How the Democratic Primary Debates Are Similar to Life at YU

By: Phillip Nagler  |  August 27, 2019
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By Phillip Nagler, Opinion Editor

In case you haven’t heard, there are many people running for president in 2020. To be exact, there are twenty six candidates: 24 Democrats and 2 Republicans. The Democratic National Convention (DNC) decided it would be wise to have 12 primary debates, the first six of them consisting of up to 10 candidates per night. In the first two rounds, the multitude of candidates created quite a commotion, resorting to personal attacks, shouting over one another, pre-rehearsed cheesy one-liners, and even a warning of the “dark psychic force” that emanates from Donald Trump.

Don’t sweat it if you missed the June and July debates, because another round of primary debates is coming up in September, and it will only feature the top candidates. To qualify for this round, one must accumulate 130,000 unique individual donors for their campaign, in addition to exceeding 2% in four different Democratic presidential polls. As of now, eight candidates have qualified for this primary debate. I have taken the liberty of giving my own take on these frontrunners in order to introduce them, as it is vital that all college students are politically informed, especially in this polarizing era. Hopefully, it will inspire you to more thoroughly examine some of these political figures, as one just might be the next president of our nation.

The Top Candidates:

  • Former vice president, Joe Biden, is currently leading in the race with a pretty wide margin of support compared to the other candidates. Voters are hoping that he will bring another eight years of the Obama presidency (minus Barack Obama.) On the campaign trail, he has been focusing on his past political accomplishments and achievements, and has been less vocal about his policy proposals. The media has been launching attacks on Biden since he has declared that he is running. Questions are being raised about how he treats women and on his record with racial issues. Although he has had a steady lead, he does not necessarily have the nomination in the bag.
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren has had a recent surge and is currently in second place in most primary polls. With her famous line of “I have a plan for that,” she has built a strong grassroots movement and has energized a base of young progressive voters. Her signature issues are student debt cancellation, a wealth tax, and medicare for all. But these are only a small slice of the pie, as she has proposed a legislative solution for almost every issue that is affecting this country, from the opioid crisis to corruption affecting giant corporations. The way she effortlessly and clearly describes her ideas makes complex political issues comprehensible to even the layman. In addition to positive media portrayal, Warren had two strong debate performances and arguably had the line of the night in the second debate, when she told John Delaney, “I don’t understand why someone would go through all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to tell us what we can’t do and what you won’t fight for.”
  • As progressive as Warren is, Senator Bernie Sanders is undeniably the most left-wing candidate in the race. Sanders is running on his 2016 platform, which he used when he was running against Hillary Clinton. Back then, his ideas were considered extremely radical and many voters were troubled by his self-proclaimed label of Democratic Socialist. Fast forward to 2019, Sanders’ ideas on healthcare and climate change have had a large impact on forming the debate conversations and his ideas have become more mainstream in the Democratic Party. Despite this, many are skeptical that he is fit to serve at his age (he would enter the white house at 79, if he were elected.) His campaign seems to have hit a stump and many of his supporters are migrating to Warren. 
  • Next in the polls is Senator Kamala Harris of California. Harris gained national recognition during the Kavanaugh hearing due to her powerful and unrelenting questioning style. In the first debate, she captured the attention of viewers and the media by landing a jarring attack on Biden, specifically for his record on race-related issues. This momentum gave her a slight boost in the polls, but following her second debate performance, she seems to have lost that momentum. Representative Tulsi Gabbard brought up Harris’s past as Attorney General of California and pointed out that Harris “put 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and laughed about it when asked if she ever smoked marijuana.” Even with her questionable past, Harris would make a strong opponent against Donald Trump, and her supporters are eager to see her debate him on the 2020 stage. 
  • The frontrunners who I have just highlighted are classic DC politicians and have all served in the US Senate. Pete Buttigieg on the other hand, who has been rising in the polls recently, is the mayor of Southbend, Indiana (which is also the hometown of a couple of YU students.) He is the youngest in the race, at just 37 years old, and is the first openly gay man to run for president. Although he does not have the political experience of his opponents, he is a war veteran, a Rhodes scholar, and speaks multiple languages. His bid may be a longshot, but he has received a flood of donations towards his campaign. He took the lead in the second fundraising quarter, amassing a total of 24.8 million dollars for his campaign.

The Others:

  • For the sake of succinctness, I won’t go into too much detail for the few others who will be on September debate stage, as they are polling very low and are unlikely to secure the nomination. Senator Cory Booker will likely make an impression on viewers with his storytelling skills, and not to mention, his big dreamy eyes. Former Representative Beto O’Rourke seems to be on the decline based on his poor performance in the first two debates. While he may make a comeback with his charismatic personality, it seems that his presidential race will be unsuccessful (similar to his race for Senator Ted Cruz’s seat). Senator Amy Klobuchar champions herself as a pragmatist and a leader of bipartisan legislation. She is hoping to end the opioid crisis and combat the high prices of prescription drugs. Unfortunately, she has failed to generate excitement for her campaign and couldn’t fire up a room if she had a blowtorch in hand.

Now that you are a bit more informed about the United States political scene, you may ask — what does any of this have to do with Yeshiva University (as the title of my article insinuates)? Each semester at YU, students will be listening to various voices that are vying for their attention — professors, religious educators, parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, friends, best friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, non-binary friends, etc. School can be overwhelming with so many things to balance and so many important relationships in our lives to grapple with. Similar to the Democratic primary, it is unwise to simply focus on one voice and ignore all the others. But nobody has the time to learn about all the candidates from A-Z. 

The secret to success at anything in life is to have a good strategy and to know how to properly manage one’s time. With a new semester here, it’s important to have a good game plan early on for tackling the semester. Don’t wait until it is reading week, trust me on this one. And of course, don’t forget to make time to keep up with the 2020 election.

 Photo: Flickr

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