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Dem Debate #2 - Biden on Defense

Night two of the second round of Democratic debates revealed a change in tactics from the candidates. While there was still a focus on creating a united party front in order to defeat Donald Trump, this debate saw more attempts from each of the candidates to knock each other down a peg and move themselves forward in the race. In particular, as former Vice President Joe Biden is widely considered to be the Democratic frontrunner, the other candidates spent much of the debate time targeting and attacking Biden’s campaign in an attempt to take his spot. Biden received more speaking time than any of the other candidates, followed by Kamala Harris and Corey Booker.

The two major veins of critique that Biden received from the other candidates were certain questionable aspects of his past and history, as well as criticism that his policies are too moderate and not progressive enough. In one case, Biden said that he would not rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (TPP), which was an Obama-era agreement from which Trump withdrew. He stated that our government would have to renegotiate some of the specifics of the deal - a stance that many considered ‘not progressive enough’. In another case, Jay Inslee and Andrew Yang criticized Biden for his “middle ground” approach to climate change, arguing that climate change must be dealt with thoroughly and aggressively rather than as a means of political negotiation. Biden fired back that his plan had no middle ground at all, and that as President he would immediately rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and invest $400 billion towards climate change research and resources.

At one point during the debate, audience protesters broke into a chant of “Three million deportations” when Biden was answering a question on immigration (Referring to the 3 million instances of deportation that took place under the Obama administration). Julian Castro pushed this further and continued to criticize Biden for his track record regarding immigration policy. Biden appeared to use two techniques in order to combat all of these critiques, correcting any inaccuracies in their claims against him, and attributing many of his changed policies to the passage of time and a development in his political ideology.

Given the massive bipartisan divide in our country, I still believe that a Democratic candidate with the best chance of defeating Trump in 2020 must be somebody more moderately progressive than staunchly liberal. While it is important to remain true to the ideology of the party, and ideally the nominee would be someone as far left as the party desires, our next President must be somebody willing to reunify our broken government, work across the aisle, and abandon the incendiary rhetoric of our current administration. They must also be able to reach the majority of voting Americans who identify as Independent rather than Democrat or Republican. Though this second round of debates focused on pushing out Joe Biden, he is arguably still the party frontrunner given his wide-reaching policy and familiarity to the public. Our country had the unique opportunity of already seeing his executive work in action between 2008 and 2016, it will be interesting to watch the culling of the candidates and the progress of the frontrunner – whomever that may be.

By Megan Sadorus

Images by: Mike Segar/Reuters and Jim Watson AFP/Getty Images

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