10 of the candidates running in the Democratic Party primary race went on stage on 31 July for the latest televised debate. Facing off against several establishment figures who argued for traditional centrist proposals, Bernie Sanders made waves with his full-throated advocacy for bold progressive action, including a call for an end to the war in Afghanistan. But it was radical healthcare reform that dominated the debate. And Sanders led the way.
Sanders laying the smackdown
One of the most memorable parts of the debate came when one of the various unmemorable centrist Democrats on stage tried to dismiss Sanders’ Medicare-for-all proposal as unrealistic. Sanders was listing all the things that could easily be covered when congressman Tim Ryan interrupted him by claiming Sanders couldn’t be sure that universal care could be that comprehensive. But Sanders quickly replied, “I do know that; I wrote the damn bill.”
Another instantly forgettable centrist Democrat – John Delaney – also tried to disparage Medicare-for-all. One of the debate’s hosts, CNN’s Jake Tapper, asked Sanders what he made of Delaney’s characterization of Medicare-for-all as “political suicide.” Sanders answered bluntly, “You’re wrong.”
Warren also stands firm
Senator Elizabeth Warren has faced criticism for being a latecomer to progressive politics, and very much a ‘Sanders lite’ candidate. But she also came under attack for her progressive proposals. Like Sanders, though, she was quick and firm in standing her ground. Delaney, for example, dismissed her and Sanders’ proposals as “fairytale policies.” But she responded, “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for,” which was met with thunderous applause from the audience.
Social media favours radical reform
Both candidates took to social media to echo their commitment to bold, far-reaching progressive proposals:
"I get a little tired of Democrats afraid of big ideas. Republicans are not afraid of big ideas. They can bail out the crooked on Wall Street, so please don't tell me we can't take on the fossil fuel industry, and *NOTHING HAPPENS UNLESS WE DO THAT*" @BernieSanders #GreenNewDeal pic.twitter.com/Tq8MonbdLA
— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) July 31, 2019
It's disappointing to see some Democrats repeating a lie you normally hear from health insurance lobbyists to attack Medicare for All. In a Bernie Sanders administration, hospitals that provide necessary care to their communities will stay open, period. https://t.co/xSz9snQfCV
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 31, 2019
There’s a lot at stake for our democracy. But we can't choose a candidate we don't believe in just because we’re afraid.
I’m not afraid.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) July 31, 2019
Friendly commentators also came to Sanders and Warren’s defense, praising them for their performances:
— Ԍεοϝϝ 🌹 Squadinista (@SpittingBack) July 31, 2019
Challenging Bernie Sanders to defend Medicare For All in a series of 30-second soundbites is like daring Quentin Tarantino to direct a pastiche film that’s 45 minutes too long – the man has had this art mastered since at least 1994. https://t.co/VhKyLEZ9uu
— Eric Levitz (@EricLevitz) July 31, 2019
Some commentators, however, insisted that Sanders had dominated the debate and that Warren should put her weight behind him to provide a united progressive front:
Bernie won this debate hands-down. And I will admit that I appreciated Warren defending him. Can’t wait for her to drop out and endorse him 😛
— cabral (@axcomrade) July 31, 2019
Time for Bernie 2020
This debate shows yet again that Sanders is the right person to take on Trump next year. Only by challenging the neoliberal status quo that both Republicans and establishment Democrats represent can the Democratic Party mount a serious challenge to Trump. Because unless they emphasize the real causes of people’s misery and offer a radical alternative, it will be open season for Trump to continue to channel people’s resentment toward scapegoats. The time is now for the US to give democratic socialism a chance.
Featured image via YouTube
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