Third Democratic Presidential Debate – Summary, Highlights, and Commentary

Article and Commentary by: Carla Saskia Sanchez, political science student (@carlasanchez_fl)


Live from Manchester, New Hampshire in Saint Anselm College, the three Democratic presidential candidates joined for their third debate. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont) and former governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley discussed foreign policy, health care, education, taxes, corporate America,  and even the role of the next Commander-in-Chief’s spouse.

Opening Statements:

Clinton started off the debate emphasizing safety and economic growth for everyone. She boasts a strategy for defeating ISIS and has proposed solutions for aiding middle-class families.

O’Malley focused his statement on protecting the people of the United States with unity. “We need leadership that brings us together,” he stated, claiming we must never surrender to terrorists, nor give up our American values to racists and “fascist pleas of billionaires with big mouths.”

Sanders introduced himself as the representative for working families. He demands a new foreign policy that destroys ISIS but does not get the United States involved in unnecessary warfare. His solution: creating coalitions abroad.

Debate Highlights:

After a short squabble about Sanders’ campaign staff’s recent breach of confidential data, Bernie apologized to Hillary, O’Malley criticized their “bickering” and the debate commenced.

The first question concerned terrorism. Former Secretary Clinton suggested her three-part plan for “defeating, not containing” ISIS (1 – deprive them of territory, 2 – dismantle their global network, 3 – do more to keep Americans safe). She hopes to work with Muslims to stop radicalization. As she put it, “we need to work with them, not demonize them as the Republicans have been doing.” Agreeing briefly with Clinton, O’Malley requests more investment in intelligence gathering, analysis, and sharing. Sanders reminded viewers about his voting against the war in Iraq, discarding unilateral action. Instead, he proposes the formation of coalitions, including the Muslim community.

Next topic was guns. Hillary stated that guns only add to more violence and they will not make America safe.  Our “coalition at home” should focus on reducing gun violence. Sanders followed, mentioning recent horrific shootings, and believes in strengthening background checks for owning guns. O’Malley accused his opponents of flip-flopping on the issue, supporting bans on assault weapons.

Several questions followed, but foreign policy quickly shifted all attention to the Middle East. Sanders again asked for an international coalition, including Russia, to abolish terrorism. Clinton believes that combat troops in Syria and Iraq to fight ISIS are not a good idea, and agrees with Bernie on putting together a coalition to destroy ISIS, without alienating the countries needed to be a part of it. O’Malley also agreed on the coalition.

National security is arguably something that worries almost all Americans. All three candidates support aiding refugees and staying away from the fear and hatred that Republicans are creating. None of the candidates supported Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims.

Some problems of the middle-class were mentioned. Bernie called for raising the minimum wage, pay equity for women, and making our workforce more competitive through free upper education. O’Malley mentioned his record as governor, in which he saw the raising of the minimum wage, and puts forward an agenda for putting Americans to work. Clinton, also advocating pay equity and fairness, and stated that the focus of her economic policy is raising incomes and profit sharing.

Making higher education affordable was pointed out shortly after. Sanders calls for free tuition at public colleges. Not as radical, Clinton supports debt-free tuition for students instead. O’Malley called higher education a right for every person, stating “the more people learn, the more they earn.”

Taxes are a major concern for all Americans. Sanders flirted with the idea of raising taxes to provide many welfare benefits that are part of his plans. Clinton promised no more tax raises for middle-class families. O’Malley proposed a progressive income tax, and agrees with paid-family leave and expanding social security.

The candidates talked about the injustice currently observed in American law enforcement. The three candidates agreed that we must build better relationships between the police and citizens. Sanders went a step further in attacking institutional racism and fixing the broken criminal justice system.

Several more issues were mentioned tonight. These are just some of the major topics that stood out the most.

Brief Commentary:

At a first glance, what I most admired was the candidates’ respect for one another. Unlike the Republicans, the Democratic Party candidates agreed on many of their ideas.

American citizens are undoubtedly very worried about foreign policy. It is obvious that ISIS must be destroyed, but our leaders cannot make decisions based on fear or respond to pressure. The candidates suggested an international coalition to destroy ISIS, instead of acting unilaterally. This solution seems plausible as long as other countries are willing to participate. We must recognize that alienating Muslims and the Middle East, as Republicans are currently inciting, is dangerous for our country as that would create enemies out of potential allies.

Some people believe that arming citizens would stop terrorists. First of all, guns are not synonymous with safety. Gun violence only creates more gun violence. Also, they can easily fall into the wrong hands – many mass shootings have occurred by American-born citizens.

Higher education would arguably foster a well-rounded workforce and prepare Americans for the increasingly competitive international economy. But Americans are worried about tax increases. I do believe debt is drowning many students and preventing them from getting ahead, and the cost of tuition cannot keep skyrocketing. Currently, those should be priorities in the education debate.

If we wish to make our middle-class better off, we must close the pay gap and pay women what they deserve, with no discounts and no unfairness. The minimum wage has its consequences but it is hardly enough for adequate living and the latter is the problem that requires the most attention.

Immigration was briefly mentioned by Sanders, the son of poor immigrants, and O’Malley, who claims to have closely worked with immigrants himself. Sanders emphasized combating institutional racism and eliminating obstacles that impede immigrants from achieving their goals. O’Malley supports helping immigrants as well, and creating a pathway to citizenship.

National security includes protecting our citizens from any threats. All I have to say is that the United States was built by immigrants, for immigrants.

Many journals were angry that immigration reform wasn’t expanded on by the moderators. Do you have any opinions? Let us know!





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