On Nov. 20, the Democratic debate for the month took place in Atlanta, Georgia as the ten candidates who qualified to appear onstage looked to get a boost in the polls as the year draws to a close.
Held at the brand-new production studio of filmmaker Tyler Perry, the fifth installment of the Democratic debates is the latest episode in what could be looked at as a long-running television show that’s begun to turn stale with repetitive dialogue, three main characters being audience’s clear favorites and numerous minor characters that wouldn’t be missed if they were to be written out of the script.
However, in the race for the presidency, the show must go on. The two hosts for the night’s event were MSNBC and the Washington Post, with the former broadcasting the event and the latter providing additional coverage.
Handling the moderation duties were MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow, NBC News reporters Andrea Mitchell and Kristen Welker and Washington Post White House reporter Ashley Parker.
The candidates onstage for this bout were Former Vice President Joe Biden, businessman Andrew Yang, businessman Tom Steyer, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Elizabeth Warren, (D-MA) and Sen. Bernard Sanders, (I-VT).
With little fanfare and a brief introduction from Maddow and Mitchell, the debate was underway.
The first question of the night touched on the ongoing impeachment case against President Trump and was addressed to Warren, asking whether or not she would persuade Republicans in the Senate to join her in voting to remove Trump from office in the event that she gets called to cast a vote.
“Of course I will,” said the Massachusetts senator. “We have to establish the principle: no one is above the law. We have a constitutional responsibility, and we need to meet it.”
Next, Maddow turned her attention to Sanders, asking for his opinion on how much of a concern the Trump impeachment inquiry should be for the candidates running for the Democratic nomination.
“Sadly, we have a president who is not only a pathological liar, he is likely the most corrupt president in the modern history of America,” replied Sanders. “But we cannot simply be consumed by Donald Trump, because if we are, you know what? We’re going to lose the election.”
Sanders pressed his point further, saying:
“Right now, you’ve got 87 million people who have no health insurance or are underinsured. We’re facing the great existential crisis of our time in terms of climate change. You’ve got 500,000 people sleeping out on the street and you’ve got 18 million people paying half of their limited incomes for housing…we can deal with Trump’s corruption, but we also have to stand up for the working families of this country. We also have to stand up to the fact that our political system is corrupt [and] dominated by a handful of billionaires…We can do it all when we rally the American people in the cause of justice.”
Halfway into the debate, the focus was turned to Gabbard. After being questioned on her recent criticisms of both the Democratic party and Hillary Clinton—even referring to Clinton as the “personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party”—the Hawaii congresswoman took a chance to clarify her statements to the audience.
“…our Democratic Party, unfortunately, is not the party that is of, by, and for the people,” said Gabbard. “It is a party that has been and continues to be influenced by the foreign policy establishment in Washington, represented by Hillary Clinton and others’ foreign policy, by the military industrial complex, and other greedy corporate interests.”
Gabbard pressed further, saying that she aims to rebuild the Democratic party and tapped into the overarching theme of her campaign: the military veteran that’s fed up with America’s hawkish, taxpayer-funded approach to foreign policy.
“These are wars that have cost us as American taxpayers trillions of dollars since 9/11 alone, dollars that have come out of our pockets, out of our hospitals, out of our schools, out of our infrastructure needs,” said Gabbard. “As president, I will end this foreign policy, end these regime change wars…and instead invest our hard-earned taxpayer dollars actually into serving the needs of the American people right here at home.”
After a series of familiar questions and answers at the start of the second half, Booker took a moment to finally seize the spotlight by highlighting the concerns that many black voters have voiced over the past year.
“Nobody on this stage should need a focus group to hear from African-American voters,” said Booker. “Black voters are pissed off, and they’re worried…because the only time our issues seem to be really paid attention to by politicians is when people are looking for their vote. And they’re worried because the Democratic Party…doesn’t have authentic connection.”
The New Jersey senator even took a shot at Biden, saying:
“I have a lot of respect for the vice president. He has sworn me into my office as a hero. This week, I hear him literally say that I don’t think we should legalize marijuana. I thought you might have been high when you said it.”
Booker then pointed out how the criminalization of marijuana has led to the imprisonment of black and brown Americans.
“…marijuana in our country is already legal for privileged people. The war on drugs has been a war on black and brown people. With more African-Americans under criminal supervision in America than all the slaves since 1850, do not roll up into communities and not talk directly to issues that are going to relate to the liberation of children, because there are people in Congress right now that admit to smoking marijuana…our kids are in jail right now for those drug crimes.”
Overall, despite the top contenders remaining consistent and Booker getting a brief moment in the spotlight, political junkies and prospective voters should expect to see few noteworthy changes in the polls following this debate.