Democratic debates offer candidates early chance to impress  

Democratic debates offer candidates early chance to impress  

Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders. (AP Photo)

On Wednesday and Thursday, the Democratic Party in the US will hold two days of debates for its primary candidates who are seeking to win the nomination to face President Donald Trump in next year’s election. Typically, a debate is held at one time, but there are so many candidates that it will be split over two nights, with 10 candidates taking the stage each night. The debates will be held in Miami, Florida, and broadcast nationally by the television network NBC.
Four years ago, when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ran, none of her opponents dared to criticize her. It was widely expected that she would win the Democrat nomination — as she did — and then the presidential election, which she did not. But this is a new campaign and there will be 20 ambitious candidates vying for support. It will help voters differentiate if candidates openly disagree and even argue. Disputes among candidates in a debate make it easier for voters to choose their preferred candidates.
This year’s primary also differs from the last election cycle because the Republicans have no real primary. While Democratic candidates are competing with each other, Trump is waiting to find out who he will face in the summer and autumn of 2020. However, it is not like Trump to just sit and wait. The Wall Street Journal reported that he is expected to live tweet the Democratic debates, which may be as entertaining and as important as the debates themselves. Many Americans will be watching to see how he responds to the Democrats’ ideas or how he chooses to belittle or denigrate a candidate simply by pointing out something no one else is brash enough to mention.
Surely, the hottest topic among the Democrats will be the president himself. They are generally very keen to talk about Trump whenever they appear in front of cameras. They love to criticize him, accuse him of crimes, or claim he is reminiscent of some despot from a different time and place. It is safe to assume that Trump will be a common topic on both debate nights.
Though we do not know what questions the candidates will be asked, there are a handful of issues that Democrats like to address at the moment including: Illegal immigration, climate change, and socialized healthcare (or Medicare for all). Over the last few years, the stances of the Democratic Party have moved further and further to the left, so the party must be somewhat concerned about whether their candidates’ views will alienate moderate Americans.

Democrats love to criticize Trump, accuse him of crimes, or claim he is reminiscent of some despot from a different time and place.

Ellen R. Wald

Many Democratic politicians now shy away from using the term “illegal immigration” for fear of causing offense, even though that is the term used in the federal statutes. There seems to be widespread support for not enforcing immigration laws, but the majority of American voters will be looking for the candidates to explain how they will deal with the drug smuggling, human trafficking, terrorism and gang violence that can be facilitated by such policies. 
Global warming is still a topic that is commonly broached by Democratic politicians, and many of them recently supported a Green New Deal proposal that would require massive changes to the US economy and the American way of life. Yet it is debatable that global warming is a serious concern to a large number of Americans. Rivers and the air — even in the largest cities — are quite clean. US voters are often driven by what directly impacts them and their families, and doomsday forecasts about climate change may be too abstract.
Socialized health care has become the Democrats’ preferred solution to a huge economic problem. Health care accounts for a sixth of the US economy today, and it is too expensive. Too many Americans go bankrupt because of health care costs, or they simply neglect appointments and medicine because of the cost. Democratic candidates are generally arguing for varying levels of greater government control over the medical industry, while Republicans prefer less government control or the status quo. Both sides are trying to persuade the undecided voters.
These debates will do much to set the direction of this election. Some unknown candidates may stand out and draw attention. After poor performances, some stragglers will be convinced to drop out. Most importantly, the candidates will be able to see voters’ initial reactions to their talking points and ideas — positive or negative. Modern political campaigns use sophisticated real-time polling to gauge voter impressions. Even though voting in the primaries is largely restricted to those who have registered with the Democratic Party, Americans of all political stripes will be watching these debates and considering the candidates’ opinions on the most important issues of the day.

  • Ellen R. Wald, Ph.D. is a historian and author of “Saudi, Inc.” She is the president of Transversal Consulting and also teaches Middle East history and policy at Jacksonville University. Twitter: @EnergzdEconomy
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