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Dem Debates Round 6: The Dauntless and the Defeated

The December 19 Democratic debates, which took place in Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University after some controversy over threats of a labor union strike. Here, the AYCE board dives into what we found was one of the most enjoyable debates thus far. From our family to yours, happy holidays!

What We Liked:

Surya: I enjoyed seeing a greater amount of speaking time for some candidates like Yang and Klobuchar. I also liked the amount of rebuttal the moderators gave the candidates since there were fewer of them. It was good for the moderates to finally have more chance to hit back at the progressives this time, which is something I felt that the last debates lacked.

Camille: Four things. First: CLASH! I loved the conflict between Warren and Buttigieg, between Klobuchar and Buttigieg, between Biden and Bernie, and more. I saw a lot of competing ideas finally get debated (which is literally the purpose of these nights), which was very satisfying. Second: moderators. I liked the moderators a lot more than I had the previous debates, because their questions didn’t seem as biased and they hit the candidates hard on their weak spots. Third: speaking times. I loved the LACK of candidates. It seemed like everyone got their fair share of speaking time, and for once I felt like I could actually evaluate each candidate for what they stood for. Fourth: humor. I know that some of the board members thought the jokes were cringey, but I think this is the funniest debate I’ve ever watched.

Elaine: Like the other board members, I enjoyed hearing many more voices tonight. The moderators did a good job bringing in all of the candidates and holding them accountable for actually answering (or at least somewhat addressing) their questions.

Nikhil: The debate hosts actually gave all of the candidates more equal speaking time (Andrew Yang), instead of the entire debate focusing on the same argument between the same candidates. The past few debates have been the exact same dialogue over and over again. “Thank you, Senator Warren, now onto Bernie to talk about Medicare. Thanks, Bernie, now onto Biden to give us some extremely long anecdote about his time with Obama.” Even though the actual policy discussed in the debate wasn’t any different, at least I got to hear a few more voices.

What Was Not-So-Liked:

Surya: I really, really hate identity politics. And this debate showed us a lot of it. The moderators prompted topics on race and age, which, while important to talk about, can be very alienating to certain demographics of voters. The Democratic Party finds strength in its diversity but encouraging voting for someone based on the color of their skin or their age is simply not healthy for democracy. The same issue also comes up with all the “who receives the least billionaire donations” discussion pushed by Sanders, Warren, and Yang that targeted people like Buttigieg and Biden for taking contributions from wealthy people. Of course, it’s sensible to be against billionaires buying out elections and vying for top cabinet positions, but some candidates need to realize that not everyone has the resources to successfully run campaigns without them. Also: cringey jokes.

Camille: I lowkey didn’t like how the moderators cut off some of the spicy conflicts to move on, but I understood that there were 7 people on stage and there were bigger issues to discuss.

Elaine: I also didn’t enjoy the overemphasis on campaign donations. I definitely take issue with billionaires buying out campaigns and dark money controlling Washington, but having wealthy donors doesn’t automatically mean that Buttigieg is going to become a puppet of the elite. After all, a campaign needs funding to continue.

Nikhil: Everyone attacking Pete Buttigieg over the “wine cave.” The hypocrisy of the entire situation was a little annoying since the rest of the candidates act like they haven’t received high-value donations in the past. It’s not Buttigieg’s fault for wanting to win over the support of the ultra-wealthy. Even though in this election cycle, the “rich” are made out to be the enemy, they are still part of the electorate, and Buttigieg is just trying to get votes. In the beginning, I was fine with Warren pointing it out as one of her rehearsed one-liners, but after a certain point, it got old. We get it, Buttigieg wants votes and money. That’s not a mind-breaking announcement that anybody watching the debates actually cares about. They needed to get back to actual policy.

Joe Biden:

Surya: Biden did a better job in this debate without the frequent stuttering, but once again he didn’t have any sort of revelatory breakthrough to clearly establish him as the top of the pack; he still seems to lack energy or look to bring bought radical change in the White House. He did, however, establish that he can work across the aisle and get legislation passed with realistic goals, but he may have been outshined by fellow moderate Amy Klobuchar this night.

Camille: WOW! I can safely say that this is the first time I will be writing a review on Biden that does not involve gaffes. I kept waiting for it to happen, but Biden was clear and concise throughout the night. Although I could hear some repetition going on, his overall thought train was going in a consistent direction. I thought that this was Biden’s best night, and he really represented the moderate, I-Can-Beat-Trump stance that his campaign has been going for. I bet his campaign staff is relieved.

Elaine: I’m not the biggest Biden fan because his gaffes have just destroyed my respect for him as a candidate. However, I enjoyed his performance in this debate. He’s finally dialed back the Obama stories and refocused his answers on his ability to reach across the aisle and get things done as an individual, irrespective of the people around him. To me, he shone during this debate, even though he still had to have a slip-up when he couldn’t understand moderator Amna Nawaz when she correctly pronounced Afghanistan, albeit in a different accent than most Americans hear.

Nikhil: Finally, a half-decent debate for Joe Biden. After a series of stuttering performances, Biden was able to deliver a coherent message, especially on working together with Republicans. While every other candidate has the same rehearsed message about the necessity of bipartisanship, Biden was the only one that gave a coherent reason for why he could deliver on this promise. While Biden’s answers in the past have been focused on simply attempting to claim Obama’s success, this debate showed viewers the spark that people actually saw in him while he was VP. With Warren faltering, Buttigieg getting hammered at this debate, and Bernie not gaining any real momentum, this debate ceme