have main­tained a semi-alliance so far in this pri­ma­ry, but there is increas­ing­ly anti-War­ren sen­ti­ment on the left.

Sanders’ posi­tion has recent­ly been strength­ened by a flood of endorse­ments from pro­gres­sive orga­ni­za­tions, and this may embold­en him.

May­or Buttigieg has so far had fair­ly qui­et and unre­mark­able debate per­for­mances, but he has been steadi­ly ris­ing in the polls. He is in such a strong posi­tion in Iowa there is now talk that he may win the cru­cial first-in-the-nation caucus.

The oth­er cam­paigns have noticed this, and he will have to pre­pare for more tar­get­ed scruti­ny and crit­i­cism than he has pre­vi­ous­ly had to deal with.

The debate will take place on Wednes­day Novem­ber 20th from 6 PM to 8 PM Pacif­ic. It will be broad­cast on MSNBC, and will be avail­able to stream on as well as on The Wash­ing­ton Post’s web­site. You can also fol­low along with us here on The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate dur­ing that same timeframe.

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One Comment

  1. Excel­lent article!

    # by Rodney Geelong :: December 1st, 2019 at 2:56 PM
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