“Who is best positioned to defeat the Weapon of Mass Distraction?” 

That phrase was coined by Marc Morial, the President of the National Urban League, Tuesday evening as he previewed the first debate. As the media descended upon Detroit’s Fox Theatre, twenty candidates debated in a state that President Donald Trump won by fewer than 11,000 votes in 2016. 

In the first debate Tuesday night, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) did not spar with each other, instead Warren summed up a majority of the debate in nine seconds. 

“I don’t understand,” she said to former Maryland Rep. John Delaney. “Why someone would go through all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to tell us what we can’t do and what you won’t fight for.”

The haphazard debate that would have been most remembered for the limited time the CNN moderators gave the candidates to respond to policy questions, gave way to sharp and quick-witted answers.

Bernie and Warren supported each other as they made cases for Medicare-for-All, and compassionate border security as both allies wanted the American electorate to know they want to not only defeat President Donald Trump, but have plans to put the country back together again. 

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, 37, is the youngest candidate of the twenty. He was asked by debate moderator Don Lemon whether age should be a factor at the primaries next year, Buttigieg conceded that it shouldn’t.

“I don’t care how old you are. I care about your vision. But I do think it matters that we have a new generation of leaders stepping up around the world,” he said in reference to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was 37 when she took office in October of 2017. 

Wednesday night, the second debate was interrupted three times by protesters. The first (and most prominent) interruption came from four individuals in the audience shouting “Fire Pantaleo.” Daniel Pantaleo is the NYPD officer who put Eric Garner in a deadly chokehold five years ago. He’s still employed by the NYPD. When pressed, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the Garner family deserved justice. 

Tamika D. Mallory identified herself as one of the protesters. They interrupted Booker’s opening statement because police officers told her and other protestors to leave or be arrested. “We stayed seated and then they forcibly removed us. We chanted ‘Fire Pantaleo’ & ‘I can’t breathe’ as we were being removed,” she tweeted.

One hour later, the debate turned to criminal justice reform. Most wondered if Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would be interrogated on their past support of the 1994 Crime Bill and mandatory minimums instituted by President Reagan. The interrogation came from Hawaii Rep., Tulsi Gabbard. 

Gabbard said she is concerned with Harris’s record on crime during the California Senator’s time as District Attorney of San Francisco and California’s Attorney General.

Harris “put over 1500 people in jail for marijuana violations and laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked,” Gabbard said as the California senator shook her head.

Gabbard added that Harris also “blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so.”

The Hawaii senator also said Harris “kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California” and “fought to keep cash bail system in place that impacts poor people in the worst kind of way.”

However, Harris did not dignify Gabbard’s response in the spin room. The California senator admitted during a February interview on a New York-based radio show “The Breakfast Club,” Harris said she had smoked marijuana in the past, “I have. And I inhaled ⁠— I did inhale. It was a long time ago. But, yes.” The senator then laughed, according to a CNN article, admitting she tried pot in college and noted that it was in the form of a joint. “I just broke news,” she said.

Booker also challenged Biden when the former Vice-President defended President Obama’s record. “You can’t have it both ways. You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign. You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge it when it’s not.” Booker did a great job of preventing Biden from getting back on course during this topic.

At the end of the two nights, a few things became clear to viewers: 

  1. Medicare-for-All will be a bell-weather issue as the Democrats define the scope of what their plan is.
  2. Black women need to be included in a greater way on moderator stages. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 55% of eligible black women voters cast ballots in November 2018, a full six percentage points above the national turnout. This means, issues that directly affect communities of color, the working class and young people such as the Voting Rights Act, college debt, and gun violence are not discussed in a forthright manner.
  3. Biden will never accept being humbled. While the former Vice-President clung on to every Obama-era accomplishment as part of his record, he never took the time to apologize for the mistakes he made along the way. Look for President Trump to seize upon it and proclaim Biden as a part of “The Swamp.”

It appears that Warren has emerged as the leader heading into the September debates. Also, Biden, Booker, Castro, Harris, Gillibrand, and Mayor Pete should easily advance to the next round. 

From left, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Andrew Yang participate in the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Wednesday, July 31, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...

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