Fri, Jun 28, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Elizabeth Warren leads Democrats in spirited first debate

AFP, MIAMI

From left, Democratic presidential hopefuls US Senator Cory Booker, US Senator Elizabeth Warren and former US representative Beto O’Rourke participate in the first Democratic primary debate at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP

Ten Democrats on Wednesday clashed in the first debate of the US presidential race, with US Senator Elizabeth Warren cementing her status as a top-tier candidate and several underdogs using the issue of immigration to clamor for the limelight.

The biggest US political debate since the 2016 presidential campaign is occurring over two nights in Miami, climaxing yesterday with former US vice president Joe Biden squaring off against nine challengers, including US Senator Bernie Sanders.

However, the first take was a spirited encounter between Democrats such as former US representative Beto O’Rourke, US Senator Cory Booker, former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on subjects as varied as healthcare, economic inequality, climate change, gun violence, Iran and immigration.

Despite the feverish political climate in Washington and heavy campaigning in early voting states, millions of Americans were tuning in to the race for the first time.

What they heard right off the bat was Warren, the ideological progressive and only candidate on stage polling a double-digit percentage, knocking what she calls a rigged economy.

“Who’s this economy really working for?” asked Warren, who received the first question.

“When you’ve got a government, when you have an economy that does great for those with money and is not doing great for everyone else, that is corruption, pure and simple,” the former Harvard law professor said. “We need to call it out.”

With so many people on stage, candidates enjoying their first exposure to a broad national audience each had limited time to make their mark, perhaps winning a viral moment that advances their cause, draws new donors and keeps them in the headlines, but the backdrop to the debate — the mushrooming crisis on the US-Mexico border, the detention of migrant children in squalid conditions and a shocking photograph of a Salvadorean man and his baby daughter drowned in the Rio Grande — led to swift, tense exchanges.

Castro, the only Latino in the race, and who unveiled a sweeping immigration plan earlier this year, called the photograph “heartbreaking.”

“It should also piss us all off and it should spur us to action,” he said.

De Blasio, a late entrant to the race, earned loud applause when he reminded citizens immigrants are not their enemies.

“For all the American citizens who feel you are falling behind and the American dream is not working for you, the immigrants didn’t do that to you,” De Blasio said. “The big corporations did that to you.”

More than any other candidate, Warren, 70, has given a clear picture of her presidential priorities, such as instituting a wealth tax, breaking up big technology companies and securing the US election system.

In closing remarks she recalled growing up in Oklahoma where a government-funded community college helped her get a break.

“I am in this fight because I believe that we can make our government, we can make our economy, we can make our country work not just for those at the top. We can make it work for everyone,” she said. “And I promise you this: I will fight for you as hard as I fight for my own family.”

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