The Democratic Presidential Debates: The Candidates in The New Yorker
It would be silly to expect much actual debating at this week’s Democratic primary debates. Twenty candidates—ten on each night—will take the stage, on Wednesday and Thursday, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, in Miami, a crowd of competitors so large that it won’t leave much room for deliberative back-and-forth. A more appropriate label for the events (and this has become a common campaign-year observation) might be joint national-television appearances. It’s unlikely that the viewers of the events in Miami will come away from them with a richer sense of the differences between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren; or of the candidates’ varied plans for health care, student debt, the climate, and housing; or of how the candidates’ lives have shaped their beliefs and would-be governing styles.
Still, the events in Miami will mark a new stage in the 2020 election. The field is set, and, going forward, the questions will no longer be about who will get in, and why, but about who will be forced to drop out, and why. The reactions of voters, donors, and the political world to the personalities and policies of the candidates will start to harden from here, and the debates might also be seen as opportunities for a collective check-in. The longshots will be trying to cut through, to make a moment for themselves, and to get people talking. The front-runners will be trying to look the part, to contrast themselves from other front-runners, and to not screw things up too badly. This week’s debates are the first of many—by the end of the primary season, it will surely feel like the number of debates was countless. Some moments from these events will be remembered. Most will be consigned to YouTube clips watched only by political junkies and graduate students. The primaries are creeping closer, and the contest for the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination is now officially in full swing.
Even the similarities between the two men are revealing.
Biden has made Donald Trump his focus since the start of his campaign, the slogan of which is “Our best days lie ahead.” It might instead be “Let me at ’em.”
A rally in Pittsburgh was comfortably familiar terrain for the former Vice-President, who showed his ability to make a piercing emotional connection with his target audience.
Biden will seek to persuade Americans that, after the agonies of Trumpism, the benefits of his experience outweigh his liabilities.
In Sanders’s account of global affairs, Americans have been as likely to be villains as heroes.
Sanders has spent decades attacking inequality. Now the country is listening.
Can the Presidential hopeful push the Democratic Party to embrace corporate co-governance as a solution to wealth disparity?
The candidate makes a Midwest bid for front-runner status.
The senator from Massachusetts made her name attacking Wall Street. Now she’s bringing her plans to fight outsized wealth to the 2020 Presidential race.
At a time when many of the Democratic candidates are still settling on their campaign themes, the level of detail in Warren’s plans has put her at an advantage.
Warren’s Oklahoma roots are modest. Her mother worked at Sears; her father was a janitor. Politically, she is a throwback to a more combative progressive tradition.
The starkest apparent point of contrast between the the two candidates is how they describe themselves ideologically.
Before announcing her Presidential candidacy, the California senator published a memoir that serves to expand on her public persona and to explain how the part of the Democratic Party that she represents has changed.
In her second trip to the state since she announced her Presidential campaign, Harris showed herself to be warm, eager to laugh, and ready for a fight.
The surging Presidential hopeful explains a career that has included Navy service, two terms as a small-city mayor, and coming out as gay.
Two years ago, a working group published plans to address what was seen as a growing problem in the city. Critics say the mayor’s office has been slow to act.
Against the image of the millennial left, Buttigieg appears to be a relatively prosaic Presidential candidate. But, in his own understated way, he is suggesting a sharp break with the past.
His Senate campaign created huge enthusiasm, but he has faltered as a Presidential candidate. He’s trying to revive his campaign by meeting every voter he can.
The former Texas congressman offers a New South vision of political centrism.
After O’Rourke praised Ian MacKaye in an interview, punk and hardcore fans scrambled to decode his allegiance. Was it even possible to be a politician and a punk simultaneously?
Gillibrand’s Presidential campaign contains a theory about the reaction to Trump—that it represents not a leftward shift in American politics but the revelation of a new progressive moral majority.
Last fall, the New Jersey senator announced a plan in which the government would create a trust account for each new infant in the United States.
In a crowded field, the former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro is trying to set himself apart by focussing on the President’s signature issue.
“This is basically a race,” the Democratic governor of Washington says, of the growing urgency surrounding climate policy. “Who’s going to win, us or climate change?”