The second set of 10 Democrats took the stage Thursday night for the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 U.S. election cycle in the race to try to oust Republican President Donald Trump from the White House.
On stage were Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.), former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.), former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Eric Swalwell (Calif.), author Marianne Williamson and businessman Andrew Yang.
Here is a look at the top quotes from the spirited debate:
As the front-runner, Biden faced tough questions.
He was questioned over his recent comments about working well with segregationist senators and his past opposition to busing plans used to desegregate public schools.
Kamala Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, said to Biden: “I do not believe you are a racist and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground. But I also believe, and it is personal, and I was actually very — it was hurtful, to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country. And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing.”
Biden hit back: “It’s a mischaracterization of my position across the board: I did not praise racists. That is not true.”
Sanders was pressed over his self-description as a socialist, including a question on whether his proposals like Medicare for All would lead to higher taxes on the middle class.
“Every proposal that I have brought forth is fully paid for,” he said, arguing that insurance premiums would be lower under his proposal. “Yes, they will pay more in taxes but less in health care for what they get.”
Eric Swalwell was the first of the night to attack Joe Biden. He says he remembers being a child when a Democratic candidate came to California and talked about the need to “Pass the torch” to young people.
“That man was Joe Biden,” Swalwell said. “And yes, we need to ‘Pass the torch.’”
“I’m still holding onto that torch,” Biden said.
After some squabbling among the candidate, the moderators tried to move the discussion on. Harris comes in with a line of her own. “Americans don’t want to watch a food fight,” she said. They want to know how they will be able to “put food on the table.”
Asked during the debate why he didn’t manage to hire more black police officers in South Bend, where 26% of the population is black.
“Because I couldn’t get it done,” Buttigieg responded.
“It’s a mess, and we’re hurting,” he said. “And I could walk you through all the things that we have done as a community. All of the steps that we took from bias training to de-escalation. But it didn’t save the life of Eric Logan. And when I look into his mother’s eyes, I have to face the fact that nothing that I say will bring him back.”
Buttigieg said that these issues South Bend faces are really a national problem, and that across the country it’s important to combat systemic racism in police departments.
“I am determined to bring about a day when a white person driving a vehicle and a black person driving a vehicle, when they see a police officer approaching feels the exact same thing — a feeling not of fear, but of safety,” Buttigieg said.
Williamson called the policy proposals for the country’s health care plans “superficial fixes” and railed against the current system as a “sickness system” rather than a “health care system.”
“If you think we are going to beat Donald Trump with all these plans, you are wrong,” she said, a tacit swipe at several candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who have offered multiple policy proposals.
Bennet swiped at President Donald Trump directly over his 2017 tax cuts, tariffs he’s levied as president and poor conditions at migrant detention centers.
“The president has turned the border of the United States into a symbol of nativist hostility,” Bennet said.
The New York senator criticized Trump, pointing to the deaths of seven migrant children in U.S. custody during Trump’s tenure in the White House.
“He’s torn apart the moral fabric of who we are, when he started separating children at the border with their parents. The fact that seven children have died in his custody,” Gillibrand said.
Yang was asked to defend his proposal to pay $1,000 a month, to every American, from the federal government.
“It’s difficult to do if you have companies like Amazon, trillion-dollar companies, paying zero in taxes,” Yang said, suggesting he would seek to close tax loopholes used by companies. He said he would also add a “mild” value-added tax, a kind of consumption tax used by European countries.
“Just the value gained by having a stronger, healthier, mentally healthier population” would be worth billions to the U.S. economy, Yang said, plus savings, as incarceration rates and homelessness declined.
“As Colorado governor, I brought in progressive policies. Socialism is bad, and will re-elect Trump.”