Sep 13, 2019

Special Friday Edition: The Democratic Debates

Special Friday Edition: The Democratic Debates

Everything you need to know from Thursday night.


This is the first ever Friday edition of Tangle. I’m sending this out to make sure you’re “in the know” about last night’s Democratic debate, which took place at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas.

Today’s read: 8 minutes.

The advertisement everyone is talking about, my raffle winner, opening statements and important moments.

My raffle.

Yesterday, I mentioned in my newsletter that Andrew Yang’s team claimed he would do something “unprecedented” at the debate. I started a Twitter raffle to give away a lifetime membership to Tangle for whoever could guess what it is (yes, Tangle is free now, but it won’t be forever).

The most common guesses were:

  • Dress casual on stage (i.e. no tie, no jacket, perhaps shorts).
  • Rap his arguments (a surprising number of people guessed this)
  • Vape on stage.

What Yang actually did was open up a raffle of his own, for 10 families across the country, who could submit their story on his website to receive his “Freedom Dividend” ($1,000 a month) for an entire year ($120,000 total cost for Yang).

The winner of my raffle, for the closest correct answer, was a man named Colin, who guessed that Yang would “Offer 1k a month for a year to an audience member.” Two other people guessed that Yang would give everyone in the audience $1,000, but Colin successfully guessed both the amount and the time frame (even if he was off about who exactly would receive the money). I’ve reached out to the email he provided and let him know he’s the victor.

That advertisement.

After more than two hours of debates, the thing most people are talking about is an ad that ran at the end of the show. The advertisement depicts Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s face burning away to an image of skulls and bones as a voiceover says “this is the face of socialism and ignorance.” The ad was run by a new Republican group called New Faces GOP, and the voiceover was done by Elizabeth Heng, a Cambodian politician who recently lost a House race in California. The ad buy was $100,000 and immediately sparked a wave of backlash for being over the line. You can watch it below.

Opening statements.

One of the best ways to  understand a candidate’s priorities is to identify what they opened with. Here are short summaries of everyone’s opening statements from last night. The candidates are listed in the order they gave their statements, which is from lowest to highest polling numbers.

Julian Castro [Former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Barack Obama]: Castro promised universal Pre-K, universal health care, millions of new jobs from the renewable economy, and said he was the candidate who could take back swing states (and flip Texas) by exciting young Americans.

Amy Klobuchar [Current U.S. Senator from Minnesota]: Klobuchar was all about  unity, saying “what unites is us is much stronger than what divides us.” She said Trump is running the country like a game show, “he would rather lie than lead.” She assured everyone she will tell the truth and won’t make promises she can’t keep. She made a pitch to the center, for people stuck between two extremes, and said she wanted to be the president for all of America.

Beto O’Rourke [Former U.S. House Representative in Texas]: O’Rourke opened by saying it was an honor to be on the debate stage and back in Texas, then immediately pivoted to the August 3rd mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. He said the shooter was “inspired to kill by our president” and that it became clear how dangerous Trump is. O’Rourke said racism and violence have long been a part of America, and now — once again  — they are being welcomed out in the open. He derided the bitterness and pettiness of the moment.

Cory Booker [Current U.S. Senator from New Jersey]: Booker spoke about his “vision” to bring unity to Newark, NJ, and how he did things other people thought were impossible. He wants to unify and find common cause and purpose. He said Democrats’ differences are not as big as the urgency to unite as a party and unite America.

Andrew Yang [Entrepreneur living in New York City]: Yang opened by saying everything (politics, the media, life, etc.) revolves around the almighty dollar. He said we have to get our country working for us again, to see ourselves as the owners and shareholders of this Democracy. Then he announced he’d be giving away his Freedom Dividend for a year to 10 families across America, and told people to go to his website for more information.

Pete Buttigieg [Current Mayor of South Bend, Indiana]: The crowd was still laughing and reeling from Yang’s announcement, so there was an awkward moment where Buttigieg had to wait for the commotion to settle. Then he looked across at Yang and said, “It’s original… I’ll give you that.” He went on to say he was the Mayor of an industrial city, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and knows what is at stake being the president. He said he remembers September 12th, 2001, and what it felt like when the country was unified and what it’d be like if we had that unity today.

Kamala Harris [Current U.S. Senator from California]: She went right after Donald Trump, “who we all know is watching.” She spoke to him and said for the last two and half years he’s been trying to sow hate and division, and that’s why we haven’t gotten anything done. “Failed policies and broken promises.” She said the American people are better than this, with so much more in common. And she will focus on common issues to get things done. “Now, President Trump, you can go back to watching Fox News.”

Bernie Sanders [Current U.S. Senator from Vermont]: Bernie came out with his classic raspy voice and stump speech. He said it goes without saying that we must and will defeat Trump, the most dangerous president in the history of this country. But he also said we must do more than just beat Trump. “We have to  recognize the country is moving into an oligarchy where a handful of billionaires control the economic and political life of this country.” He promised to raise the minimum wage, make sure every American has health care as a human right, and address the catastrophic crisis of climate change by transforming the energy system away from fossil fuel.

Elizabeth Warren [Current U.S. Senator from Massachusetts]: Warren said she grew up in Oklahoma and three of her brothers served in the military in Texas, not far from where the debate was held. She said she got her first opportunity in school at the University of Houston, five minutes from the debate stage, paying $50 a semester. She became a special needs teacher and paid for  college on a part time waitress job. Now, “The paths to America’s middle class have gotten smaller and narrower.” She said veterans are preyed upon by predatory lenders, students are crushed by debt and  families can’t afford childcare. “I know what’s broken, I know how to fix it and I’m going to lead the fight to get it done.”

Joe Biden [Former Vice President under Barack Obama]: Biden opened by referencing President Kennedy’s moonshot and “refusing to postpone.” He then listed the things he refuses to postpone: curing cancer and Alzheimers, giving  every child in America Pre-K all the way through “high school and beyond,” and addressing climate change. He spoke to the greatness of America and said there’s never been a single time America hasn’t been able to accomplish something it put its mind to.

Notable moment.

The most notable moment happened right out of the gate. Biden went after Warren and Sanders’ health care policies, saying they haven’t sufficiently explained how to pay for it. Biden said his plan costs $740 billion and their plans would cost more than $30 trillion, or $3.4 trillion a year, which he claimed is more than the federal budget. Sanders and Warren then both spoke about how they would tax the wealthy to pay for their plans, and Sanders claimed “every single study” has shown Medicare-for-All as the most cost-effective health care solution.

Fact checks.

Sanders claimed every study has shown Medicare-for-All as the most cost effective solution. That’s a lie. Most studies have, in fact, shown the opposite (a handful do support his conclusion). “Of five major Medicare for All studies reviewed in detail by The New York Times, just two found overall health care expenditures would be lower than current costs.” - NBC.

Biden’s claim that Sanders health care plan would cost twice the federal budget is also not true. The federal budget is $4.1 trillion, though Biden is right one estimate says Medicare for All would cost $3.4 trillion a year. - NBC.

Julian Castro blasted Biden’s plan for leaving 10 million people uninsured. This number is accurate, according to Biden’s own estimates. - NBC.

Beto gets loco.

O’Rourke took a huge risk Thursday night, saying definitively in his gun-loving home state that you’re “damn right” he is going to take away people’s AR-15s and AK-47s. AR-15s are some of the most popular sporting rifles in America. Republicans reacted with glee, noting that O’Rourke probably just killed any chance for a successful political career in Texas and certainly wasn’t helping himself nationwide. Briscoe Cain, a Houston representative, responded on Twitter by telling O’Rourke “My AR is ready for you Robert Francis.” Note: Beto’s given name is Robert Francis O’Rourke, but his family nicknamed him Beto, a common Spanish nickname for Roberto. Cain’s tweet was taken down by Twitter.

Castro hits Biden.

In one of the most striking moments of the debate, Castro went after Biden over whether people would have to buy-in to Biden’s health care plan. “Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” Castro asked indignantly, accusing Biden of contradicting himself. In fact, it was Castro who was confused. But questions about Biden’s age and capacities have been brought up a lot this year, and plenty of people thought Castro was going after him for his age. Other candidates thought it went “too far” and felt like it was a personal low-blow. People on the far-left, however, were glad someone finally brought up the elephant in the room.

Some numbers.

Some reactions.

My take.

I don’t think last night moved the needle much, but here are my impressions: Castro and Klobuchar’s time seems to be up. Every other candidate has a shot in my book. Biden still seems to be struggling to string together coherent sentences, Warren seems like the “fix-it” nerd, Buttigieg has a calming presence, Sanders is sticking to his shtick, Booker is reaching to inspire, Yang is the most original, Beto feels like an Obama re-run and Harris is the most charming, laid-back one on stage.

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The finisher.

To end night, every candidate spoke about “resiliency” and challenges they have had to overcome. Lots of people considered this the best question of the night. Here is a 20-minute video with everyone’s response.

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