BfAZ Authors React to the Second Democractic Debate

Democratic Presidential Debates

By Blog For Arizona’s Authors Mike Bryan, David Gordon and Pamela Powers Hannley

Here is the full video of the event:

Here is the debate transcript.

Reactions from Michael Bryan:

The first and primary takeaway of the second debate was to totally throw open the race: All of the leading candidates are now on a more even footing and the lead could be claimed by any of them.

The second big takeaway is that Joe Biden failed to do the sort of job he needed to to cement his place as leader of the pack.

The final takeaway is the Kamala Harris is as dangerous on the debate stage as she is during questioning in the Senate. She clearly dominated the stage and the night and the markets reflect serious movement in her campaign, polls will follow. She laced into Biden, showing the weaknesses of his record and knocking him off his stride. Mission accomplished.

Joe Biden looked good and stood his ground, but did little else for himself. He seemed confused, angry at times, and a bit rambling and unfocused in his answers. He was not the leader he needed to be on that stage. He was an old man defending a long and bruising career in politics, not the dynamic leader of the Democratic Party. Polls will reflect the new reality that he is just one of the leaders, not the front-runner anymore.

Bernie Sanders was also there to prove that he deserves his support in the polls. Bernie is the origin of many of the platforms of his rivals. He has to prove he is still the best herald for his ideas. He did passably, got plenty of speaking time, and did the job, but not impressively. He will get no momentum from the debate, in my view.

Pete Buttigieg got the stuffing knocked out of him a bit with his response to the fallout from a bad police shooting in his city. “I couldn’t get it done” is a welcome admission of limits to political power, but not a good look on a debate stage. Other than this poor moment, he was his usual polished and ready, scholarly self. Some may leave him over a problem he was unable to solve that few in the country have even been able to solve, but few.

Senator Michael Bennet proved that he is a vital and interesting voice in the race. More will tune in to see what he has to say as a result of his fine performance. Mission accomplished.

Kirstin Gillibrand made some messaging choices to narrow her message and seek the support of women. She connected, but I don’t know if that choice of a narrower audience was wise. Kamala made much better use of her time. No breakout for Gillibrand, but no faults either.

Eric Swallwell made himself felt, unfortunately, that feeling was mostly annoyance. His pass the torch trope was contrived and silly. His advice to Buttigeig was tone-deaf and Trumpian. His interruptions were simply annoying. Why was he there? A national mandatory assault weapon buy-back is not sufficient grounds for a run at the Presidency.

John Hickenlooper made a good impression for his target audience. He seemed confident and well-prepared. I don’t care for much of what he said, but moderates might find him an interesting choice. Mission accomplished.

Marianne Williamson was interesting and got some good crowd reactions, but she’s just too weird for politics. It was like some slightly cracked audience member walked up on stage and stayed. Interesting, but the crazy is poking out at the seams.

Andrew Yang, got the least talk time of any candidate and thus was not much of a factor. He used his time to pitch his standard $1000 per month for all idea and seemed like someone from a future race had been transported back to our time.

Comments by David Gordon

Was at the Tempe Harkins for the second night. It was a Harris, Yang, and Sanders crowd. I think the people that presented the best were Harris, Buttigieg, Bennett (who was the only one out of 20 to get the McConnell question right, and Gillibrand. Hickenlooper, Biden (who accomplished his mission by not gaffing despite what the day after commentators are saying), and Sanders were respectable. I would have liked to have heard more from Yang. Willamson surprisingly gave some interesting answers. Swallwell, with his idiotic attacks on Biden and Sanders (it was funny seeing both of them give him an FU stare in unison) as well as his attacks on Buttigieg, is the candidate that should be kicked off the island.

Why did not any of the candidates or moderators point out that this President is a popular vote loser?

Some more perspective on the debates from the last two days:

1) Most candidates want to build on Obamacare with a Public Option not do Medicare for All.

2) Making crossing the border illegally a civil rather than criminal offense is NOT going to fly well even with legal immigrants who did everything right in entering the country.

3) Giving illegal immigrants access to health care that they pay for makes sense for the reasons the candidates said but they will need to explain it quicker for the people who will have a knee jerk negative reaction.

Comments by Pamela Powers Hannley

The second Democratic Presidential Primary Debate on June 27, 2019 included heavy-hitters former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders as well as others who have gotten a lot of media buzz like South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and California Senator Kamala Harris.

As with the first night’s debate, there were several people who lacked nationwide name recognition. NBC didn’t help them out with that either. The station briefly displayed the speakers’ names but then switched to a generic placard about the debate. Invariably, one of those Colorado candidates would begin to speak, and I’d ask my husband, “Who is this again?”

California Rep. Eric Swallwell got the prize for being the most annoying person of the evening. As with the first debate, decorum was lacking, and candidates engaged each other directly. For the second night in a row, the NBC moderators let the discussions run wild. The second debate was worse than the first one, with multiple candidates interrupting and talking over each other to see who could outlast the others. At one point, it was so over-the-top that Harris warned her colleagues that the American people tuned in to watch a debate not a food fight. Her comments drew hearty applause from the studio audience.

Going into these two nights of debates, I was solidly behind Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, but I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by Harris and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Although some of my good friends are Harris supporters, I had not been following either of these women beyond headlines on social media. I really appreciated Gillibrand’s attack on money in politics and her call for nationwide clean elections. Our elections are controlled by billions of dollars in dirty money and extreme gerrymandering. Many people say that the Congress should have term limits. If we got money out of politics, we wouldn’t need term limits because there would be a level playing field in terms of money. I agree with Gillibrand that nationwide clean elections would allow people of modest means to run for office because money won’t be able to tip the scale. In her closing comments, Gillibrand said she wanted to create a “trickle up economy” and suggested her agenda was “not left, not right, it is forward” (which reminded me of former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Fred DuVal).

Andrew Yang was also very forward-thinking and progressive in his comments on economics. Yang supports a $1000 per month basic income for all Americans. As my colleague Mike Bryan points out above, it’s as if Yang dropped in from the future with this idea. Basic income may be ahead of its time, but I think it makes sense as automation takes away more and more jobs. The most popular job title for men in the US is “driver”. What happens to all of those drivers when self-driving cars and trucks hit the streets? What jobs will be available for thousands of drivers? Libertarians and Progressives have toyed with the concept of basic income for years. Many Libertarians support basic income because they see direct payments to people as a way to provide money to people who really need it, while cutting some of the government’s welfare bureaucracy at the same time. Progressives see basic income as a way to keep roofs over people’s heads. It is cheaper and healthier to give people a basic income than to force them to live on the streets. I applaud Yang for having the guts to talk about basic income.

Buttigieg sounded privileged when talking about student debt and free college tuition. He opposes free college tuition, while many of his opponents support it. He said that if people can figure out how to finance a house, they can figure out how to finance their education. He has said many times that he and his husband are paying off thousands of dollars in college debt. He ended his comments parroting a standard Republican line: “not everyone needs to go to college, anyway.” His comments struck me the wrong way. It’s as if he was saying: if you can’t figure out how to pay for college, don’t go (because the government won’t help you pay for it).

On healthcare, Harris and Sanders were the only ones who said they would give up their current private insurance companies and sign up for Medicare for All. Sanders said the function of the healthcare system in the US isn’t to offer the best care at a fair price, it’s to make money for shareholders. I totally agree. He added that for dramatic change– like Medicare for All– to happen, “Tens of millions of people will have to stand up and tell the insurance companies there day is done.”

Harris gave a touching story of parents in the parking lot of an Emergency Room with their sick child who has an abnormally high fever. She said that when those parents look at the sliding glass doors of the ER, they know that if they walk in, it will cost them at least $5000 to cover the deductible on their health insurance. She said that parents shouldn’t have to make a priced-based decision on whether or not to seek medical care for their children.

Biden said we should build on Obamacare, but said he supported some sort of “buy-in” to Medicare that would be sold on the Healthcare Marketplace. (This sounds like the Medicaid buy-in that Rep. Kelli Butler have been backing here in Arizona.)

Buttigieg— like Biden— was trying to stay friendly to insurance companies in his answers about healthcare insurance.

Gillibrand supports the old public option idea, as a way to increase competition in the healthcare marketplace. When Obamacare was being negotiated Progressives were pushing for a no frills public option that people could purchase– rather than purchasing private insurance. The public option was traded away during negotiations, much to the Progressives’ chagrin. Gillibrand’s theory is that the public option would be affordable, adequate, and popular to the extent that people would increasingly choose it over private insurance, which will eventually dwindle with their market share. I think there is some validity to her theory. I was all-in on the public option back in 2010, and I’d definitely consider bailing on private insurance if a public option was available.

What was it with Biden not raising his decisively? That was really weird. When candidates were asked if their healthcare plans would cover undocumented, all of the candidates raised their hand clearly but Biden who hesitated. At least twice, the moderator had to ask Biden if his hand was up or down. Why should healthcare plans cover the entire population? Because disease outbreaks don’t ask for citizenship papers. Prevention is the wise and cost-effective route to a health nation. If we were all vaccinated and we all had access to preventive screenings (like mammography, skin cancer screening, and colonoscopy) and affordable treatment for health conditions, the whole country would be healthier. It’s penny wise and pound foolish not to offer affordable universal healthcare to all.

The biggest smack down of the night occurred when Harris took on Biden‘s anti-busing record and took issue with his recent friendly comments about segregationists he was friends with in Congress. During the school desegregation days, Biden opposed busing students to maintain racial balance and equity in public education. During the debate, he tried to have it both ways by saying that he didn’t support a national policy on busing. He supported the authority of local school boards to make decisions on whether to bus students or not. Harris surprised everyone when she said she was on the desegregation school bus when Biden was standing against busing.

Several candidates had good closing remarks, but Harris was touching, “This election is about you. What worries you? What wakes you up at 3 a.m.?” She said that her presidency would focus on your “3 a.m. agenda.”

My current top three presidential picks are Warren, Harris, and maybe Gillibrand. It’s a long road to November 2020.





  1. Black people are supporting Joe Biden, especially older black people. They are well aware of his record. Joe has been in politics and elected office long enough to have been on both sides of many issues. That fact is not lost. However, Joe’s most recent accomplishment is to have been a very good VP for eight years for the first African American president and that is HUGE. Black people seem to be better at redemption than your average white liberal.

    Also, many black people did not take kindly to Ms. Harris going for Joe Biden’s throat on the subject of racism, segregation, busing, etc…But some early polls show it may have been a good tactical move at least among likely Democratic voters. It was clear to me that it was premeditated, intended to “expose” Joe and chip into his lead.
    That Obama connection is going to be very hard to overcome in the black community and Ms. Harris knows that. She also knows that no Democrat will be nominated or win the election without black support.

    Truthfully, I would prefer Ms. Harris as Attorney General. The Department of Justice is being decimated and will have to be rebuilt. My gut feeling is that she could do it.

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