The New Yorker’s Coverage of the September Democratic Debate
The latest Democratic Presidential debate, which ran for three hours, on Thursday night, at Texas Southern University, in Houston, began, The New Yorker’s Benjamin Wallace-Wells noted, on a familiar subject, health care, and in familiar terms. Candidates arguing for the more progressive Medicare for All program (including Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren) clashed with those supporting a more modest expansion of Obamacare—including, most notably, former Vice-President Joe Biden, who had an uneven night, John Cassidy wrote. Summing up the back-and-forth, Senator Kamala Harris, of California, suggested that the increasingly small-bore policy disputes among the speakers had “given the American public a headache.” The candidates, it seemed, couldn’t quite agree on what they should be debating at the debate. Later on, Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who was lacking much of his previous insurgent enthusiasm, Eric Lach pointed out, worried that everyone was getting bogged down, going on about “my plan, your plan.” “Yeah, that’s called the Democratic primary election, Pete,” Julián Castro, a former Cabinet official in the Obama Administration, replied. “That’s called an election.”
What everyone presumably could agree on was that this moment in American history called for a more serious tone than is currently coming out of the Oval Office. In her opening statement, Senator Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, criticized President Trump, saying, “We have a guy there that is literally running our country like a game show . . . . I think we need something different.” Or not: a few minutes later, the entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who is running on the issue of universal basic income, announced that he would be giving ten lucky Americans twelve thousand dollars apiece if they signed up for a drawing through his Web site.
Michael Luo observed that there was one issue around which the ten candidates appeared to coalesce: the urgent need for bolder ideas to curb gun violence. Onstage in Houston, across the state from El Paso, where twenty-two people were shot and killed at a Walmart in August, many of the candidates praised the response of Beto O’Rourke to the massacre, which took place in the district that he had represented in Congress. O’Rourke himself attempted to take the Party’s rhetoric on gun control further than it has gone before, saying, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.” Shortly afterward, Briscoe Cain, a Republican Texas state representative, threatened O’Rourke on Twitter (in a post that was later removed by the service for violating its terms), writing, “My AR is ready for you Robert Francis.”
Read our full coverage of Thursday’s Democratic Presidential debate:
John Cassidy on Biden’s underwhelming performance.
Benjamin Wallace-Wells on whether the Democratic debates are working.
Michael Luo on O’Rourke’s bold statements on gun control.
Eric Lach on Buttigieg’s retreat to conventionality onstage.