Ten of the qualifying Democrats took the stage at the fifth Democratic presidential debate on Wednesday Oct. 20, moderated by MSNBC and The Washington Post. The candidates that have qualified were former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigeig, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Cory Booker, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, and philanthropist Tom Steyer.
Though several of the candidates, such as Harris, Gabbard, Booker, Biden, and Buttigeig, sparred with each other over their differing policy views or their past records throughout the debate, there was more of an emphasis on unity, which was long overdue given the fact that the different factions in the party cause division when deciding which direction should the Democrats move toward – a more moderate or a progressive platform?
Even though I identify as a conservative Republican, I have personally felt for a while that the party was better off as more moderate, for a centrist message would help Democrats gain more traction with moderates, independents, and conservatives, which has happened before when President Obama built the Obama Coalition in his 2008 presidential campaign.
The need for reestablishing the Obama Coalition was mentioned several times throughout the debate starting with Sen. Kamala Harris, who claimed that is how Democrats won the White House in 2008 and in 2012, and I feel she was right, for Democrats need to be the party that includes everyone, especially their strongest supporters – African American voters.
During the debate, Sen. Harris noted that the Democratic party has taken black voters for granted due to low voter turnout in the African American community in the 2016 presidential election, which was caused by a lack of excitement.
This is a perilous situation for Democrats to be in given that 72 percent of African Americans have voted Democratic on average in the last 12 presidential elections, according to a poll conducted by FiveThirtyEight. If black voters continue to feel isolated and unenthusiastic about Democrats, then the party should not expect to win in 2020 without the bulk of their electorate.
Moreover, Democrats must reopen its doors to its moderate and conservative members, such as Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, a noted conservative and pro-life Democrat, who just won reelection on Nov. 17 and is known for signing into law the states newest anti-abortion bill, immensely reducing access to abortions.
Towards the end of the debate, Sen. Warren was asked if she thought about whether the party should be open to politicians like Gov. Edwards. Besides stating that the government should not intervene in a woman’s right to choose, she deliberately did not respond to the question as if it were unimportant, but it was due to the rising progressive wing in the party, which is leaving the future of moderate Democrats in question.
Granted, Sen. Amy Klobuchar mentioned the fact that the American people are with the Democratic party on the issue, saying that 70 percent of Americans support abortion and 90 percent of Americans support funding for Planned Parenthood. However, Democrats need to answer for the remaining 30 percent of Americans who are pro-life, for I believe they should be represented as well if the Democrats want to be the party of tolerance.
Furthermore, on the issue of voting, I agree to an extent with the candidates’ policies. For example, Mayor Buttigieg introduced his plan to have automatic voter registration, stop voter suppression, and end gerrymandering, which is so vital to democracy, for these initiatives will return the power of voting to the American people.
However, I do not agree entirely with Tom Steyer’s proposal to restructure our democracy by transitioning from a republic to direct democracy by allowing, for instance, the people to vote directly for laws instead of members of Congress. He also calls for building coalitions of ordinary Americans to increase voter turnout in elections, which is the benevolent side of his plan, but reshaping America’s democracy completely in my view is a shift too far to the left, which will not lead to a Democratic victory in 2020 since Republicans already label Democrats as socialists.
Aside from a few of the issues the Democratic nominee will face in 2020, the Democratic Party has a more important issue to confront – unifying the country. In the previous debates, Democrats were divided on which direction they should move towards ideologically. I fundamentally believe that a more moderate agenda is the best choice for the party, not because I feel a centrist message will carry them to victory, but because I think centrism will send a message of unity to the whole nation and heal the wounds of a deeply divided and polarized America.