Candidates Stand Out On Various Issues During the Third Democratic Debate



Gage Skidmore

Senator Elizabeth Warren was one of the standout candidates overall at the Third Democratic debate.

Keana Saberi and Catharine Li

The intensity between the Democratic candidates rose and particularly heated up in the Third Democratic debate on Sept. 12. From Julian Castro attacking Joe Biden on his personality rather than policies, to Pete Buttigieg saying that action is needed rather than just weak promises, to Beto O’Rourke rigorously demanding gun reform, it was a stand-out night for many candidates. Joe Biden, despite being put down by several other candidates, remains first in the race and spectators believe the former vice president will become the official Democratic nominee. 

Gun Control & Reform 

It seems that all the candidates stand in solidarity with the implementation of universal background checks and assault weapon bans, but the rest is where it gets a little messy. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker is leading the gun legislation debate in terms of policy, proposing a plan he calls “the most comprehensive gun violence prevention plan of any candidate for president in decades.” His plan would push for gun owner licensing, which would require any person wanting to own a gun to submit basic background information, fingerprints, and a demonstration of understanding of gun safety. Though many candidates have voiced their interest in imposing licensing programs, Booker’s is the first of its kind to offer real specification. This is a far more ambitious proposal than any other candidate has implemented, as he also emphasizes the development of more intervention programs centered on the conflicts in local communities. This plan focuses on local issues to target an epidemic of American violence as a whole.

Beto O’Rourke was definitely a standout candidate with his empowered ideals for changing gun policies and his more unique legislative ideas. He stressed and outlined the need for red flag laws that could restrict individuals who might pose concerns to society from purchasing firearms, as well as his buyback program, which would purchase rifles from general citizen owners and take them off the streets and out of stores. Though critics believe the buyback program is unsuccessful in execution, New Zealand imposed a similar plan after its worst mass shooting and many law enforcement officials have stated that it is working. For Beto, the issue of gun violence hits close to home, especially after the devastating shooting in his hometown of El Paso this past August. The events fueled him to raise more awareness over gun use issues using his social media platform, taking a great step in the right direction for gun control. His gun reform policies, including his mandatory buyback program, truly sets him apart from the other contenders, as this well-thought-out policy not only bans the sale of military-grade assault rifles but also directly removes them from the streets. Doing so will contribute to a safer and more prosperous society with less domestic violence and devoid of military-grade rifles designed to kill.


Elizabeth Warren used her background in teaching to fuel her argument when discussing her fervor to reduce college debt by nearly 95 percent for almost 42 million Americans plagued with student debt and provide free public college. Outlined in her policies, she is pushing for legislative action to create the Ultra-Millionaire Tax, which, in theory, would aid in removing student loan debt by taxing the very wealthy. Her emphasis on reshaping the public school system is commendable, seeking to allow those who seek higher education to do it with minimal to no debt. Debt imprisons millions of students, burdening them for the rest of their lives and limiting economic opportunities due to the constant financial worry. For Warren, this issue, along with strengthening the middle class, goes hand-in-hand with her ideas to rid the system of politics governed by the few. These points are pivotal to her campaign and add to her strong and determined public persona. A key stance for Warren is that altering the government system as a whole will reinstate power for the working class. 

Photo By Keana Saberi and Catharine Li

Climate Change 

Regarding the ongoing critical discussion about climate change, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has a plan of his own. The plan involves adopting the Green New Deal resolution, a bold four-step initiative first introduced by New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in February 2019 which, outlines efforts to guarantee more high-paying jobs in clean energy industries, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and altering industry norms to cater to the dilemmas caused by a rapidly warming planet. The urgency of action against climate change is increasing. The number of climate-related disasters has more than tripled since 1980. The heatwave that hit Europe in 2003 and killed 70,000 people “should have been a once-in-500-years event.” However, research now reveals that due to a warming climate, such catastrophes will likely occur every 40 years instead. This issue is a burden on the younger generations who see that adults in power are doing nothing and are being forced to take a stand. In the face of real and pressing scientific evidence, there is absolutely no reason why those who hold positions of power still remain silent. It is evident from Sanders’ plan that he is prioritizing the United States’ role in the global feud of contrasting ideas on how to combat climate change. His support alone of the Green New Deal exemplifies the sincerity with which he is attempting to tackle this life-threatening predicament.


Beto O’Rourke is urging the humane treatment of families who are seeking asylum and for them to be instated, reuniting families and removing the harsh travel bans created under the Trump administration. He feels these actions go against the ideals that our country was founded upon, the country of immigrants and of freedom for all and that legal immigration is beneficial because it diversifies our country. Establishing laws that increase visa numbers for immigrants will aid the nation’s economic growth. O’Rourke’s legislation highlights the importance of fostering a more inclusive society for all, especially with his protection of Dreamers who are individuals who came to the United States as minors seeking residency who fear deportation. His plan to help undocumented immigrants earn safe and legal citizenship shows his compassion, and his driven plan to help foster amicable relationships with other countries will help our country on a global stage. This exemplifies how immigration is not only helpful to those seeking a new life in the states but advantageous to the country’s prosperity. 

Health Care 

The topic of health care remains a top issue for voters in 2020. Conversation around the Affordable Care Act has dictated the debate around health care for the past two years. However, candidates are now focused on developing a plan to redesign the entire system, which is filled with faults voiced by voters. Currently, the solutions are split into two big categories: single-payer and public. The single-payer is also referred to as “Medicare for All” and would guarantee health insurance for all people and provide them access to any services they may need. The public option would offer middle income, working-age adults the option to choose a public insurance plan, instead of private plans. Incorporating some kind of public-private hybrid is also popular among candidates and would involve the government providing a form of insurance coverage the public can buy. 

Pete Buttigieg unveiled a plan that he’s dubbed “Medicare for All Who Want It,” claiming to give Americans access to affordable health care either through private insurance or some other public option. This flexibility would allow for more freedom in terms of decision-making, removing the barriers between patients and the health care system. Getting more people insured will not necessarily guarantee a better American health care system, as insurance does not equate healthcare. It is absolutely unacceptable that administrative inefficiency dictates the insufficient coverage of different treatments and medications available and takes valuable care time away from the patient, especially in cases of life or death. Buttigieg’s plan will give people their own choice and allow them to make a decision based on what makes sense for them and their wellbeing. 

Throughout the night, O’Rourke did remarkably well in the debate overall, continually proving himself to be a strong contender. He’s voicing what many Americans want to hear, but still seems to be failing to stand out when it comes to “electability,” especially compared to Biden and his years of experience in the White House. Warren’s impressive performances in the debates are continually backed by her numbers in the polls. Leading her fight is the amount of credible and real substance in her argument, something that is only strengthened by the style and energy she presents herself with. Sanders provides a podium to the teen climate activists by discussing the Green New Deal, the pressing concerns highlighted by the United Nations, and how climate worries should be addressed. 

Though the candidates covered a wide range of topics crucial to Americans, they also failed to discuss many key other issues that voters feel are necessary in order to make their decisions. Some issues, including abortion and LGBTQIA+ rights, were completely omitted while others like foreign policy were insufficiently discussed. Tune in to watch the Fourth Democratic debate on Tuesday, Oct. 15 as the contenders continue to prove their potential to serve the American people.