Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate quickly turned into a battle over the direction of the party, with moderates squaring off with the progressive Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — and the progressives swatting away the centrism at every turn.
The moderates, like former Maryland congressman John Delaney, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, took turns proclaiming how practical they were — only for Sanders and Warren to dutifully dunk on them.
Naturally, intra-party disagreements on issues like health care and the economy made for a few spicy moments, made spicier by CNN’s habit of inviting candidates respond to criticism from their rivals. Here are five exchanges you should know about.
“I wrote the damn bill!”
Moderates candidates lobbed countless attacks on Medicare for All, Sanders’ plan to put all Americans on a single, government-run health insurance plan where they would never pay out of pocket. Ryan went after Sanders, claiming he didn’t grasp the effect it would have on union workers. The Vermont senator wasn’t having that.
“I do know,” Sanders responded. “I wrote the damn bill!”
Wish lists and fairy tales
Various centrist candidates co-opted a Republican-esque line of attack against the progressives, accusing them of making policy promises that are too big and too impractical. Bullock called it “wish-list economics.” Delaney said Warren and Sanders made “fairy tale” promises. Klobuchar went with the store-brand version of the argument, claiming she has “bold ideas but they are grounded in reality.”
Warren’s pep talk
The Massachusetts senator immediately slapped down Delaney’s fairy tale line.
"I don't understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can't do and shouldn't fight for," Warren countered to thunderous applause. “I don’t get it.”
Marianne Williamson — spiritual guru, friend of Oprah and dabbler in vaccine skepticism — had a similar, equally effective line while defending free college education.
“I almost wonder why you’re Democrats,” she said to the centrists. “You think there’s something wrong about using the instruments of government to help people. That is what government should do.”
Marianne takes the lead on reparations
Williamson also dropped a forceful argument for reparations on Tuesday night. She said she wanted $200 to $500 billion in reparations, arguing that if “you did the math of the 40 acres and a mule, given that there were 4 to 5 million slaves at the end of the Civil War” then anything less than $100 billion “is an insult.”
She even took issue when CNN moderator Don Lemon called reparations “financial assistance.”
"It's... payment of a debt that is owed,” she said. “That is what reparations is.
The Warren hand rub
Delaney is worth a whole lot of money — Lemon estimated $65 million — so the CNN anchor asked him about Warren’s wealth tax, which would be a 2 percent annual tax on any income over $50 million, and 3 percent on anyone worth more than $1 billion. Delaney said the idea was “arguably unconstitutional” and would be challenged in the courts if President Warren ever tried to implement it, but that’s not what people are going to remember from the debate.
Instead, they’ll remember the meme-ready moment when Warren rubbed her hands together after Lemon asked the question, like she was just itching to tax Delaney’s fortune and use it to fund universal child care and historically black colleges.
Cover: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., participate in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)