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Key Takeaways From The First Democratic Debate: Night One

Night one of the first Democratic debate (hosted by NBC) featured ten of the twenty Democratic candidates: Bill de Blasio, Cory Booker, Julián Castro, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar,  Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, and Elizabeth Warren. Here are some of the major takeaways from the debate.

Watch the full debate here.

Economy & Education

via Debate; de Blasio addressing pay gap

All of the candidates were in agreement about one thing: the upper 1% has too much power on the economy. They all agreed that the power in the economy needs to be transferred toward the people. Many of them asserted that GDP and other measures of America’s successful economy were faulty, mainly because they did not represent the people and what was truly happening to the majority of the US. Booker and Warren both addressed that companies who dodge taxes such as Amazon deserve to be called out. Castro, Gabbard, and de Blasio were all asked about the equal pay gap, and while both Castro and De Blasio offered legislation, Gabbard dodged the questions, addressing military funding instead.

Several candidates brought up the ties between the economy and education. Klobuchar addressed her new willingness to establish free college and noted that funding community college was fair because it aided the right part of America. Other candidates also stressed the importance of education in fostering a better economy, with many addressing rising student debt in the middle class. Finally, Green Energy was brought in as a potential solution to the current job crisis, with many candidates supporting this newer method of job creation.


Arguably, this was one of the issues that Democrats were most split over tonight. The candidate mix on the issue was wide, with some (de Blasio and Warren) backing a fully public system, and others (the majority of the field) backing choice or even a system closely related to Medicare for all. While Warren and de Blasio held their ground on a fully public stance, arguing that many families cannot sustain themselves on private insurance, O’Rourke, among others, argued that the choice is instrumental to the process of the healthcare system. In other words, many believed that there is no reason to get rid of what’s working, but there is a need to potentially add public access.

Generally, the shared goal across the board was to get everyone covered. However, the methods of doing so did vary heavily among the candidates. Klobuchar backed a buying into Medicare for all but called the plan too radical for full public reinforcement. Along those lines, Delaney proposed “Bettercare”, where additional insurance can be purchased on top of Medicare. The entire field was pro-choice. Finally, many candidates addressed that the still persistent opioid epidemic should be solved by placing the blame upon companies.


After the case hours before where a man and his daughter were found dead from trying to enter into the US, immigration became a more painful topic for multiple Democrats tonight. Castro started off the debate on immigration with his extensive immigration plan and was backed up by Booker. Many Democrats agreed that the border crisis was taken too far, and all of them shared an idea that in order to solve the immigration problem, there needs to be a way to solve the root of the issue: the countries people are coming from. All the candidates also supported the reintroduction of DACA. One of the most notable discussions in immigration came up with the mentioning of section 1325, the charge that allows Republicans to justify family separation. Most candidates stated that there should be criminal restrictions against those who are smuggling drugs across the border, but that seeking asylum should be handled civilly.


Everyone except Cory Booker affirmed that they would reinstate the country into the 2015 Nuclear (Iran) Deal. Booker said that pulling out of the deal was a mistake, but that he would try his best to negotiate an even better one. All of them addressed that Trump was the major issue behind current national security, highlighting the urgency of the overall situation. Gabbard also pushed for public understanding on what the war on Iran would mean for the US, citing her own time in the military. While there were issues in the negotiation, most felt comfortable mostly reverting to the older deal. When given the hypothetical to draw a red line between war and no war with Iran, Gabbard quickly shifted the issue back to the Trump administration.


For the most part, candidates all wanted universal background checks, red flag laws, and assault weapon bans. For Warren, gun control turned into a “national health emergency” in which she pushed for additional government research and addressed the growing issue. Booker called for action, with a “bold plan and bold agenda” and highlighted his personal experience with guns in his neighborhood and town area. Mass shootings in school were brought up, and candidates were in agreement that this was an urgent situation. Ryan also brought up that children need trauma aid in dealing with the constant stress that guns bring to their day to day lives. He proposed digging down into the core of the issue and making sure that all kids feel comfortable at school. Guns would not hurt hunting. De Blasio addressed police violence, talking about making streets safer.

Climate Change

Inslee started off by confirming that Climate Change is his biggest issue, sharing his plan for a cleaner run America. Climate change turns out to be the most unifying issue of the night. Climate change and jobs are fully intertwined, as many of the candidates proposed that creating jobs for managing clean energy, they would simultaneously aid those affected by Climate Change. Many of them committed to signing back into the Paris Climate Agreement. Castro addressed his ability to help out with properties which are being built in risky areas and talked about Puerto Rico and how he would have aided better. However, the moderators brushed over the issue, and it only received seven minutes of screen time.

Equality (LGBTQ+, Race) 

Gabbard apologized for her past behavior, noting that she is now fully supportive of the LGBTQ+ community. Booker, Castro, and others addressed their involvement in diversity. Many of the candidates called out the divide among people and the oppression of minority groups, vowing to sign in on equality acts, with some promising to go above and beyond and create full equal opportunity for everyone. Will work so everyone can work and create a criminal justice reform (Klobuchar and Booker). They agreed that economic and social reforms were essential in drawing minority voters to the party.

Foreign Policy

Many addressed how Trump’s hate has gone too far for foreign policy, and that we need to “live our values”. They all agreed that the president needs to appoint the right people onto the board to manage our current issues and that the crises we’ve faced with multiple countries need to be fixed in a more respectful manner. They addressed that several of Trump’s claims were too rash and that as president, most would take a more fair approach towards handling many foreign policy issues. Gabbard spoke out, saying that the party must pull troops out of Afghanistan, and so the President needs to know the cost of war. Ryan contradicted her, noting that “when we pulled out of Afghanistan, they started crashing planes into our buildings”.

The Greatest Geopolitical Threat

Delaney: China and Nuclear weapons

Inslee: Donald Trump

Gabbard: Nuclear War

Klobuchar: China (economic) and the Middle East

O’Rourke: Climate Change

Warren: Climate Change

Booker: Nuclear Proliferation and Climate Change

Castro: China and Climate Change

Ryan: China

de Blasio: Russia

Trump’s Impeachment 

The candidates who spoke agreed that there needs to be a law in place for impeachment if something along the lines of Trump’s case were ever to happen again. Delaney said that Trump, while a current threat, won’t matter that much in their 2020 candidacy. Most players in the field said that they would turn toward more pressing issues (i.e healthcare and climate change). But still, others agreed that Russian interference in elections was still going too far.

How the Candidates Did

Experts agree that the debate tonight further narrowed the field. While several of the bigger names such as Warren, Klobuchar, Booker, and Inslee managed to hold their ground well, many of the other candidates were not as successful. Castro, typically thought of as a more second tiered candidate, did well in the debate, pushing his ideas on immigration to new heights. However, Gabbard, Delaney, and Ryan failed to make great strides for their respective campaigns. Ultimately, O’Rourke, who has never been seen as a strong debater, struggled to create a presence for himself tonight and arguably performed the worst out of the batch.

Featured Image via Debate

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