MIAMI, FL—The first batch of Democratic presidential candidates on Wednesday night sought to change immigration, health, economic, and education policy claiming the American people want what they are offering.
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren came into the debate as a favorite among party voters.
Warren called for decriminalizing crossing the border saying that the U.S. “should not be criminalizing mamas and babies trying to flee violence at home or trying to build a better future. We must pass comprehensive immigration reform that is in line with our values, creates a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants including our DREAMers, and protects our borders.”
She also re-iterated her support for the “Medicare for all” plan, which would include the elimination of all private insurance plans.
Other than a tweet by the sister of Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who questioned NBC’s apparent favoritism towards Warren, the Massachusetts senator escaped unscathed by her on-stage opponents this debate round.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio managed to get some stage time by declaring his support for a 70 percent tax rate on the rich and re-iterating a campaign line he has used since his first run for New York City mayor.
“There is plenty of money in this world, and there’s plenty of money in this country, it’s just in the wrong hands. Democrats have to fix that,” he said.
Only former Maryland Congressman John Delaney called out his fellow Democrats about the problems that can come about with the Medicare-for-all plan.
“I think we should be the party that keeps what’s working and fixes what’s broken,” Delaney said. “We should give everyone in this country health care as a basic human right for free, full stop. But we should also give them the option to buy private insurance.”
“If you go to any hospital in this country and ask them one question, ‘how would it have been for you last year if every one of your bills were paid at the Medicare rate,” Delaney continued. “Every single hospital administrator said they would close…to some extent, we are basically supporting a bill that would have every hospital close.”
De Blasio, however, ripped opened old wounds he created with the NYPD by talking about a conversation he had with his biracial son Dante regarding law enforcement officers.
“For the last 21 years I’ve been raising a black son in America,” de Blasio said.
“And I’ve had to have very, very serious talks with my son, Dante, about how to protect himself in the streets of our city . . . including the fact that he has to take special caution because there have been too many tragedies between young men and our police.”
De Blasio told the same story back in 2014 following the death of Eric Garner because of a struggle with an NYPD officer. NYPD officers became so incensed with the mayor, they turned their backs on him during the funeral of an NYPD officer who was murdered in his squad car.
He doubled down on Wednesday night when asked by reporters about why he brought it up again.
“Look I’ve been down this road before and it’s the truth — I said it because it’s the truth,” he said.
“You know Chirlane [McCray] and I had these conversations with Dante to protect him and millions and millions of American parents have had the same conversation and somehow it’s not supposed to be part of our American dialogue but it’s the truth.”
Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro also discussed his support to decriminalize illegal border crossings and went as far as to get into a back and forth with former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke who disagreed with him.
“Watching those images of Óscar and Valeria is heartbreaking, and should also piss us all off … and it should spur us to action,” Castro said, referencing a father and daughter who died recently attempting to cross the border by swimming through the Rio Grande.
“We would not turn back Valeria and her father, Óscar,” O’Rourke said when answering a question on what he would do on his first day as president.
However, Castro called out O’Rourke when he hesitated on the issue after the Texas Congressman questioned the consequences for the victims of human traffickers and how prosecuting criminals like drug smugglers would work
“I just think it’s a mistake, I think it’s a mistake, Beto, and I think if you truly want to change the system, then we got to repeal that section,” Castro said. “If not, it might as well be the same policy.”
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar both railed against firearms. Klobuchar claimed that gun buyback programs were not mandatory while Booker described hearing gunshots in his own neighborhood of Trenton, New Jersey.
President Donald Trump, whose name was barely mentioned throughout the entire debate, but his policies were alluded to often, tweeted once stating the debate was “boring.”
The next debate round Thursday night includes Democratic front-runners former-vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, so more fireworks are likely to erupt.
The other candidates joining them will be Marianne Williamson, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, Andrew Yang, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Michael Bennet, Rep. Eric Swalwell.