On Wednesday (Feb. 22), CNN hosted the Democratic Leadership Debate and showed a bent but not broken party still trying to recover from the devastating blow of the last presidential election. The debate was to find the new chair of the Democratic Party, the winner of which will play the largest role in deciding the future stances of the party. There were eight candidates in all; Tom Perez, Keith Ellison, Pete Buttigieg, Jehmu Greene, Sam Ronan, Jaime Harrison, Peter Peckarsky, and Sally Boynton Brown. Each candidate expressed their concern about the current president, and where they see the future of the Democratic Party. Ellison summarized the concerns best when he stated, “When Democrats lose elections, bad things happen to good people.”

“When Democrats lose elections, bad things happen to good people.”

Remaining a party of inclusiveness and strengthening their outreach on every level was the reoccurring theme of the debate. “We have for far too long been communicating certain messages to certain communities.” Sally Boynton Brown said of the party’s shortcomings. She went on to say, “For years, we have been an inclusive party…We need to show the inclusiveness is what we’re dedicated to.”  what Perez agreed, mentioning how some citizens living in rural America feel ‘abandoned’ by the Democrats.

When discussing the topic of outreach, the candidates began on the topic of defending citizens from voter ID laws that may restrict them from casting their vote. Greene offered a new way of phrasing their concern to the public by stating, “We need to shift the battlefield from voter suppression to voter expansion.” Peckarsky criticized current voter ID laws, arguing that ‘most of them are unconstitutional.’

On the stances that the future Democratic Party will take, the candidates seem to have had the same basic ideas in mind. When asked about California, currently fighting to become a sanctuary state, Brown says the matter should be left up to the states and the federal government has “too much power.” Greene took the topic a step further by stating, “No human being can be illegal.”

When Ellison was asked about his stance on gun control, he retracted his comments he had allegedly made on Real Time with Bill Maher, where Maher stated that the problem is the second amendment, and Ellison allegedly agreed. Although Ellison denies he ever agreed with Maher, he did say he supported common sense gun control laws and attacked Republicans for their ‘false claims’ by saying, “We don’t want to take your guns away.”

As for money in politics, a concern that fueled the Bernie Sanders movement in 2016, Ronan was the only candidate who mentioned the issue. “We are not addressing the issue which is people do not have a voice in government,” Ronan said. “We need to get money out of politics.”

The candidates also all agreed to stand up for LGBT rights in the wake of transgender rights taking a serious hit by the Trump Administration. Buttigieg showed support for transgender rights and called President Trump a ‘bully’ for his actions. Brown said that LGBT rights are something that the federal government has to defend, rather than having the states decide.

Millennials were also discussed by the candidates quite a bit in the debate. Greene stated that “Millennials are not the future of the party, they are the ‘now’ of the party.” Greene expressed her experience with youth outreach since she was the former president of the Rock The Vote campaign, which she claims increased youth voter turnout by 11%. Buttigieg is a millennial at age 35 and says he can gather the support of other millennials due to his young age.  The activism and political passion were key points of interest throughout the debate.

In conclusion, the Democratic Party’s future seems to be both certain and uncertain. All candidates spoke optimistically of a party that was united, inclusive, youthful and energetic. They all agreed to push peaceful activism during the next four years, and lead the way in mobilizing a resistance against the current administration using inclusiveness and outreach.

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