By: Daniel Galal
The Democratic Primary Debate, which took place on January 14th, marks a change in how the race for the Democratic nomination will continue. Gone are the debates with ten candidates, some of whom stood no chance of getting the nomination, on the stage at once. With this debate, and the subsequent 2020 Primary debates, there were fewer candidates and more airtime for each to articulate their plans, policies, and views. Of course, controversy began even before the debate kicked off. CNN, who often hosts and moderates the Democratic debates, went under fire for their past performances with moderating, with many leveling allegations of giving more airtime to popular candidates and staging the debate like a reality TV show rather than a serious stage for in-depth policy discussion. These allegations did not go away after the debate ended, however, with CNN coming under fire for including a short snippet of an argument between frontrunner Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, in which Warren accused Sanders of calling her a “liar” during the debate. Many cited this as an example of CNN’s sensationalism, while others found the argument to be an essential part of the debate.
In terms of the highlights, Senator Warren had one of her standout performances of the race, focusing on her electability despite the fact that a woman has never been elected President. She cited the fact that her male opponents that night had “collectively… lost ten elections” while she won every election she had ever been in. This came as a rebuttal to an alleged remark made by Sanders in 2018, in which he questioned the electability of a woman to the Presidency, a remark he vehemently denied when confronted by Warren during the debate. Medicare-for-All, as usual, was another contentious issue during the debate, with moderators questioning how Sanders would pay for his proposed plan, to which he replied that his plan would save the average family money in the end, eliminating the expenditure towards healthcare rather than cost them more in taxes. Joe Biden and other moderates attacked this idea and denied Sanders’s claim that his plan would be less of a financial burden for American families. Candidates also sparred on this issue of climate change, where lesser-known candidate Tom Steyer called out his opponents for not making the issue a top priority. The debate ended in the usual way, in which candidates outlined their cases for their electability and the way in which they will defeat Donald Trump in the upcoming election.
This debate signals a shift in how the Primary race will continue: fewer candidates, more focus on the issues rather than the personalities. Most importantly, the beginning of the 2020 debate season will give rise to a single frontrunner in a crowded field. Ever since the Democratic campaigns kicked off last year, a common refrain among the media and the public was that there were simply too many options, and Democrats worried there were too many potential options and nobody who stuck out enough to win the 2020 election. With a thinning field and more debates to come, it seems a clear frontrunner is on the horizon.