The Democratic Debate Recap You Need In Case You Missed Night One
On Wednesday night, 10 Democratic candidates took the stage in Miami, Florida to discuss issues ranging from immigration and climate change to Iran and the economy. Wednesday marked the first of two debates among the Democrats, and 20 of the 24 candidates qualified to participate in them. With so many Democrats running for president, it can be hard to keep track of where they stand on the issues, so here's a Democratic debate recap in cased you missed night one.
Wednesday night's debate was filled with a host of memorable moments, from various candidates answering questions in Spanish to an extensive discussion of women's rights and abortion. Candidates exchanged heated comments about immigration policy, laws protecting abortion access, and American involvement in Afghanistan, at times speaking over one another to make their arguments.
Debate moderators dedicated multiple questions to prominent issues like climate change, abortion, and immigration — and other issues that were much more controversial in 2015, like Medicare for All and more accessible higher education. In fact, four of the 10 candidates at Wednesday's debate argued that climate change is one of the biggest geopolitical threats facing the United States today. Below are nine of the most memorable moments from Wednesday night's debates.
Beto O'Rourke Speaks Spanish — And Also, Look At Cory Booker's Face
When NBC's Savannah Guthrie asked former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke what he thought of policy proposals to levy a top marginal tax rate of up to 70% on the country's richest people, he didn't immediately answer the question. Instead, O'Rourke argued more broadly — in both English and Spanish — that the economy needs to be more inclusive. O'Rourke's decision to show off his bilingualism prompted this surprised look from New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who also speaks Spanish. Booker then answered a question in Spanish later in the debate.
A Question About Equal Pay For Women
When former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro received a question about equal pay for women, he talked about growing up as the son of a single parent. He also promised to remedy the gender wage gap as well and to pass the Equal Rights amendment, which would make sex-based discrimination illegal under the Constitution.
The Candidates Trying To One-Up Each Other On Abortion Rights
When asked about abortion, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee argued that "it should not be an option in the United States of America for any insurance company to deny women coverage for the exercise of their right of choice.” He then suggested that he was the only "candidate who's actually advanced the ball" on reproductive freedom, pointing out that he had passed a law supporting abortion access.
In response to Inslee's claims, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar candidly observed that "there's three women up here that have fought pretty hard for a woman's right to choose," referring to herself, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Warren then argued that people should have access to a “full range” of reproductive services. She added that it isn't "enough to expect the courts to protect us," referring to states that have been trying to chip away at Roe v. Wade.
When it was Castro's turn to discuss abortion, he made it clear that he doesn't "just believe in reproductive freedom, I believe in reproductive justice." He also reminded voters that women are not the only people who can get pregnant and who might seek abortions; as HuffPost pointed out, Castro mentioned "trans females," though he likely meant to refer to trans men and nonbinary people who might also seek abortions.
Castro Addresses The Photo Of Valeria And Óscar
On Tuesday afternoon, an image of 25-year-old Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his nearly two-year-old daughter Valeria went viral after appearing in various American media outlets. The photo, which was taken on Monday, depicted Martínez and Valeria's bodies lying face down in the Rio Grande. Both of them drowned while trying to enter the United States, per CNN, and Martínez's wife saw it happen from the other side of the river.
During Wednesday's debate, Castro addressed the photo, and subsequently clashed with O'Rourke on immigration policy.
"Watching that image of Oscar and his daughter Valeria is heartbreaking," Castro said. "It should also piss us all off ... and it should spur us to action."
Castro & O'Rourke Arguing About Immigration Policy
When it was O'Rourke's turn to talk about immigration policy, he argued that the United States would not turn away migrants like Valeria and Martínez if he were president.
"We would accept them into this country," O'Rourke said. "We would not build walls, we will not put kids in cages."
But Castro then suggested that O'Rourke had not done his "homework" on immigration policy, asking him why he would not support the repeal of Section 1325. Section 1325 of United States Code Title 8, as it currently stands, makes it a criminal offense to cross the American border illegally, whereas candidates like Castro and Warren want to decriminalize such border crossings by making them a civil offense.
O'Rourke responded by saying that Castro was focusing only on a small part of immigration policy, but Castro explained that Section 1325 is largely responsible for the Trump administration's ability to separate migrant children from their families. According to The Texas Tribune, O'Rourke has been hesitant to support the complete decriminalization of border crossings on the basis that it would make it harder to prosecute drug smugglers and human traffickers. But Castro pointed out that many undocumented immigrants are negatively impacted by Section 1325, while other existing laws already combat drug and human trafficking.
Klobuchar Reminding Chuck Todd That Gun Buyback Is Not "Confiscation"
Gun laws and gun violence have played a significant role in Democratic candidates' campaign platforms, and California Rep. Eric Swalwell has gone so far as to propose a government buyback of guns — similar to a policy Australia implemented in the 1990s. When asking Klobuchar a question about gun buyback programs, moderator Chuck Todd referred to such programs as "confiscation," a term typically employed by gun rights activists. Klobuchar quickly corrected Todd, arguing that buying back guns is not "confiscation," noting that the government would "give them an offer to buy back their guns."
Inslee Getting The First Crack At Climate Change
For weeks, activists called on the Democratic National Committee to host a debate focused entirely on climate change — as did Inslee, who has made climate change the primary issue of his campaign. Earlier this month, DNC chairman Tom Perez wrote that doing this would prompt calls for debates centered on other subjects that the candidates have focused on.
However, a portion of Wednesday night was nonetheless dedicated to climate change, and the first question on the issue was posed to Inslee. Inslee made it clear that taking away Senate control from the Republicans and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be crucial in the fight against climate change.
Booker Talking About Violence Against Black Transgender Women
When Gabbard was directly asked about her previous views on LGBTQ rights, she defended her record by saying that she grew up in a conservative household and has more recently supported the Equality Act. Booker responded by saying that merely supporting the Equality Act — of which he was a co-sponsor — was not enough.
Booker then went on to point out that trans Americans, especially black trans Americans, face disproportionate amounts of discrimination and violence. He noted that many LGBTQ students do not go to school out of fear of bullying, and he highlighted the escalating rates of black trans Americans who are murdered. Booker has previously tweeted that trans women of color are disproportionately likely to be killed.
Castro Naming Multiple Victims Of Police Brutality
When Castro was asked about how Latinx voters might feel about his fellow candidates' economic policy proposals — "as the only Latino Democrat who is running this year in the presidential race" — he flipped the question by addressing racial justice and police brutality.
"I was in Charleston not too long ago and I remembered that Dylann Roof went to the Mother Emanuel AME Church and he murdered nine people who were worshipping and he was apprehended by police without incident," Castro said. "But what about Eric Garner? And Tamir Rice? And Laquan McDonald? And Sandra Bland? And Pamela Turner? And Antonio Arce?"
"I'm proud that I'm the only candidate so far that has put forward legislation that would reform our policing system in America and make sure no matter what the color of your skin is, that you're treated the same, including Latinos, who are mistreated too often times by police," Castro added.
Wednesday night was just the first of two Democratic debates; on Thursday, 10 other candidates — including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, California Sen. Kamala Harris, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg — will take the stage in Miami.