A Recap of the Fifth Democratic Debates

(Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times)


The fifth Democratic debate took place on Thursday, November 20th with ten hopefuls still vying for the Democratic nomination in the upcoming 2020 presidential election. The remaining candidates and debaters include the following: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg, California Sen. Kamala Harris, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobucher, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, entrepreneur Andrew Yang and billionaire activist Tom Steyer. At the start of the debate, the frontrunners were considered to be Warren, Sanders, Biden, and Buttigieg. Following the debate, these four remain at the top. MSNBC and the Washington Post co-sponsored the debate. Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, Ashley Parker, and Kristin Welker moderating. Maddow is the host of the MSNBC nightly news show The Rachel Maddow Show and a political commentator; Mitchell is the NBC news foreign affairs correspondent and host of “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on MSNBC; Parker is White House reporter for the Washington Post; Welker is NBC News’ White House correspondent.

We chose three main topics of the debate that caused disagreements between the candidates, highlighting some of their fundamental differences. Let’s take a look at these categories and see what each candidate had to say.

The Impeachment Inquiry:

Warren began the debate, focusing on the Mueller report and the evidence it provides to show that the president attempted to obstruct justice. She also discussed Ambassador Sondland as an example of the corruption in Washington, seeing that he has no qualifications for his position. Klobuchar responded with an attack on President Trump, saying that he “is a president that not only with regard to his conduct with Ukraine, but every step of the way puts his own private interests, his own partisan interests, his own political interests in front of our country’s interest.” Sanders focused on the American people—specifically those struggling within the country. Following the first three speakers, Senator Harris and Mayor Buttigieg both contributed to the discussion of the criminal conduct on the President.


Division of the Democratic Party over Medicare was a large topic of the night. Senator Warren and Senator Sanders are running on Medicare for all and former Vice President Biden is running on rebuilding Obamacare. Warren discussed her plan to bring down the cost of prescriptions, defend the Affordable Care Act, and bring 135 million people into Medicare for free in her first 100 days as president. Sanders followed Warren’s plan with his own—to introduce Medicare for all in the first week of his administration. Biden rebuked both of these plans, saying that they would never pass in the Senate with the Democrats right now. He provided his plan to build on Obamacare, add a Medicare option, and allow the people to choose what they wanted. 

The Climate Crisis:

Climate change was another big topic of the evening, especially on the candidates’ plans to ensure bipartisan support would be there to continue the fight against climate change. Gabbard discussed one of her plans for the first time that evening, stating that she would “[transition] our country off of fossil fuels and [end] the nearly $30 billion in subsidies that we as taxpayers are currently giving to the fossil fuel industry, instead investing in a green renewable energy economy…” She continued on to say that the United States should invest more in local agriculture. Moderator Maddow gave Tom Steyer the chance to jump in because one of Steyer’s main political points is climate change. He was quick to say that he would declare climate change a national emergency on day one of his presidency, and that he would “make sure that [his] climate policy was led by environmental justice and members of the communities where this society has chosen to put our air and water pollution.” Biden responded by stating that he believes climate change to be an existential threat to humanity, adding that he “[passed] the first climate change bill… managed the $90 billion recovery plan, [invested] more money in infrastructure that related to clean energy than any time we’ve ever done it.” Sanders interjected to state that climate change is happening now, and that we don’t have decades to do something about it. He also said that he will possibly prosecute the fossil fuel industry, to let them know that “their short-term profits are not more important than the future of this planet.”

Additional Resources:

Candidates’ websites:

https://elizabethwarren.com/, https://berniesanders.com/, https://joebiden.com/, https://peteforamerica.com/meet-pete/, https://kamalaharris.org/, https://corybooker.com/, https://amyklobuchar.com/, https://www.tulsi2020.com/, https://www.yang2020.com/, and https://www.tomsteyer.com/

The full transcript of the debate: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/read-democratic-debate-transcript-november-20-2019-n1088186?yptr=yahoo

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