College Democrats host Democratic debate watch party

Photo by Julia Smith ’22  Students gather in Dwight Hall to watch 2020 presidential hopefuls.

Photo by Julia Smith ’22

Students gather in Dwight Hall to watch 2020 presidential hopefuls.

BY ANNABELLE SHEA ’23

A raucous crowd gathered around the big screen in Dwight Hall last Thursday, Sept. 12, as candidates vying for the presidential nomination clashed on the debate stage.

Many attendees of the debate screening were vocal about their support for candidates such as Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, cheering enthusiastically for proposed reforms like Medicare for All and a wealth tax on the rich. 

Students reacted unfavorably to certain candidates as well. Several students booed in response to candidates Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Andrew Yang. 

For Carissa Barry Moilanen ’23, Andrew Yang’s “unprecedented” $1,000 per month freedom dividend is underwhelming at best. 

“I didn’t like Andrew Yang [or] his very capitalist sense of being,” she said. “Everything’s about money. I said at one point he felt like the scam you get on a phone call.” 

Candidates were questioned about the major issues facing Americans today, including health care, racism, gun control, immigration and climate change. 

On the topic of health care, candidates were split between a public option and automatic enrollment in Medicare for All. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were the only candidates on the debate stage in support of Medicare for All, which would abolish private insurance. Candidates Kamala Harris and Cory Booker support Medicare for All and are cosponsors of Bernie Sanders’ plan, but maintain that choice is important. 

Health care is a personal issue to many, and not all Mount Holyoke students agree on which plan is best for America. 

“[Bernie Sanders’] Medicare for All is tyrannical in the sense that he would take away the liberty of choosing what insurance would work best for different beings,” said Michelle Dang ’22, president of the Mount Holyoke College Republicans. “He would forcefully impose a federal-sanctioned insurance regulation and promise to take down private insurance companies ... this will definitely leave millions of Americans living without insurance.”

Candidates also differed in their approach to President Donald Trump. Senator Kamala Harris addressed Trump directly in her opening statement, prompting frustration from Mount Holyoke audience members waiting to hear her own policies. 

Senator Amy Klobuchar also targeted Trump in her opening remarks and appealed to more moderate voters. 

Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senators Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar and Congressman Beto O’Rourke all featured opening statements with a theme of unity. 

Several candidates used personal stories to make their points, with Joe Biden talking about death in his family and Amy Klobuchar discussing her hospital struggle at during the birth of her daughter. 

At the end of the debate, candidates were asked about resilience and its role in their lives. The question allowed candidates to describe personal challenges. 

Beto O’Rourke spoke passionately against the Aug. 3 shooting in his hometown, El Paso. Elizabeth Warren described her humble beginnings as a waitress as she worked her way through community college. 

For Maggie Micklo ’21, communications director of the Mount Holyoke Democrats, the watch party provided a format for students to be exposed to new thoughts and policy ideas. 

“It was great to see such a substantive debate with all the major candidates on stage at once this round,” Micklo said. “Although I already have a favorite primary candidate, there were definitely some candidates who surprised me with their strong performances ... it made me glad that the party is having such a robust discussion of values and policy at this point in the election!”