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How did the AAPI candidates fare in the October Democratic debate?

Views from the Edge

There were winners and — well, there were no real losers —  in the October debate among Democratic hopefuls running for President .

AAPI candidates Tulsi Gabbard, Andrew Yang and Kamala Harris had their moments in the three hour debate held in Ohio Tuesday (Oct. 15) night but no one delivered a knockout punch or were embarassed by their performances of the 12-candidate debate. Still, there were good moments and bad moments.

As expected, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the pollsters’ frontrunner, got the most air time because she was constantly having to defend herself against attacks from her rivals onstage.

Vice President Joe Biden, tied or second to Warren depending on which poll you look at, got the second most airtime because of his son’s involvement with a Ukraine power company that has precipitated Donald Trump’s attempt to dig up dirt on Biden. 

Kamala Harris

For the most part, Harris stayed away from attacking her rivals. However, Harris tried to get  Warren to agree with her that Twitter should ban Trump’s use of the social media app. 

The California senator did give the best answer to a question that was never asked on a topic that is one of her major planks: women’s reproductive rights.

Tired of the endless questions on health care and how it will be funded, Harris twisted the topic to talk about abortion, a health care issue on which she has taken a strong position.

That reproductive rights have come up so little in past debates is “outrageous,” said Harris, in one of the most moving moments of Tuesday’s three-hour debate.

“This is the sixth debate we have had in this presidential cycle and not nearly one word with all of these discussions about health care on women’s access to reproductive health care, which is under full-on attack in America today. And it’s outrageous,” Harris said. 

“There are states that have passed laws that will virtually prevent women from having access to reproductive health care, and it is not an exaggeration to say women will die.

“Poor women, women of color will die because these Republican legislatures in these various states who are out of touch with America are telling women what to do with their bodies,” she continued. “Women are the majority of the population in this country. People need to keep their hands off of women’s bodies and let women make the decisions about their own lives.”

While she didn’t break into the top three, she probably reinserted herself into the top five after a precipitous freefall since this summer.

Andrew Yang

Yang’s longshot campaign has made a big impact on the other candidates, who have been unable to promise anything as shiny as Yang’s universal Basic income (UBI), or as he calls it, a Freedom Dividend. If he becomes president, Yang promised that government will send a check for $1,000 per month to every American adult above age 18.

For the first time, other candidates have adopted his proposal. Julián Castro touched on the idea: “I believe that we need to address communities that are being impacted by automation. I’m even willing to pilot something like UBI and to see how that will work.” Tulsi Gabbard embraced it as well. “I agree with my friend Andrew Yang,” she said. “I think universal basic income is a good idea to help provide that security so that people can have the freedom to make the kinds of choices that they want to see.”

The idea of a UBI is appealing and for the first time, the idea is being debated nationally. Don’t be surprised if the eventual Democratic nominee adopts some form of the Freedom Dividend. When the topic goes off the US economy, Yang’s answers lack conviction and the passion that he has when talking about the UBI. He has yet to clearly express his thoughts  beyond generic talking points on foreign policy or the hatred and divisiveness that looms over the country. Yang’s debate performance may not have hurt him in the polls, but it also probably won’t help him either.

Tulsi Gabbard

The congresswoman from Hawaii pinned her candidacy on her military service and her opposition to endless “regime-change wars.” So it was disappointing that Gabbard didn’t take the opportunity to take off on the events in the Middle East. But, she blew it.

She called the plight of the Kurds, Turkey’s invasion of Syria and the U.S. abandoning its allies “Consequence of the regime-change war we’ve been waging in Syria.” As Vox points out, the US “is not waging a war of regime change in Syria (as Biden pointed out later in the debate).”  The US military forces in northern Syria were assisting Kurdish forces in fighting the ISIS presence in the country.  The reason Turkey invaded the Kurdish-held territory is that it sees the Kurds as terrorists and doesn’t want them to have a quasi-state on its border. Turkey was able to launch the invasion because Donald Trump pulled out the US soldiers.

She tried to put Warren on the spot but was interrupted by the panel before she could question Warren. She also clashed with Pete Buttigeig, the only other candidate who has served in the military in Iraq. When Buttigieg challenged her shaky analysis, saying that “the slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence, it a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal,” she accused him of supporting “endless war.”

His response was succinct and devastating: “You can put an end to endless war without embracing Donald Trump’s policy, as you’re doing.” Slam-dunk for the mayor. She also called out CNN and the New York Times as “despicable,” both of which were hosting the debate, for their stories listing Russians as well extremist conservatives among her supporters. The one-time rising star of the Democrats needs to consider if staying in the race in which she is struggling is worth losing her House seat where she is being challenged by the popular State Senator Kai Kahele.

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