Ten candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination took the stage in Detroit last night in the first of a two-night CNN-hosted debate. The evening was billed as the first showdown between the two leading progressives in the race—Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren—but the two agreed on all major issues and instead fended off criticisms from the more moderate candidates in the race. CNN anchor Jake Tapper asked Bernie Sanders to respond to former Congressmember John Delaney’s assertion that Sanders’s cornerstone healthcare proposal, Medicare for All, which seeks to offer free public healthcare for all Americans, was “bad policy.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “You’re wrong. Right now we have a dysfunctional healthcare system—87 million uninsured or underinsured, $500,000—500,000 Americans every year going bankrupt because of medical bills, 30,000 people dying while the healthcare industry makes tens of billions of dollars in profit.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren, who also supports Medicare for All, touted her progressive track record taking on Wall Street. She rubbed her hands together when host Don Lemon noted that her proposal for imposing a 2% tax on the ultrawealthy would include John Delaney’s $65 million personal fortune. Warren also urged Democrats not to act out of fear in the upcoming elections.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: “We can’t choose a candidate we don’t believe in, just because we’re too scared to do anything else. And we can’t ask other people to vote for a candidate we don’t believe in. Democrats win when we figure out what is right and we get out there and fight for it.”
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, meanwhile, questioned why Democrats were reluctant to implement major structural reforms that would reshape voting laws or the Supreme Court.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg: “When I propose the actual structural democratic reforms that might make a difference—end the Electoral College; amend the Constitution, if necessary, to clear up Citizens United; have D.C. actually be a state; and depoliticize the Supreme Court with structural reform—people look at me funny, as if this country were incapable of structural reform. Does anybody really think we’re going to overtake Citizens United without constitutional action? This is a country that once changed its Constitution so you couldn’t drink, and then changed it back because we changed our minds about that. And you’re telling me we can’t reform our democracy in our time? We have to, or we’ll be having the same argument 20 years from now.”
On foreign policy, Sanders and Buttigieg both called for an end to the Afghan War. Senator Sanders also called for the U.S. to work with the international community, saying, “What we need is a foreign policy that focuses on diplomacy, ending conflicts by people sitting at a table, not by killing each other. As president of the United States, I will go to the United Nations and not denigrate it.” After headlines, we’ll host a roundtable on last night’s debate.