ATLANTA (AP) – The candidates for the Democratic presidential candidacy clashed on Wednesday in a debate centered on the future of health in the United States, racial inequality and its ability to form a winning coalition that defeats the current president, Donald Trump , in the elections next year.
The duel came after hours of statements in the political trial investigation of Trump, and at a key moment in the Democratic primary to elect his rival in 2020. There are less than three months left for the first votes and there are still big questions about favorites, while time is running out for minority candidates to make the leap or new Democrats launch unlikely last-minute campaigns.
But in the midst of chaos, White House applicants often see themselves on family grounds, specifically on the question of whether the party should adopt a general “Medicare for all” strategy or make more discrete changes to the current healthcare system.RELATED
Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the most progressive of the candidates, firmly defended health coverage for all that would eliminate the current private insurance model in favor of a state system.
"The American people understand that the current healthcare system is not only cruel, it is dysfunctional," Sanders said.
Former Vice President Joe Biden replied that many people were happy with the private insurance they received through their jobs, while Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, complained that other applicants were trying to take the "divisive step" of forcing people to adopt a universal health model "whether they want to or not."
Democrats succeeded last year with a health-based campaign and regained control of the House of Representatives with the message that Republicans were cutting back on existing health benefits. But moderate party members fear that "Medicare for all" is more complicated and does not imply the same political benefits. Especially after the Democrats won elections this month in Kentucky and Virginia without betting on that system.
"We must have our motivated Democratic base with us," said Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. "But let's also get those independent and moderate Republicans who no longer support (Trump)."
The fifth debate of the Democratic primary was organized in Atlanta, a city that played a key role in the civil rights movement, and the diversity of the party, with two African-American candidates, was on the table. But there were discrepancies about the best way to win minority voters, which are crucial to obtaining the Democratic nomination and will be in the general elections.
California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said that at times, the game has fallen short in its approach to black Americans.
"For too long, I think, the candidates have taken for granted constituencies that have been the backbone of the Democratic Party," said Harris. "You come to a black church and want to be voted on, but you have simply never been there before."
"Black voters are angry, and they are worried," Booker said.
Four women served as moderators, including Rachel Maddow, a popular MSNBC progressive journalist, and Ashley Parker, a White House reporter for the Washington Post. It was the third time in which a debate of primaries had only women as moderators.
Buttigieg, turned into a target of attacks after his recent rise in the polls, which place him next to Biden, Warren and Sanders among the favorites of the long list of applicants, answered a question at the beginning on how to be mayor of a city of 100,000 inhabitants qualify him to occupy the White House.
"I know that from Washington's perspective, what happens in my city may seem small," Buttigieg said. "But honestly, where we live, it's the internal struggles of the Capitol that seem small."
Klobuchar claimed that he has more experience passing laws and suggested that women are required more in politics.
“Otherwise we could play a game called‘ Name your favorite female president ’, something we can't do because they have all been men,” he said.
There was another memorable moment when Biden – who received no real attack from his rivals – responded awkwardly to a question about how to combat violence against women.
"We just have to change the culture," he said. "And hitting her, and hitting her, and hitting her."
But the conversation kept returning to Medicare for everyone, which has dominated the primary, especially in the case of Warren. The senator presented a plan to raise more than 20 billion dollars in new government revenues to offer universal health. But he also said that implementing the program could take three years, attracting criticism from moderates such as Biden and Buttigieg, who believe he is trying to distance himself from an unpopular idea, and from Sanders' supporters, who believe the senator's commitment to universal health It is faltering.
Sanders stressed that he would send a Medicare law for everyone to Congress in the first week of his government.
Booker was especially pressured on Wednesday because he has not yet reached the support in the polls required by the National Democratic Committee to participate in the December debate in California. He spent several minutes discussing with Warren about the need to improve the way in which taxes are charged to the rich, but also asked to "increase wealth" among people of color and other marginalized communities.
"We have to start empowering people," Booker said.
Weissert and Colvin reported from Washington.