Welcome to night #2 of the Democratic debate. We are covering the debate live and explaining how the promises of the candidates will affect the lives of Virginians. See our coverage of the first debate here.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) broke up a shouting fight with a line that earned applause: “The American people don’t want to see a food fight, they want to know how they’ll put food on the table.”
She then added that while President Trump brags about the stock market, most Americans don’t own stock.
“When we talk about jobs, lets be really clear: No one should have to work more than one job to have food on their table and a roof over their head.”
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., said college affordability “is personal for us,” because he and his spouse have six-figure student debt loans.
“It needs to be more affordable to go to college,” Buttigieg said, “but also more affordable not to go to college … that’s why we need to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.”
Virginia’s minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is the lowest allowed by federal law. State Democrats have attempted to increase the minimum wage for several years, including via four bills in the 2019 General Assembly session. Republicans rejected them all.
Candidates debated healthcare from the start. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Co.) said he wanted to get to the universal health care plan that Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) proposed, but said he believed “the way to do that is by finishing the work we started with Obamacare and creating a public option.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) said the motives of the American healthcare system were wrong.
“Let’s be clear: the function of healthcare today, from the private insurance company perspective — it’s not to provide healthcare to every man, woman and child in this country. It’s to make billions in profits for the insurance companies,” Sanders said.
Author Marianne Williamson said America doesn’t have a healthcare system, “we have a sick care system.”
Candidates were asked what they would do on day one to address immigration.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said President Trump has “torn apart the moral fabric of who we are. It started with separating families at the border,” children and their parents. Gillibrand also mentioned the children who have died “in [Trump’s] custody” and called to pass comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.
Harris spoke of the plight of parents who chose to send their children on the dangerous journey to America.
“Why would a mother hire a coyote to transport her child from their country of origin through the entire country of Mexico, facing unknown peril, to come here? Why would that mother do that? I will tell you, because she has decided that for that child to remain where they are is worse. What does Donald Trump do? He says go back to where you came from. That is not reflective of our America and our values and its gotta end,” Harris said.
A new study from the Commonwealth Institute in Virginia found that “immigrants are making huge contributions to Virginia’s economy. Over 70% of Virginia immigrants participate in the workforce compared to 65% of U.S.-born residents.”
Buttigieg referenced religion in his take on immigration: “For a party that associates itself with Christianity, to say that it okay to suggest that God would smile on the division of families, at the hands of federal agents; that God would condone putting children in cages, has lost all claim to ever use religious language again.”
Buttigieg was challenged by moderators over the death of Eric Logan in South Bend, and said it was ultimately his fault.
“I didn’t get it done,” Buttigieg said. “I didn’t save the live of Eric Logan … until we move policing out of the shadow of system racism,” it will continue to be a problem that “threatens well being of every community.”
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper interjected, saying he addressed this issue 10 years before the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri that ignited attention to on racial profiling in policing.
“Why, five year after Ferguson, doesn’t every city doesn’t have this level of police accountability?”
RACISM IN AMERICA
Harris said she “couldn’t agree more” that racism in America is “still not being talked about truthfully of honestly.” She spoke of her own experience growing up as a child of color in California, when a neighbor was told they “couldn’t play with us because we are black.”
Harris then addressed Biden and recent coverage of his backing of segregationist regulations in the Civil Rights era.
“There was a little girl who was part of California’s second class to integrate in public schools and that little girl was me,” Harris said. “This subject can not be an intellectual debate among Democrats.”
Harris said she didn’t think Biden was a racist. But she also said it was hurtful to hear Biden praise segregationists and oppose busing in the past.
Biden said at the time it was a decision made by her city council. Harris responded that it was an example of a situation where the federal government should have intervened, as it did with the Voting Rights Act and Equal Rights Amendment.
Biden replied that he was a supporter of both of those policies: “I’m the guy that extended the Voting Rights Act for 25 years.”
Harris said she saw California burn “while the embers were smoldering.” She said climate change is a critical issue that “is about what we must to do to confront what is immediate and before us right now — that is why I support the Green New Deal.”
Sanders said the “old ways are no longer relevant — this is a global issue.”
“What the president of the United States should do is not deny the reality of climate change, but tell the rest of the world that instead of spending a trillion-and-a-half on weapons of destruction, let us get together for the common enemy. And that is to transform the world energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy,” Sanders said.
Biden called to immediately rejoin the Paris Climate Accord.
“We have to get someone who knows how to corral the rest of the world, bring them together and get something done like we did in our administration,” Biden said.
The Obama administration played a major role in negotiating the Paris agreement, which Trump backed out of. Trump also threw out the Clean Power Plan, an emissions reduction plan set in place by the Obama administration to put the United States on track to meet the commitments set out in the Paris agreement.
When asked if being in the military affected his thinking on guns. Buttigieg said: “Yeah of course, because we trained on some of these kinds of weapons.”
“In my city alone we lose as many as we lost in Parkland every 2 or 3 years … if more guns made us safer then we would be the safest country in the world.”
On gun safety, Biden said he is “the guy that got the Brady bill passed,” and that he got the number of clips in a gun banned through the federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004.
The shooter in Virginia Beach used extended capacity magazines to aid in the killing of 12 people at a public municipal building in May.
Virginia Democrats like Sen. Scott Surovell (36) have tried to enforce the federal assault weapons ban at the state level, including the ban on extended magazines, for at least 9 years. But Republicans have rejected at least 50 gun safety bills in the past few legislative sessions alone.
THE GENERATIONAL DIVIDE
“Joe Biden was right when he said to pass the torch to new generation of Americans 32 years ago,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.)
“I’m holding on to that torch,” former Vice President Joe Biden said in response. He then listed out the support he’d provide to cover the cost of higher education and training.