Last night’s debate which featured Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren fending off candidates who accused their Medicare for All plan of being too radical, highlighting fault lines in the party. This night, candidates were also separated into two camps, with progressives calling for decisive tectonic changes, while centrists suggested they were playing into Trump’s strategy of labeling Democrats as extremes.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a progressive, advocated for “restructuring” the entire US society.
"We will tax the hell out of the wealthy," he claimed.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Biden's climate plan isn’t enough to move the US fast enough off of fossil fuels. ”Middle-ground solutions like the vice president has proposed [...] are not going to save us,” Inslee said. “Too little too late is too dangerous."
The Green New Deal, which seeks to remove US fossil fuel dependence entirely and is backed by progressives was used by Trump to ridicule Democrats as proponents of impossibly extreme solutions.
Biden, the highest polling Dem candidate at the moment, quickly found himself under attack from the rest of the candidates, most prominently Harris, as the two clashed over their healthcare plans.
Minutes before the debate began, Biden’s microphone caught the 76-year old former vice president saying "Go easy on me, kid” to 54-year old Senator Harris.
Other than healthcare, Biden was under attack over climate change and his past legislative record, including his inability to tackle illegal immigration that Trump is struggling to curb now.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker likened Biden’s stance on immigration – which involves allowing immigrants access to higher education in the US and subsequently achieve citizenship – to Trump’s preference for European-educated migrants to low-educated ones coming from what Trump called “shithole countries” of Africa and Central America.
Both Biden and Harris came under fire for their record during their service as state officials.
Harris was challenged for her record as a prosecutor and California's attorney general, notably by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.
"Sen. Harris says she's proud of her record as a prosecutor and that she'll be a prosecutor president, but I'm deeply concerned about this record," Gabbard said. "Too many examples to cite, but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana."
Booker called out Biden for his support of a 1994 crime bill that exacerbated mass incarceration in communities of color, to which Biden quipped that Booker himself supported the stop and frisk policy targeting minorities during his tenure as Newark mayor.
However, the candidates found unity lambasting the Republican president, with Booker calling him a "demagogue," Gabbard saying Trump "is not behaving like a patriot," Julian Castro blatantly branding the president a "racist,” and Inslee calling Trump a "white nationalist."
"We can no longer allow a white nationalist to be in the White House," Inslee said.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand raised a few eyebrows by saying the first thing she will do if elected would be to “Clorox the Oval office.”
Yet, despite that, de Blasio asked Biden whether he still supported with the deportation of 800,000 immigrants during the first two years of Obama's administration, which is more than during the first two years of Trump presidency.
"To compare [Obama] to Donald Trump, I think is absolutely bizarre," Biden countered.