(Carlo Allegri / Reuters / Wilfredo Le / AP / The Atlantic)
Put on your thinking caps and bust out your college language credit. Night one of the Democratic debates—more than two hours broken down into brief sound bites—featured policy proposals, technical difficulties, a few tense exchanges, and multiple candidates addressing viewers in Spanish.
We’re not done yet: The second half of the Democratic field takes the stage tonight. Below, we’re giving out some awards for the first night, and you’ll find a handy primer on tonight’s field.
First, some news. On the last day of the term, the Supreme Court handed down two highly anticipated rulings:
On the census citizenship question: In another 5–4 decision, the justices blocked a citizenship question from appearing on the 2020 census, calling the Trump administration’s stated argument “contrived.”
(Charlie Neibergall / John Locher / Paul Sancya / AP / The Atlantic)
‣ Most Valiant Attempt to Put Daylight Between Candidates: All, of course, agreed Americans should have access to health care. Show of hands: Four of the 10 are on record supporting Medicare for All. Others argued for a hybrid, incremental approach.
+ Runner-up: Candidates vied throughout the night to show just how much they support Roe v. Wade. They also “avoided the most controversial and contested aspects of abortion policy, including limits on the procedure at any point in a pregnancy,” reports Emma Green. Even more policy-happy candidates like Elizabeth Warren side-stepped.
‣ The Gabbard-Klobuchar-Warren Award for Most Frustratingly Familiar Dynamic: The women onstage mostly spoke when called on, and the men butted in and spoke over one another—a dynamic, as Adrienne Green points out, that frequently plays out in the modern American workplace.
‣ The Chuck Todd Award for Very Brief Foreign-Policy Round Robin: The greatest geopolitical threat to the U.S.? The moderator Chuck Todd’s question highlighted “deeper divisions within the Democratic Party about the foreign-policy answer to Donald Trump’s blend of isolationism, mercantilism, protectionism, and bluster,” writes Kathy Gilsinan. These were some of the threats candidates called out.
(Mike Segar / Reuters / Shutterstock / The Atlantic)
‣ The Jay Inslee Award for Attempting to Have a Debate on Climate Change: Climate change is an issue Democrats somehow still haven’t figured out how to talk about. But Warren, Beto O’Rourke, and “single-issue” candidate Jay Inslee gave it the old college try—even if their talking points didn’t come across very coherently, writes Robinson Meyer.
‣ The Rising Star Award goes to … no one? So what does the Democratic Party stand for? Each candidate focused on his or her favored issues: Julián Castro on immigration, Warren on economic inequality, Tim Ryan on the working class, and so on. “The early debates are about Democrats searching for their new star,” writes Edward-Isaac Dovere.
‣ But theOverperforming Underdog Award goes to: Castro hasn’t polled well, but had a few breakout moments. He provided one of the night’s relatively few heated exchanges, going after fellow Texan O’Rourke on the question of decriminalizing border crossings.
‣ Most Unabashed Pivot: Would he support a marginal individual tax rate of 70 percent on the highest earners? O’Rourke, breaking out his heavily accented Spanish, responded grandly with something about including everyone in our democracy.
Tonight’s debate features a lot of familiar faces: two of the longest-serving elected officials in the race—Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders—alongside Michael Bennet, Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson, and Andrew Yang.
‣ Bernie Sanders, senator from Vermont (independent): You know the self-avowed democratic socialist well from the 2016 primary against Hillary Clinton, during which, according to some, he pushed the party significantly to the left. Many policies embraced by candidates this cycle, such as Medicare for All, felt radical when Sanders proposed them four years ago.
‣ Eric Swalwell, representative from California: Swalwell has centered his campaign on the issue of gun control, proposing policies that would ban assault-style rifles and implement a rifle-buyback program.
(David Williams / The Atlantic)
‣ Marianne Williamson, self-help author: Oprah Winfrey’s supposed “spiritual adviser,” Williamson has never held elected office. She backs progressive policies such as the Green New Deal, and recently apologized after saying policies requiring children to get vaccinated were “draconian.” She also moved to Iowa for all this.