The Best And Worst Moments From Day One Of The U.S. Democratic Presidential Debates

Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Thursday was the first of two U.S. Democratic presidential debates taking place in Miami, and a whole lot happened. While Australians might not care much for U.S. politics, there were some interesting developments along the way. Beto O’Rourke argued with fellow Texas Congressmember Julián Castro over immigration, Senator Elizabeth Warren finally endorsed Medicare for all, and a few candidates shined in their first introduction to a national audience - while others struggled to make their voice heard in a sea of candidates.

Beto O’Rourke debated Bill de Blasio over health care

In the first heated argument of the night involving healthcare, Mayor Bill de Blasio took on O’Rourke, who endorsed the role of private insurance. “Private insurance is not working for tens of millions of Americans when you talk about the co-pays... the premiums, the out of pocket expenses, it’s not working,” de Blasio said to resounding applause.

Elizabeth Warren endorsed Medicare for all

When candidates were asked if they would be willing to abandon their private insurance plan for a universal health care plan, Warren was one of only two candidates on the stage that raised their hand. (The other was de Blasio.)

Though Senator Elizabeth Warren has long tip-toed around Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for all plan, she made her stance clear at the debates.

“Look at the business model of an insurance company. It’s to bring in as many dollars and premiums and to pay out as few dollars as possible for your health care. That leaves families with rising premiums, rising co-pays, and fighting with insurance companies to try to get the healthcare that their doctors say that they and their children need. Medicare for all solves that problem.”

Amy Klobuchar set Jay Inslee straight over fighting for women’s rights

When asked about the role of private insurance in healthcare, Washington Governor Jay Inslee widened the discussion, boasting his abortions rights record and women’s right to choose. “I respect everybody’s goals and plans here but we do have one candidate who’s actually advanced the ball,” Inslee said.

In response, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar set the governor straight. “I just want to say there are three women up here who fought pretty hard for a woman’s right to choose.”

Tulsi Gabbard responded to questions regarding her anti-LGBTQ record

Hawaii Congressmember Tulsi Gabbard has long faced criticism for her past anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, including having previously worked with an anti-LGBT organisation and opposed gay marriage.

“Let me say that there is no one in our government at any level who has the right to tell any American who they should be allowed to love or who they should be allowed to marry. My record in Congress for over six years shows my commitment to fighting for LGBTQ equality.”

Beto O’Rourke debated with Julián Castro over immigration

Congressmember Julián Castro sparred with O’Rourke while discussing the detainment of children at the border and recent deaths of Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and Valeria Ramírez.

Castro wants to end Section 1325 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a law that sets forth criminal offenses for “improper entry” to the U.S.; O’Rourke does not support the repeal, arguing that criminal offenses should remain to address issues of human trafficking and drug smuggling. (In response, Castro argued that these issues are already addressed by other sections of the same act.)

“If you did your homework on this issue, you would know that we should repeal this section,” Castro told O’Rourke.

Candidates named the biggest threat to our country

The last question of the night posed to the candidates is a familiar one: What is the biggest geopolitical threat to our country? Unsurprisingly, there was a diverse set of answers among the candidates.

  • Former Maryland Congressmember John Delaney said China as an economic threat and nuclear weapons.

  • Inslee said President Trump (to applause).

  • Gabbard argued nuclear war.

  • Klobuchar said China and relations with Iran.

  • Both O’Rourke and Warren said climate change.

  • New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said nuclear weapon proliferation and climate change.

  • Castro said China and climate change.

  • Ohio Congressmember Tim Ryan said China.

  • De Blasio said Russia (also to applause).

Honorable mentions

Klobuchar made an interesting comparison regarding President Trump’s early promise to lower pharmaceutical prices. “That’s what we call at home ‘all foam and no beer.’”

O’Rourke answered several questions in Spanish; during one answer, Booker looks on in apparent confusion, giving rise to several memes.

In his closing statement, Castro said “adios” to Trump.


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