Who’s Left? | Ella T. Lifset

Who's Left

By Ella T. Lifset

On September 12, the third Democratic debate took place in Houston, Texas. The ten candidates that qualified for this debate took the floor to discuss healthcare plans, gun control legislation, and record players. Here are some highlights from the contentious debate:

Barack Obama: Arguably the most popular political figure of the debates was not even on the stage. In the midst of disputes over future policy plans for the presidency, candidates found common ground on one topic in particular: Former President Barack Obama. Biden, Castro, Harris, and Warren each mentioned him in turn praising Obamacare, accomplishments under his administration, and his vision for the country. Although initially divided over Obama’s legacy, ultimately after the September debate, it was clear that the candidates have fully embraced the former president.

The Freedom Dividend: Candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang knows how to play the social media game. Days before the debates, his campaign hinted at something unusual with the trending #YangDebateSurprise, which generated excitement and discussion from the general public online. At Houston, he revealed that his campaign would give out $1,000 to ten families each month for a year, further advertising his plan for Universal Basic Income (UBI), or the Freedom Dividend. If enacted, the policy would arrange for the government to dole out $1,000 each month to every American adult. However, questions regarding legality have arisen, since it is prohibited for “any person” to utilize campaign funds. Nonetheless, the plan had the desired effect with individuals scrambling to visit his campaign website, name recognition and social media trending, and a considerable number of Oprah memes.

Gun Control: From Sanders brandishing his “F” rating from the NRA to Klobuchar directly confronting the “boyfriend loophole” (a loophole in gun legislation that allows abusive ex-partners to legally obtain a gun), the controversial topic was addressed at length during the debates by every candidate. However, perhaps one of the most memorable moments at the September 12th debates was Beto O’Rourke’s remarks: “We’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47… we’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.” Fellow candidates praised O’Rourke for his handling of and response after the El Paso shootings, in which he took time off the campaign trail to help out in his hometown community after the devastating mass shooting. 

The infamous record player: Biden has certainly received criticism over his several months of campaigning not only in regards to his political past, but also because of his age. Although he has largely tried to distance himself from his septuagenarian status, his remarks during the September 12th debate has proven this impossible. While addressing points about America’s uglier history of slavery, Biden rapidly went off on a tangent discussing segregation in schooling and how children do not hear enough words. He then delivered the kicker: “play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the — the — make sure that kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.” Biden’s rambling reply to the slavery question and explicit mention of what he thought was a modern piece of technology may have permanently associated him with a statement of political demise: he may just be too old.