The first two Democrat primary debates are slated to kick off Wednesday and Thursday night, and while debate rules have made their debut, no official topics have been released. There are, though, a number of specific questions that could help voters on both sides of the aisle get a better feel for the presidential hopefuls.
Democrat candidates have articulated a number of bold, lofty ideas, but specifics have been scarce. While candidates will only have 60 seconds to respond to each question, the following questions should be considered, as they could help Democrat voters determine who is the best fit to run against President Trump.
School loan debt forgiveness: Will individuals who recently paid off their school debt get some form of reimbursement?
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) unveiled a sweeping plan Monday to erase $1.6 trillion in student loan debt. It is estimated to cost over $2 trillion, which supporters say will be paid for by taxing Wall Street in a number of various ways – a fairly vague, blanket statement. The sweeping plan triggers a plethora of follow-up questions:
- How will colleges transition to “tuition free” institutions without devaluing degrees?
- Does the plan cover pricey college books?
- Who covers room and board?
Reparations: If the U.S. decides to issue reparations, which races will be covered, and how many past generations will the government examine in order to properly determine the most deserving benefactors?
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has been leading the charge on issuing reparations – i.e. payments – to individuals who are descendants of slaves. He introduced a bill to form a commission to further examine ways to compensate descendants for what he says are policies “rooted in a history of slavery and white supremacy—that continue to erode Black communities, perpetuate racism and implicit bias, and widen the racial wealth gap.” However, little attention has been given to the logistics of such a proposal.
- What system will be used to determine family ancestry?
- Will there be a ranking on compensation based on the severity of the enslaved ancestor’s circumstances?
- What about compensation for the descendants of non-black slaves? Will they be included?
Illegal immigration: If migrant detention centers are no different than “concentration camps,” what should be done with migrants once they cross the border illegally?
Over the last week, Freshman Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has described migrant detention facilities as “concentration camps” and has refused to apologize. Most recently, she accused the Trump administration of “fighting to not give children toothpaste or soap” and “making people sleep on dirt floors.” She also likened detention centers to “torture facilities.” If 2020 candidates agree with that general assessment, it triggers a number of follow-up questions:
- Should Border Patrol agents simply release illegals after apprehension?
- If conditions in facilities are as bad as officials say, should Democrats in Congress agree to provide additional funding to improve the conditions of the facilities?
Climate change: What are individual candidates doing in their personal lives to help save the planet from the impending crisis of climate change?
A Morning Consult poll released Monday shows that the majority of Democrats – 63 percent – would like to see climate change discussed at the debates. Many presidential candidates have released plans to combat climate change, with Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) gaining the most attention after receiving a shining endorsement from Ocasio-Cortez, who called his plan the “Gold Standard.” Inslee’s plan calls for the elimination of fossil fuels by 2030 – nearly 20 years before Joe Biden’s goal of 2050. However grandiose their proposals may be, voters might be curious to know what each individual candidate is doing in his or her own personal life to combat this severe and looming threat.
Abortion: Does a heartbeat denote life?
Pro-life “heartbeat bills” have been sweeping the states in recent months. Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, and Kentucky passed their own versions of pro-life heartbeat bills, although challenges are expected in the courts. However, much of the debate has surrounded the left’s purported embrace of late-term abortion. Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) praised his state’s embrace of its radical pro-abortion law, which essentially allows for abortion up to the moment of birth. Additionally, Sanders, Booker, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) , Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) voted “no” on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would have required a doctor to revive a baby who survived a botched abortion and threatened prison time in the event that he or she failed to do so. Even Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D), a self-described Christian, failed to condemn late-term abortion after MSNBC’s Willie Geist brought up his pro-choice position and the problem it poses among evangelical voters.
“Mayor Pete your candidacy has now peaked the interests of religious conservatives…They like you. But they get to the point where they look down your resumé and they say life is precious. They talk about the sanctity of life and they can’t get past your support of late-term abortion. What do you say to them?” Geist asked.
Buttigieg did not condemn late-term abortion, opting to call the question “misleading.”
“We’re talking about situations where the life and health of the mother is at risk and/or the child can’t survive,” he said. “Look, you only get to that stage, that late moment, if you had been planning to bring a pregnancy to term.”
It would seem clarification is in order. Where do presidential hopefuls draw the line?
Planned Parenthood: Why should Planned Parenthood – a politically charged organization – continue to receive tax dollars if there are thousands of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) that can offer more comprehensive services to women? Does it really come down to abortion?
During a Planned Parenthood-hosted a forum Saturday, Warren claimed that the GOP had “chipped away” and “hacked away” at Roe v. Wade.
Gillibrand has also focused on this issue, telling GirlBoss Radio last week: “If President Trump wants a war on America’s women, it’s a war he’s going to have and it’s a war he’s going to lose.”
The conversation often drifts into federal support for Planned Parenthood, which performed over 332,000 abortions last year alone.
Pro-choice candidates consider a monetary “attack” on Planned Parenthood as an “attack” on women themselves. However, FQHCs and RHCs vastly outnumber Planned Parenthoods, with roughly 20 community health clinics for every Planned Parenthood facility. Low-income women would not be without access to crucial medical services, which leads back to the original question on the justification for subsidizing Planned Parenthood via taxpayer dollars.
Border security: Would you support tearing down the wall?
Many of President Trump’s political opponents have branded his efforts to build a wall on the southern border “racist.” In February, O’Rourke took it a step further, telling MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that he “absolutely” would “take the wall down” in El Paso.
“Yes, absolutely. I would take the wall down,” Beto O’Rourke (D) told Chris Hayes in February.
Gillibrand seemed open to the idea as well.
“I’d have to ask folks in that part of the country to see whether the fencing that exists today is helpful or unhelpful,” she told Fox News in February.
“I could look at it and see which part he means and why, and if it makes sense, I could support it,” she added.
It sparks a few other questions:
- How will they determine which border wall sections to tear down?
- What happens to the migrants who illegally cross the border after the barrier in the section is taken down?
- How much will the deconstruction of the wall cost?
Faith: Who would be some of the main faith leaders in your administration?
While faith has not been a huge point of interest for the left, historically speaking, the topic has been rising to prominence in this election cycle. Many candidates – such as Buttigieg, Gillibrand, and Biden – have been attempting to appeal to religious voters, despite holding extreme beliefs on abortion and the LGBT movement.
President Trump has been very open with Christian faith leaders throughout his presidential tenure, frequently showing an openness for prayer, earning praise from the likes of Franklin Graham Jr. Early in June, Trump made a surprise appearance at McLean Bible Church and allowed the Christian congregation to pray over him.
Democrat candidates have not been as open. Additionally, Booker recently refused to say if he would decline a meeting with Nation of Islam leader, infamous anti-Semite, and radical Muslim Louis Farrakhan.
The first debate kicks off Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. ET.