So What’s Going On in the Election Nowadays, Anyway?

Bartholomew Murphy, Columnist

Nowadays, it is increasingly clear that judging by election turnouts and surveys, many people are woefully uninformed or apathetic as to what’s going on in politics (Besides putting Trump in a peach). However, one of the best ways to see who’s saying what, is to pay attention to the Democratic debates. Currently, the Democrat Party is having a primary election, which is how they determine who will run against President Trump in 2020. As part of the primary, debates are held so the candidates can share and clash with their ideas (or repeat talking points). On Thursday, December 19th, at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, the sixth of these Democratic debates was held. This one, like all of the others, was hours long, but fret not, as this article will interpret who each of the 7 remaining candidates who qualified for the debate are, what they stand for, and what their stances are on questions asked Thursday night. So, without further ado:

 

Joe Biden: Barack Obama’s vice president. A longtime politician beforehand. 77 years old. A frontrunner in the polls, Joe Biden has the credentials to take the nomination, and if he just plays defensively, he likely will. However, at 77 years old, Biden has begun to show the cracks in his armor, often stuttering, and often forgetting what he is talking about while he is talking. Ideologically, Biden represents the establishment wing of the Democrat Party, being rather centrist on economic questions, but still sliding leftward on other issues when pressured. Policy wise, here are some notable comments he made.

 

On the Climate: Joe Biden was asked if he would still make the switch to a greener economy, even if it meant eliminating hundreds of thousands of blue-collar jobs. He replied with: “The answer’s yes.” Despite his attempt to follow with a plan to retrain those workers, the soundbite of him saying that will be used against him.

 

On Bipartisanship: When asked how he would see through a “return to normalcy” that he has mentioned in the past, he changed his stance, saying “normal is not enough.” Despite that sounding radical, he said that if bipartisan cooperation does not return post-Trump, then “we’re dead as a country.”

 

On Race (and Age): When asked about him becoming the oldest president in US history at 82 at the end of a theoretical first Biden term, Biden said: “No, there’s Winston Churchill…”After he was corrected, he said, “That was a joke. Politico (The host’s employer) doesn’t have much of a sense of humor.” It should be left up to the reader to ponder whether it really was a joke, and the host just didn’t get it, or if Biden actually thought that Britain’s Prime Minister during World War 2 was an American president, and was just covering up for himself.

 

On Immigration: “Look, let me, since I haven’t spoken on this, get a chance, um, number one, the reason we’re the country we are is because of immigration. We’ve been able to cherry-pick the best from every single continent. The people who come here have determination, resilience, they are ready to stand up and work like the devil. We have 24 out of every 100 children, in our schools today, are Hispanic. The idea that we are gonna walk away and not provide every opportunity for them is not only stupid and immoral, but it’s bad for America! They are the future of America. And we should invest in them. Everybody will benefit from them. Every single American. And you should get used to it.” The Democratic Party is united in its support for mass immigration and demographic change. 

 

On Healthcare: Biden called Bernie Sanders’ healthcare plan unrealistic, and brought up a public option, which he described as “Medicare if you want to have Medicare.” While going on about it, Bernie Sanders raised his hand to respond, to which Biden continued, “Put your hand down for a second, Bernie, ok?” The power move allowed him to go on further: “If you like it, (your healthcare plan) you shouldn’t have Washington dictating that you cannot keep the plan you have.” When Bernie responded with his own plan, Biden added more about it: “It costs 30 trillion dollars. Let’s get that straight. 30 trillion dollars over ten years… 16% of the American public is on Medicare now, and everybody has a tax taken out of their paycheck now. Tell me, you’re gonna add, 84% more, and there’s not gonna be higher taxes? At least before he was honest about it!”

 

The gaffes that usually haunt Biden when he speaks in front of a camera, for the most part, were absent Thursday. Instead, he held his own on all fronts when attacked, and even went on the offensive, especially against Bernie Sanders on healthcare. Overall, the December Debate was Joe Biden’s best performance of the election.

 

Elizabeth Warren: The Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren has risen to top-contender status throughout the months, remaining consistent in her performances in each debate. Ideologically, she is to the left of Biden, advocating for healthcare that everyone in the country would receive, paid for by taxes. Despite her steady performances, in the past she has been under scrutiny for falsely claiming to have Native American heritage, which resulted in her being dubbed “Pocahontas” by the President. She has also struggled to explain how she would pay for her healthcare plan when questioned. Despite this, her debate performances and lack of mistakes have continued to elevate her status. Here are some of the things she said:

 

On the Economy: When asked what she had to say about critics claiming her tax plan would stifle growth, she exclaimed: “Well, that’s just wrong!” She then listed the numerous benefits that she claims could be paid for by raised taxes. She also called out Pete Buttigieg for meeting with rich donors exclusively at times, igniting an exchange.

 

On Culture: Elizabeth Warren pledged that “I will go to the rose garden, once every year, to read the names of transgender women, who have been killed in the past year.” But wait, there’s more: “I will change the rules that put people in prison based on their birth sex identification rather than their current identification.” Meaning that she will switch transgender prison inmates from prisons that hold them with their biological sex to prisons that hold them with what they believe their sex is. In case you wanted to know that.

 

On Healthcare: Warren sides with Bernie Sanders on healthcare, but says she knows how to implement it without raising taxes, and also even without a Congressional vote, there are things she said she could do all by herself to address healthcare.

 

Elizabeth Warren’s performance remained steady on Thursday. However, this was slightly one of her lower points, as she had a few gaffes of her own, and had some outlandish things to say about the growing question of transgender people. In order for Elizabeth Warren to shine, she needs to stick to the economic issues that can win over voters in America’s heartland without alienating them with fringe identity politics.

 

Bernie Sanders: A household name, Bernie Sanders nearly took the Democrat nomination in 2016. Many of his supporters claim he was cheated out of it. Regardless, he has decided to run again in 2020. Ideologically, the Senator from Vermont represents the far left of the party, calling himself a democratic socialist, and advocating for socialized medicare for all. At 78 years old, Bernie is the oldest on the stage but lacks the embarrassing mistakes Biden has made on camera. He has hovered around the top third of the polls since the beginning, and easily is a contender for the nomination. Thursday night, he said:

 

On the Economy: To Bernie, poverty, homelessness, and wages are vastly more important than unemployment and GDP. He noted he has zero billionaire donors, and called out Joe Biden for having 44 billionaire donors, and made fun of Pete Buttigieg for only having 39 in comparison. “Pete, we look forward to you, I know you’re an energetic and competitive guy, to see if you can take on Joe in that issue.” He remarked.

 

On the Climate: Sanders disregards all other factors in climate change, warning that nothing else matters in the face of “saving the planet.” He doesn’t believe the Paris Climate Accord went far enough and wants to divert military spending to address the climate.

 

On Race: On race, Sanders wants massive, sweeping changes to the climate, saying PoCs are affected the most by it, and to the criminal justice system, calling it racist. He did not give a suggestion on what these changes would look like. Later, he was asked for his opinion on Obama’s quote saying that women were better leaders than old men, whom he said are “usually the cause of problems in the world.” Immediately, when the debate host noted that Sanders was 78 years old, he awkwardly interjected: “And I’m white as well!” To no laughs. In his answer, he disregarded race and emphasized the working class instead, which has caused some in the media in the days since to criticize him for not being hard enough racially. Can you really win with these people?

 

On Foreign Policy: When asked about foreign aid to Israel, Bernie prefaced that “as someone who lived in Israel as a kid and is proudly Jewish…” before reaffirming his support for Israel’s right to exist and the usual lines. He never directly mentioned the foreign aid, but emphasized ending America’s current conflicts in the Middle East.

 

On Immigration: He plans on introducing a bipartisan bill on Day One that will give every single illegal immigrant, all 22 million of them, a pathway to citizenship. Note how the way he said “bipartisan,” it’s as if he knows it will receive support from many Republicans, even those who supposedly are against amnesty for illegal immigrants. Does Bernie Sanders know something behind closed doors about who is planning to vote for a massive bill like this that the American people don’t?

 

On Healthcare: Following Joe Biden’s comments on healthcare, Bernie accused Biden’s plan of “maintaining the status quo.” After he touted the proposed reduced costs that Medicare for all would bring.

 

For Bernie Sanders, the transition can be made from a top-three kind of candidate to Joe Biden’s main rival if he can stick to economics, which compared to Elizabeth Warren, he somewhat succeeded in doing. He fended off attacks, dished them out always with a little humor, and stuck to the issues which have netted him a large grassroots following since 2016.

 

Pete Buttigieg: The mayor from South Bend, Indiana has become a contender after his seemingly robotically professional demeanor earned him attention from the mainstream media. At 37 years old, Pete represents the Biden wing of the party, without the baggage and gaffes that an old age and extensive experience can bring. Like Biden, Pete is center-left on economics, advocating for “Medicare for all who want it,” but still sides with the far-left of the party culturally. Like the previous 3, Buttigieg is a serious contender. On Thursday evening, he said the following:

 

On the Economy: Taking a centrist stance, Buttigieg claimed that choosing between Trump’s economy or a leftward economy is a “false choice,” and reforms can still be made to the economy without hurting it. When he was called out for his meeting with millionaires by Senator Warren, he responded with: “This is the problem with issuing purity tests you yourself cannot pass… Senator, your net worth is 100 times mine.” And later, “Senator, your campaign right now, as we speak, is funded in part by money you transferred, having raised it at those exact same big-ticket fundraisers you now denounce!” 

 

On the Climate: In response to Tom Steyer’s challenge on the climate, Buttigieg responded by insisting that climate change action would take place on Day 1, and noting that South Bend is right next to a river, and has flooded multiple times.

 

On Foreign Policy: Pete is much more of a globalist on foreign policy than say Bernie, for example, saying that the US should support “peace, democracy, human rights, and stability all around the world.” When asked about China’s human rights abuses, he called for President Trump to call out China for their Uyghur Muslim detention centers, and to openly support the Hong Kong protesters. He also threatened that China should be “isolated from the world” if they do any harm to said Hong Kong protesters.

 

On Immigration: In the aftermath of the outrage over living conditions at the Mexican border, Pete was asked if he stands by his previous comments on “financial compensation for those thousands of children.” He said: “Yes, and they should have a fast track to citizenship.” Pete Buttigieg is in favor of reparations to illegal immigrants.

 

On Race: Pete has come out in support of the House inquiry into the possibility of reparations for slavery, investing exclusively in minority-owned institutions, and even actually supports the very act of reparations itself, regardless of what the House concludes.

 

On the outside, Pete held a strong performance, telling the crowd what they wanted to hear and seemingly turning every question into an opportunity to shoe in his lines. However, like the other candidates, his leftism on culture will only hurt him against Trump. Any semblance of Pete Buttigieg being a moderate flies right out the window as soon as you hear him endorse reparations for descendants of slaves and illegal immigrants, paid for by taxpayers. Regardless, because he was the target of some attacks, it’s clear that many Democrats still fear his ability to win the nomination. Due to this, and his comments on reparations being mostly blown over by the media, Buttigieg retained his spot and could even gain in the race.

 

Andrew Yang: Andrew Yang is possibly the most unique candidate on the debate stage. His beginnings weren’t in politics, being the founder of Venture for America, a startup organization for young entrepreneurs. His policies include a Universal Basic Income, which if you can get past the gut reaction to it, he makes a decent case for. He warns against the threat of automation on the workforce, and advocates for “human-centered capitalism.” His populist economics and hip, relatable act, especially early in his campaign, earned him a uniquely large following online, resembling that of Donald Trump in the 2016 election. However, the higher he has risen in the polls, the more he has begun to resemble the other candidates and take mainstream positions. He took these stances. 

 

On the Economy: Yang acknowledged that GDP growth is at a high. In response, he noted that depression, financial insecurity, student loan debt, suicide, and overdoses are at all-time highs as well.

 

On Race: Yang was asked what message an “overwhelmingly white” debate stage sends to the DNC’s majority-minority voter base, as the only nonwhite on stage. He turned the attention to campaign contributions. He said: “You know what’s the one thing you need to make campaign donations? Disposable income,” and “I guarantee if we had a Freedom Dividend of $1,000 dollars a month, I would not be the only candidate of color on this stage tonight.”

 

On Immigration: Yang took a stance on immigration commonly seen on the left, touting that migrants improve the country and we should continue to harbor them. Not only that, but he said: “I could send a very clear message: If you’re considering immigrating to this country, and I’m the president, you’d realize my son or daughter could become President of the United States.” Many takes on immigration by the Democrats stress that America is not a nation of people, but an area that the whole world can join.

 

On the Disabled: Yang began with: “Special needs is the new normal in this country.” No one caught it, it seems, and he didn’t mean it that way, but it sounded comical. Like many issues, Yang sees Universal Basic Income as the solution to funding accommodations for special needs people. 

 

Comparing Andrew Yang now to where he was in the first Democratic debate, it is night and day. At the first debate, he spoke quickly and nervously, with no charisma, blurting out statistics that you would have to look up yourself to understand. Shortly after that, and continuing to now, Yang began acting like he knew the audience personally. Throughout Thursday’s debate, he made them laugh, he specifically pointed out to the college students in the seats when he mentioned student loan debt, and almost everybody raised their hands when he asked if anybody knew a disabled person personally. He knows how to relate to people, and it shows. While simply because he had a lower starting point than the other candidates, he isn’t a frontrunner, he has gained the most ground out of all of them and seems poised to continue.

 

Amy Klobuchar: The Senator from Minnesota is another representative of the Biden establishment wing of the DNC. She has continued to hang on in the debates, often avoiding conflict. The crowded field of candidates has caused many of their ideas to overlap, and Klobuchar is no exception. She said on Thursday night:

 

On the Economy: Following the heated exchange between Warren and Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar exclaimed, “I did not come here to listen to this!” She proposed passing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v FEC, which allowed corporations to finance campaigns under the 1st Amendment. She took the opportunity of Warren and Buttigieg arguing to rise above both of them and seize the moment.

 

On Race: A question which probably would have been called racist if asked by a right-winger was given to Klobuchar, asking her how she would respond to white Americans being uncomfortable with becoming a minority in a generation. In response, she said: “This is America, you’re looking at it,” and “We will not succeed in the world if we do not invite everyone to be part of our economy.” Essentially, she avoided the concern and endorsed open borders.

 

On Healthcare: Following the heated exchange between Biden and Sanders, Klobuchar went: “Whoa, guys, hey.” Once again, she took the opportunity of the exchange to distinguish herself. She said, on healthcare: “You build a bridge, you don’t blow one up. I think that we need to build on the Affordable Care Act! (Obamacare)”

 

Thursday’s debate was the most contentious one yet, and Klobuchar knew it as soon as the debates took off. Instead of jumping into the fray, she took the moral high ground, reaping all of the clout for herself. Despite being often looked over previously, Klobuchar has survived long enough to where now the playing field has changed, and some of the frontrunners have gotten too comfortable, allowing her to actually mount a serious, unexpected run. Expect to see Amy Klobuchar in the media a lot more as they may begin to favor her for the nomination.

 

Tom Steyer: A late entry into the race, Tom Steyer is a billionaire and founder and funder of the Need to Impeach campaign, which has advocated for Donald Trump’s impeachment since 2017. Despite being a newcomer, Steyer has strangely qualified for the debates, leading some to accuse him of buying his way into the election, because of the massive amount of advertising he plans on purchasing, at 100 million dollars. In response, in the November debate, he took some unique positions to distinguish himself, such as term limits for politicians. Andrew Yang has also defended Steyer’s extensive spending, saying “You can’t blame a guy for spending his money in the right place, just my opinion.” His true leanings are still shrouded in some mystery. Steyer’s positions on Thursday included:

 

On the Economy: Despite being a billionaire himself, Steyer openly sided with Warren. He uniquely pledged to not only undo the Trump tax cuts, but also divert taxes towards Passive Investment Income, which he claims would allow him to give 95% of Americans a 10% tax cut.

 

On the Climate: Climate change is Tom Steyer’s “#1 priority,” and he pledged to declare a national emergency on Day 1 of his presidency to address it. He also claimed that pollution is concentrated in “black and brown communities,” implying that some systemic force is behind it.

However, he took a stance against nuclear power, saying it’s not cost-effective, and it’s too difficult to prevent disasters and store waste. (Is he really that serious about climate change if he writes off a solution just like that?) Finally, he called out Pete Buttigieg specifically to emphasize climate change more in his campaign than he currently does.

 

On Foreign Policy: In contrast to Buttigieg’s stance, Steyer stated “We actually can’t isolate ourselves from China, in fact we have to work with them as a frenemy… who in effect we are linked to in a world that is ever getting closer.” 

 

It is unsure where Tom Steyer’s future lies. He has tried to distinguish himself with his own views, but increasingly it is clear that most of everything he says is already being said by someone else with a better chance of being elected. However, it is not over yet for him, and a change just as drastic as his entry into the race is still within the possibility of happening.

 

It should be noted that there are more than 7 candidates in the race. As the polling requirements get tighter and tighter to qualify for the debates, some have been left out of the spotlight, such as:

 

  • Tulsi Gabbard, a House representative from Hawaii. She is an anti-establishment candidate, and a vocal opponent of America’s interventionist foreign policy.
  • Mike Bloomberg, a very recent entry. The former mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg closely resembles Tom Steyer in that they are both billionaires who have spent extensive amounts of money in advertising. It’s very possible that he will qualify for the debates later in the race, just like Steyer has.
  • Cory Booker, the Senator from New Jersey, has hung on in the debates previously until now. He falls in between the DNC establishment and the newer left-wing of the party.

 

It is also possible that more candidates may announce their candidacy. This includes:

 

  • Hillary Clinton. Yes, again. She has said on BBC Radio that “I am under enormous pressure from many, many, many people to think about it,” and “I never say never to anything.” It is very possible that she is under pressure to run because like Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton resembles the establishment DNC, and there are worries that Joe Biden might not actually win the nomination. This means that she may be brought in to take his place…