Good evening, and welcome to NPI’s live coverage of the sixth Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 cycle.
NPI staff are watching and sharing impressions of the debate as it progresses.
PBS and Politico are the media partners for this DNC-sanctioned debate, which is expected to run two and a half hours. The media partners have put together a lineup of several moderators drawn from their newsrooms, led by Judy Woodruff.
Tonight’s lineup of seven candidates is as follows:
- Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren
- Former Vice President Joe Biden
- Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders
- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
- Minnesota U.S. Senator Amy Klobouchar
- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang
- Billionaire Tom Steyer
Our live coverage begins below.
UPDATE, 5:02 PM: PBS and Politico are running their introductory montage. This Democratic presidential debate is about to get underway.
UPDATE, 5:03 PM: Judy Woodruff going over the debate rules and format.
UPDATE, 5:04 PM: First question is about impeachment.
Joe Biden is asked to respond first.
UPDATE, 5:05 PM: Sanders is up now. Says Trump is “a pathological liar,” something he’s said many times. (And he’s entirely correct.)
UPDATE, 5:09 PM: Warren says that it’s imperative to go after Trump on the issue of corruption. The Democratic nominee must prosecute the case against Trump, demonstrating that he broke his promises, she argues.
UPDATE, 5:11 PM: Klobuchar emphasized the need to pressure Senate Republicans to agree to rules for a fair process that will result in Trump’s cronies appearing before the Senate for questioning.
UPDATE, 5:12 PM: Steyer says he agrees with Klobuchar. “We need the administration officials to testify on TV so we can judge,” he said.
UPDATE, 5:18 PM: The candidates are being asked how they run in a strong economy. Biden points out the economy we have isn’t very inclusive. Many middle income families are getting a raw deal.
UPDATE, 5:20 PM: Buttigieg says voters in America’s heartland are not measuring the economy by how well the Dow Jones is doing. “The biggest problem in our economy is simple: People are not getting paid enough,” he said.
UPDATE, 5:20 PM: Yang brings up student loan debt, drug overdoses, and suicides as consequences of an inequitable economy.
UPDATE, 5:22 PM: Warren says we have a government that works great for the wealthy and the well-connected, but not for the rest of us. “That is corruption, pure and simple, and we need to call it out for what it is,” she declares.
UPDATE, 5:23 PM: Sanders notes that many veterans are sleeping homeless in the streets while the wealthy amass ever more wealth.
UPDATE, 5:24 PM: “They’re just wrong,” Warren declares after moderator Judy Woodruff asks her to respond to neoliberal economist critics who claim that increasing taxes on the wealthy will stifle growth.
UPDATE, 5:25 PM: Warren is really on a roll here.
UPDATE, 5:26 PM: Steyer says he agrees with many of Warren’s proposals, but claims he would be the best-suited to go up against Trump because he’s wealthy.
UPDATE, 5:30 PM: Before the break, Buttigieg repeated a lot of neoliberal/right wing frames that don’t belong on a Democratic debate stage.
UPDATE, 5:32 PM: Back from the break. The moderators just offered an intriguing question we haven’t heard before, which concerns the impact of climate damage on cities like Miami, Florida and Davenport, Iowa, and whether people on the front lines of the climate crisis should be relocated.
UPDATE, 5:33 PM: Steyer says addressing climate damage in communities across America would be his “number one priority.”
UPDATE, 5:36 PM: Buttigieg says as someone who lives alongside a river that floods, he understands the ramifications of the climate crisis. He also emphasized his support for a tax on pollution to mitigate climate damage.
UPDATE, 5:38 PM: When it was turn to answer the climate relocation question, Biden used his time to advocate for electrifying our transportation system.
UPDATE, 5:39 PM: That was a very strong answer from Bernie Sanders on responding to the climate crisis with the urgency and boldness that the crisis demands. Time is not on our side — the ramifications are already here.
UPDATE, 5:41 PM: “The way we tackle corruption is by winning big in this election,” said Klobuchar (who was called upon after Warren finished speaking), going on to add that in the Midwest, the biggest climate impact is river flooding.
UPDATE, 5:43 PM: Steyer says wind, solar, and batteries are the technologies we need to act on climate, pointing out that nuclear energy is risky and expensive. (NPI agrees; we do not support building new nuclear plants.)
UPDATE, 5:46 PM: Biden did an impressive job that question concerning his rhetoric about trying to find common ground with Republicans.
UPDATE, 5:50 PM: The candidates are talking about racial justice. Amy Klobuchar just cited the need to protect the right to vote and applauded Stacey Abrams’ work with Fair Fight Action to combat voter suppression.
UPDATE, 5:51 PM: The debate has shifted to the topic of foreign policy. Bernie Sanders has made the case for the United States to have a pro-Palestinian *and* pro-Israeli approach in terms of our policy in the Mediterranean.
UPDATE, 5:53 PM: That was a really strong, eloquent answer from Buttigieg on United States leadership in the world community.
UPDATE, 5:58 PM: Judy Woodruff asked Buttigieg about U.S.-Chinese relations. Buttigieg vowed to isolate China from the free world if it moved in militarily on Hong Kong protestors, who have taken a stand for democracy and freedom.
UPDATE, 5:59 PM: Steyer says we have to treat China as a “frenemy”.
UPDATE, 6:00 PM: Biden says we should be concentrating our naval power in the Pacific to counter China’s growing influence.
UPDATE, 6:02 PM: “They’re in the process of leapfrogging us on AI [artificial intelligence],” Yang says of China, declaring we need to out-compete them and win, in part by setting international standards.
UPDATE, 6:06 PM: Buttigieg says Trump’s authoritarian-style rhetoric is what bothers him, not Trump’s intolerance for criticism. Now heading to a break.
UPDATE, 6:14 PM: We’re back from the break. The candidates are being asked about President Obama’s recent comments about the benefit of women leaders in the world community. Sanders was asked to respond first.
UPDATE, 6:15 PM: Sanders says the real issue is who has power, and notes the United States is sliding towards oligarchy.
UPDATE, 6:17 PM: Pressed about 2024 plans, Biden refuses to commit to running for a second term, saying that he wants to win this campaign before he contemplates a reelection campaign in four years.
UPDATE, 6:19 PM: Prompted to answer an ageist question, Warren quipped that she’d be the youngest woman ever elected president if she wins, drawing a lot of laughs, smiles, and applause in the debate hall.
UPDATE, 6:22 PM: Warren seems to have been waiting for the opportunity to take on Pete Buttigieg and she’s taking full advantage of her chance right now.
UPDATE, 6:27 PM: Amy Klobuchar jumped in to break up the Buttigieg/Warren exchange, which had gotten pretty testy. Buttigieg and Warren had been sparring at length about their campaigns’ fundraising.
UPDATE, 6:30 PM: Turning now to immigration…
UPDATE, 6:34 PM: Sanders says on day one, he would protect DREAMers by reinstating DACA, which Trump has tried to extinguish. He’d also end the immoral practice of separating kids from their families at the border.
UPDATE, 6:39 PM: In response to a moderator question, Buttigieg affirmed that he supports financial compensation for children separated from their parents at the border, along with a fast track to citizenship.
UPDATE, 6:42 PM: Klobuchar took an opportunity to take some swipes at Buttigieg, and draws lots of applause after defending herself and most of the other candidates on stage from one of his quips.
UPDATE, 6:44 PM: “I gotta respond to that,” Buttigieg says in response, drawing out the exchange with Klobuchar.
UPDATE, 6:49 PM: Very interesting that Klobuchar ended up in a testy exchange of her own with Buttigieg after criticizing Warren and Buttigieg for sparring at length earlier. It is a debate, of course, and Klobuchar’s earlier attempt to project unity looks even more opportunistic now.
UPDATE, 6:50 PM: Warren and Sanders eloquently unpacked the argument that tuition-free college should be available for everybody, after Buttigieg tried to argue for the merits of a means-based approach.
UPDATE, 6:53 PM: Yang touted his freedom dividend while answering a question about securing a future for people with special needs.
UPDATE, 6:54 PM: The questions in this sixth Democratic debate have been much better than questions in previous Democratic debates.
UPDATE, 6:58 PM: After the moderators steered to the debate to the topic of the courts, Buttigieg says he would expect his judicial nominees to demonstrate a grasp of voting rights and civil rights in addition to reproductive rights.
UPDATE, 7:00 PM: Warren says as President, she’ll go to the Rose Garden once a year to read the names of transgender people who have been killed.
UPDATE, 7:04 PM: The debate has veered back to foreign policy with a question about Afghanistan. Biden stressed that while in President Obama’s administration, he opposed the escalation of America’s military presence there.
UPDATE, 7:05 PM: Sanders took the opportunity to then criticize Biden for supporting the occupation of Iraq, something he has done in past debates. But this time, he was promptly reminded that he voted to authorize the use of force in Afghanistan. Sanders acknowledged that vote was a mistake.
UPDATE, 7:06 PM: Buttigieg saluted the work of Barbara Lee to revoke the indefinite, open-ended authorization for the use of military force from 2001.
UPDATE, 7:08 PM: Challenged by Tim Alberta, Sanders expressed confidence that a bold Medicare For All plan could pass Congress in 2021 with strong support from the American people.
UPDATE, 7:09 PM: It is really unfortunate that Joe Biden continues to refer to the Patient Protection Act using a Republican pejorative. Words matter. Biden needs to change his vocabulary and reframe.
UPDATE, 7:10 PM: “Put your hand down, Bernie,” Biden says as he attempts to conclude his answer on healthcare.
UPDATE, 7:14 PM: People who vote for massive defense budgets have no business complaining about the estimated costs of proposals to provide universal healthcare to all Americans.
UPDATE, 7:20 PM: Weird question to close out the debate: would you like to ask forgiveness of your fellow candidates on the stage or give a gift?
UPDATE, 7:26 PM: Following Tom Steyer’s answer on the forgiveness/gift question, PBS and Politico opted to head to a break.
When they return, we’ll hear closing statements.
UPDATE, 7:29 PM: Closing statements are underway.
Steyer says he’s different from everyone on stage, but only hints at his wealth instead of explicitly acknowledging it. He mentions he’s for congressional term limits, an idea NPI doesn’t support.
UPDATE, 7:29 PM: It is Yang’s turn to deliver a closing statement.
He draws laughter by declaring: “I know what you’re thinking, America: How I am still up here on stage with them?”
UPDATE, 7:32 PM: In her closing, Klobuchar declared that anyone who wants a big tent Democratic Party and long coattails would be best served by embracing her campaign. She has repeatedly pointed out during this debate that she has run and won statewide in a state far away from either of America’s saltwater coasts.
UPDATE, 7:33 PM: Buttigieg used his closing to talk about unifying the Democratic Party around its eventual nominee and invited people to caucus for him in the new year. (The first nominating event will be in Iowa.)
UPDATE, 7:35 PM: Warren’s turn.
In her closing, she talked about expanding Social Security and aggressively fighting corruption, again mentioning her three brothers.
UPDATE, 7:35 PM: “Real change takes place from the bottom up, not the top down,” Bernie Sanders declared in his closing statement.
“Let’s defeat Trump, let’s transform this country.”
UPDATE, 7:37 PM: Biden got the last word.
“Who has the best chance, the most likely chance of defeating Donald Trump?” he asked. “Who can help elect Democrats to the United States Senate?” He concluded: “I’m the most qualified to answer those questions.”
UPDATE, 7:37 PM: And with that, we are done!
PBS and Politico did a pretty good job with their questions… a much better job than other media outlets have in past debates.