First Democratic Debate Takes Place in Las Vegas


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Democrats around the country got their first real look at their choice of candidates last Tuesday, though the debate did not feature Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig (who is running for President) and Joseph “Joe” Biden (who recently announced he wouldn’t be running).  The debate included:

  • Lincoln Chafee (Former governor, Rhode Island)
  • Hillary Clinton (Former Secretary of State)
  • Martin O’Malley (Former governor, Maryland)
  • Bernie Sanders (Senator, Vermont)
  • James “Jim” Webb (Former senator, Virginia)

Webb and Chafee have since dropped from the race.

On gun control, Sanders claimed, “Over the years, I have strongly supported instant background checks, doing away with this terrible gun show loophole.”  Sanders also supported a ban on assault weaponry, while also emphasizing the importance of providing suicidal and homicidal people with mental healthcare.  Clinton countered by stating Sanders isn’t tough enough on gun manufacturers; “He [Sanders] was going to give immunity to the only industry in America, everyone else has to be accountable, but not the gun manufacturers!  And we need to stand up and say enough of that.”

O’Malley said, “We’ve passed comprehensive gun safety legislation [in Maryland].” He also attacked the National Rifle Association, claiming that it has too much power over congressmen.  Chafee explained that, “The legislators that vote for common-sense gun safety measures then get defeated [because of NRA campaigns]…so I would bring the gun lobby in… [and] find common ground.”

On foreign policy, Clinton stated, “We have to stand up to his [Vladimir Putin’s] bullying and specifically in Syria it is important…to make it clear that they [Russia] have got to be part of the solution to try to end that bloody conflict [in the Middle East], and to provide safe zones so people do not have to be flooding out of Syria at the rate they are.”  She also stated her concern over the spread of ISIS.

Sanders emphasized, “I will do everything that I can to make sure the United States does not get involved in another quagmire like we did in Iraq,” He also doubted the effectiveness of a no-fly zone in Syria, saying it could lead to heightened tension in the region.

Chafee called Clinton’s judgment into question, citing Clinton’s vote in favor of fighting the Iraq war and labeling it as a major blunder. O’Malley stated, “No President, no Commander in Chief, should take the military option off the table…[but] I would not be so quick [as Clinton] to pull for a military tool.”  He advocated for increasing the gathering of intelligence as a means of decreasing risk.

On the Black Lives Matter movement, Sanders held that, “The African American community knows that on any given day, some innocent person…can get into a car, and three days later end up dead in jail, or their kids are going to get shot. We need to combat institutional racism from top to bottom and we need major, major reforms in a broken criminal justice system.”  O’Malley said that, “As a nation, we have undervalued the lives of black lives [sic], people of color.”

Clinton attacked Republicans on this issue, stating that, “[Obama] has laid out an agenda that has been obstructed by the Republicans at every turn.” She advocated for the use of body cameras and ending mass incarceration, and also said, “We have to do more for the lives of these children…we have to be committed to making it possible for each child can live up to his or her God-given potential.  That is really hard to do when you don’t have early childhood education, if you don’t have schools that are able to meet the needs of the people, or good housing…we need a new New Deal for communities of color and the poor.”

On the economy, Sanders stated, “What we need to do is create millions of jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, have pay equity for women workers…and make every public college and university in this country tuition-free.”

Clinton stated, “I have a 5-point economic plan…the economy does better with a democrat in the White House.”

O’Malley demonstrated his achievements in this area, saying, “We raised the minimum wage, passed the living wage, invested more in infrastructure, went four years in a row without a penny increase to college tuition…we need to separate the casino, speculative, mega-bank, gambling…from the commercial banking.” He also advocated reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act (which prohibited commercial banks from engaging in investment banking and insurance activities; passed in 1933 but repealed in 1999).

Sanders wanted to break up large Wall Street banks, but Clinton favored charging them more and increasing monitoring, but otherwise leaving them intact.

Chafee advocated for instating a new tax bracket for the top echelon of the population, which he said would generate $42 billion and would reverse the Bush Tax Cuts, which he said favored the wealthy.

When discussing climate change, O’Malley stated that he was the only candidate in either party to issue a plan, and that his plan would shift America to 100% clean electricity by the year 2050, and criticized the “all of the above” energy policy. Sanders stated, “The scientists are telling us we need to move extremely boldly…we introduced the first piece of climate change legislation, which called for a tax on carbon.”