Who Asked You: Live from Madrid, It’s Debate #3

Marissa Martinez and Gabby Birenbaum

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MARISSA: Hola y bienvenidos a “Quién te Preguntó?” We’re your hosts, Gabby and Marissa.

GABBY: We are coming at you with an abroad episode of Who Asked You. We’re both studying abroad in Madrid. We still know very little about Spanish politics, but…

MARISSA: We’re trying. We’re learning.

GABBY: We did still sadly watch that three hour long debate, which was at two in the morning here. I can’t say watched it live. But..

MARISSA: We’re going to keep it nice and concise, just like those moderators did during the third debate.

GABBY: Shout out to George and the rest of them.

MARISSA: The moderators snapped, they really did.

GABBY: This is how you do it. Take notes, other networks.

MARISSA: @CNN, specifically.

GABBY: Okay, so to start off, we’re going to talk a little bit about the beginning of the debate over health care between Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. I think at this point, we’ve made our views on health care and the differences between candidates’ plans pretty clear. So I think we want to talk more about the political implications of that debate and sort of into a wider conversation about how unity, I think in this day, is prioritized more than infighting. What do you think?

MARISSA: Yeah, I’d say so. I feel like there was a few moments where it got a little chaotic or whatever. But for the most part, I think all the candidates seemed to stay in their lane. It made me a little frustrated when we were going back to the basics of everyone’s plans again, because I think that at this point, you know, we’ve talked about it so many times.

GABBY: Although Mayor Pete talks all about Medicare For All Who Want It yet has not released his plan. They asked him a date, and he said, “I don’t know.”

MARISSA: So that’s true. There’s definitely a divide between people who are talking about it incessantly and the people who probably don’t even have a plan, question mark?

GABBY: Painting with some broad brushstrokes.

MARISSA: People are like, we need health care in this country. I’m like, ‘Okay, cool.’

GABBY: Well, thank you so much. You’re so brave.

MARISSA: Thank you so much. And so like, I don’t know. I feel like Warren, obviously, we know that she can explain things very well. I thought that it was important, of course, to bring up some of the dead spots in Sanders and Warren’s campaigns, as well. But I think I just I wanted something more from this health care debate. I wanted more maybe personal stories. I wanted more things beyond how we’re going to pay for it. I wanted more complexities, because at this point, we’ve been retiring the same numbers over and over again and talking about the same talking points. But I don’t know, it just fell flat. What about you?

GABBY: Yeah, we’ve talked about it so many times. At this point, I wish we could have dedicated time to issues that never come up, i.e. women. @Moderators everywhere, make that a topic! But I was watching it more for like the political implications of what it meant at this point. Everybody knows, like you said, what people stand for. I did think Elizabeth Warren did a little bit more to distinguish herself from Bernie Sanders. She definitely, I think, has her eye a little bit more on the general election now, because she had such a great summer. I think she made it less about, you know, the insurance companies are scamming us and more about, you know, people don’t want to pay premiums and co-pays and healthcare is a right, things like that. I did think she evaded the question a bit about will taxes be raised on the middle class? I think she needs to either come out and say, yes, but overall costs will be less because you’re not going to have to pay co-pays and premiums. But I wish she did seem a little waffly on getting an answer there.

MARISSA: There’s so much more opportunity for this whole ‘nobody likes their private insurance.’

GABBY: Yeah, I really appreciate that her and Bernie said that, because that’s something that we’ve talked about extensively.

MARISSA: Exactly. And so I think we just need more of that. Like more of the what will it mean for us, not only economically, as a country, but socially, politically? What will it mean for me as an individual, when my insurance will ‘get taken away?’ That’s what I would want to know personally as a voter is how their plans will affect me beyond just raising or lowering my taxes.

GABBY: I thought was interesting. A lot of people anticipated a bit of a Warren-Biden showdown in the same vein as like, Biden and Kamala Harris got into it in the first debate. That didn’t really happen.

MARISSA: Yeah, it’s like the first time that they’ve been on the same stage.

GABBY: I wonder if maybe, maybe that didn’t test well for her. Maybe it’s because the moderators weren’t trying to create these little fights, which I appreciate it.

MARISSA: It was not a boxing match, I will say.

GABBY: Biden came out pretty strong, aggressive. I thought he was definitely much more aggressive, and ‘I’m fighting for the country’ rather than just like paternalistic, like, oh, vote for me, because like, ‘I’m the safe choice, the right choice, like, I’m the grandfather, or whatever.’ And so I appreciate how he was like this is my plan. This is Sanders and Warren’s plans. Here’s what I think is wrong about that and here’s what I think is right about mine and that Warren and Sanders did the same thing. And it was less about personal grievances or differences. And just, you know, here’s my plan, here’s what I think. Voters can make their own decision.

MARISSA: Showing that unity was definitely like brought out in opening statements, was brought up very early on. And so that’s why I think that Castro’s like, kind of choice to go after Biden was a little unexpected. I think that he’s definitely trying to showcase himself and differentiate himself as something because he is polling pretty low in comparison to everyone else, even though he’s still made it onto the debate stage. And I think he had an OK showing. But I wanted more from him to differentiate himself based on his personality and what he did in the Obama administration. I think he started to get there. But I want more of a full push.

GABBY: Yeah, I think attacking Biden, especially in the manner he did where, you know, suggested things about Biden’s ability to remember — especially because in that instance, like Castro had actually misheard Biden. I just thought the whole instance didn’t play well for him. It just seemed like unnecessary. And for the most part, I thought it was pretty civil. Somewhat, I wouldn’t say low energy, but like pretty low-key, maybe more relaxed as opposed to some of the other debates, I think. The noticeable absence of John Delaney was appreciated by me. Obviously, Bernie was like choking up a storm. But I guess that’s why we need Medicare for All!

MARISSA: Someone like dropped a glass and shattered a vase or something in the background. It was kind of a messy debate,to be honest.
GABBY: It was strange. I also thought Kamala Harris made it very clear: she’s already in the general election in her mind. So she’s like, Listen, plans are plans, I’m going to beat Trump. She kept bringing it back to Donald Trump. And that’s the message she tried to send to voters: I’m a prosecutor, whatever, I can prosecute the case against Trump.

MARISSA: But I think at the same time, she needs to get better at owning up
to her record.

GABBY: Definitely. I mean, she was way more prepared for it this time.

MARISSA: Yeah, no, definitely. I mean, she read Twitter, like, saw that everyone’s like actually concerned.

GABBY: She logged on to Twitter.com.

MARISSA: Exactly. And it’s like, it’s a right concern of many voters to say, Hey, we should interrogate everybody’s backgrounds and records, including Kamala Harris. But, I’m sure she spent hours preparing for that question, and yet, when it came up, I was just so disappointed because I think she tried to explain herself as like some sort of like humble, noble comeup, which is fine. But then, like your record still is the same no matter what drew you into prosecuting or what took you out of it. And so owning up to the mistakes and the things you’ve said and done that are bad instead of buckling down on them and defending them with all your might — that’s not going to cut it. Especially when you attack Biden, like she does, rightfully so again, on his record. Like, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t be like everyone’s pasts are up for negotiation — which I think they should be — and then at the same time, be like, oh, well, my past isn’t. That’s okay, because I can explain it away. Like, we wouldn’t take that from anybody else.

GABBY: Definitely. But at the same time, I think it’s important for you and I to remember that like the electorate is not Twitter, and like definitely not our Twitters. I think the average person isn’t, as, you know, obviously tuned into the day to day of the campaign trail and doesn’t know as much about her past as a prosecutor. So I think, if you’re coming at it from a standpoint of, oh, I know she has some things that she should have apologized for. I don’t really know specifics. From that sense, I think, did she like defend against those allegations? No. But she presented like alternative information that put her in a positive light. So I think from that sense, it was like a good answer. And she, like, crafted a good narrative around it if you’re somebody who isn’t already coming at it with that, like, that depth of knowledge.

MARISSA: I could definitely see it that way. I just think if like the moderators are going to bring it up, it’s not like…it would be one thing if she had to bring it up herself. But I think because the moderators and the candidates have tried to like take her to task on that, I think that she should be able to have like a definite answer. The same way that if like a moderator asked Elizabeth Warren about the native ancestry test debacle, I think she should be able to confront that head on and explain and give some reasoning behind that and apologize in a public forum. But I mean, I don’t expect them, unfortunately, to bring up these issues with their own campaigns and their own likability context.

GABBY: Well, women are unlikable, so..

MARISSA: Speaking of women — they didn’t. Because there was no mention of women besides like, a few times.

GABBY: The most, like, dramatic instance of talking about sexism, to me, was like Warren’s brief mention that she, like, literally got fired for being pregnant back in the day.

MARISSA: Right. I was like, okay, like, Yeah, but… I don’t know it just feels so obvious. Especially us because, you know, spoiler alert, we are women. But it just feels like so obvious. A giant mix-up. Like, half the country is women. Half the voting population is women.

GABBY: More than half.

MARISSA: And whether you have one ideology or another, you’re going to be affected in some way or shape or form by the presidency. And so I would like to know what candidates are going to do about trans women being murdered, about abortions, about birth control, about sexual assault.

GABBY: About the pay gap!

MARISSA: Exactly. All these things that like have a huge consequences on my life every day.

GABBY: And I was actually really disappointed in the context of the gun control conversation that nobody brought up misogyny, which is like a factor in nearly every mass shooting.

MARISSA: Misogyny and racism seem to be the biggest causes of these mass shootings.

GABBY: Right. And I was glad they call it out white supremacy, but like, in literally nearly every single mass shooting, the shooter has expressed misogynist sentiment.

MARISSA: I don’t know, there’s just so many things that they could have talked about in regards to women, in regards to Native Americans and in regards to like foreign policy, that they just really have not brought up in a nuanced way. Unless someone like Kirsten Gillibrand, or like Jay Inslee, with the climate change stuff.

GABBY: Right. Her absence was felt. RIP Kirsty!

MARISSA: The candidates were like more of the single issue people, like, bringing things up. Like we have that with the economy, we have that with health care. And we have that with Beto, I think now as gun control, but we still need to be talking more about things that, like, affect a large swath of the population.

GABBY: I also really want to talk about the moderators because shout out to them. All four of them did a great job. I really appreciate how instead of asking questions like, but what would a Republican think?, they, you know, they would ask questions that framed it in a specific way, but allowed them to talk greater. Like for example, one of the moderators asked Biden, you know, President Obama tasked you with getting gun control legislation passed. Your claim to electability is that you can reach across the aisle, but you couldn’t get it done then. What makes you think you can get it done now? I thought that was such a great way to frame, you know, Biden’s messaging, marrying it to an issue, but then not really framing it in such a narrow way where you have to defend yourself against an attack that like only that non-Democratic voters would make. So I really appreciate it.

MARISSA: They did their homework. They were on Twitter after the CNN debate. They took notes. They did the reading.

GABBY: I do wish a lot of candidates would talk a little bit more about specifics, like the moderators are trying to get them to do, about how they would get these things passed. So you know, it’s one thing to say I’m going to fight for you. I think Cory Booker was really guilty of this a lot of the time saying, no one’s gonna fight harder than me for this. I live in x community, so I see this every day, and I care about this. But it’s, you know, they asked him repeatedly, like, how are you going to get this done in a Republican Senate, for example? Like how, if you don’t support removing the filibuster, how you gonna achieve these things? Which there was one question like name a Republican colleagues that you think would actually support this? And he just avoided the question by saying, you know, and it was inspiring and motivational, but it was like, I will fight for this, blah, blah, blah. But it’s like, okay, I believe you. But within the context of the American system, how are you going to achieve this?

MARISSA: To kind of sidetrack, I think one candidate that did pretty well this time was Beto O’Rourke. He definitely was not asleep this time. He took his NyQuil after the debate, not before. And I think it definitely helped boost him. It definitely helped that like all the candidates seemed very pro his work in El Paso.

GABBY: And I think rightfully so. His response was important.

MARISSA: He’s been critiqued almost by like conservatives, and by the right and by some moderate Democrats by saying, oh, he’s just picked up El Paso as part of his campaign. He’s like politicizing this. But I think he’s definitely leaning into this the correct way in saying that this is part of my home state. I mean, a state honestly that has not been supporting him very well throughout this primaries. But nonetheless, he’s like, this is my state. This is where I come from. This is where I live. This can be changed in a major way.

GABBY: It’s also just really interesting to see like the distance between the parties. Like when Beto said this country didn’t start in 1776, it started in 1619 with the kidnapping of the first enslaved Africans, and everyone like cheered and stuff. It’s so funny to think, like, Republicans literally cannot even acknowledge, like the 1619 Project.

MARISSA: I mean, to be fair, Beto also didn’t technically acknowledge the 1619 Project. But that’s, that’s another thing for another day….Also, speaking of racism…Biden!. So he, like, did fine.

GABBY: I think this was probably his best debate performance. And honestly, for Biden, like, not fucking up huge is like a win for him. Like, obviously, he said, the record players thing.

MARISSA: Right. He’s been coasting for a while, but like, so like, not doing badly. Definitely good for him. But at the same time, like, all this coded language, like I’m so tired of it. He clearly is talking about black children when he’s talking about things like the 4 million word gap, which has been proven wrong, and like saying, Oh, poor children in schools doing not as well as white children.

GABBY: To me, he just appears like a relic of the past. I think from this debate, it’s interesting, because both Biden and Harris are pushing this message of electability, right. Harris is like, I’m the one to take on Trump. And Biden is like, I’m going to fix the problems. You know, I know how to do it. I’m not, you know, too far to the left, I’m, you know, I’m right…you know, you know, me blah, blah, blah. And so they both sort of went down that road. And I think for this debate, mostly, if you liked Biden, I don’t think there was really anything to see there that would make you change your mind. If you didn’t like Biden, I think you probably felt the same way you’ve always felt. Honestly, it can be counted as like a win for him because the bar for him is so much lower than every other candidate.

MARISSA: And that’s the problem. I don’t know. It just makes me so upset that he can just get away with saying these things and still be at the top of the race, in the center of the stage. Like, record players? Are you kidding me? Record players?

GABBY: Today Marissa and I were in our art history class, learned about like ancient art, like that’s where it belongs.

MARISSA: Andrew Yang also was like leaning into some stereotypes when he was like, Oh, I’m an Asian. I know a lot of doctors. Like, okay, that joke felt so flat. Like, I cringed
so hard.

GABBY: I just don’t understand, like, why he keeps doing it. And like, obviously, he’s an Asian American, I’m not like, I’m not going to tell him how to..

MARISSA: Well, I am. He shouldn’t say it.

GABBY: But like, just from what I’ve seen on Twitter, and just from like, you know, understanding how like positive stereotyping is still stereotyping. And it still makes like members of a community who aren’t, like, who don’t associate with those stereotypes creates an isolation and differences within the community.

MARISSA: And there’s such a huge range of income inequality among Asian immigrants, and that is continually glossed over for the stereotype that everyone who comes over is wealthy and educated and can get into those high-ranking doctor and lawyer positions very easily.

GABBY: And like going to start a Fortune 500 company, yeah.

MARISSA: But there’s a huge, huge, huge pay gap between some of the richest people coming in from the poorest people coming in. Maybe it’s a sidetrack and it was really only one line. But I think it also illustrates the larger problem of Andrew Yang being painted at this model minority, like with the whole comedian being hired SNL thing, like, that is such a mess. Like why you are…I’m not going to get started on that. But Andrew Yang had some like, viral moments, I would say. I think people cheered a lot for him. And I think he got some good press on Twitter, but I just don’t see the viability of his campaign going further. Because everything that came out of his mouth was just like bleh!

GABBY: Also the like subtle illegal vibes of giving money, like, through his campaign account to people. Like, paying for votes.

MARISSA: You can’t do that!

GABBY: I love what he said that, Pete Buttigieg was like, hmm okay. I think, from like a political strategy standpoint, I think at this point, it’s pretty clear that like for those early states, Biden, Warren, Sanders, and then to a lesser extent, Harris, Buttigieg, maybe Booker are going to be really competing. From those candidates on the side of the stage, at this point, what do you think we need to see from them?

MARISSA: This time between the third and fourth debates, it’s gonna be critical. So I think it means a lot more town halls, it means a lot more interacting with voters and figuring out where the demographics are that they’re not really reaching yet and trying to hit those in a non-pandery way. I mean, which, honestly, it was not possible at this point. But trying to reach out to as many types of communities as possible. And I don’t know, just like, seeming less corny, and, like, more human. For me as a voter, seeing someone regurgitate their platform on Twitter is not going to make me rush to vote for them, but seeing them hold a really good speech or answer question really well during a town hall — that’s gonna make me more inspired.

GABBY: Have a good viral moment, yeah.

MARISSA: Right! Rather than ‘AK-47s are bad’, which, you know, is true.

GABBY: They are.

MARISSA: But nothing like that doesn’t distinguish you from anybody else. Because I’m scrolling on Twitter, I’m scrolling on Facebook, and on any other social media. I see that, I like it, and I just keep going. Nothing really sticks with me past that. What about you?

GABBY: Yeah, I’m curious to see, when voting starts, the difference between, you know, these national forums and the on-the-ground teams that these candidates are employing, especially in a state, you know, Iowa first in the nation, very important politically. That’s a state where, from my understanding, there’s a really big impact of like, on-the-ground interactions with candidates, interactions with candidates’ team members, five-person, you know, coffee meet and greet situations, whatever it may be. So I’m curious to see, like, if candidates like an Amy Klobuchar has more on the ground appeal then she comes across nationally. And if there’s something that, you know, the national press or the national narratives are missing, or if they’re just never going to get the name recognition at this point.

MARISSA: Also one blind spot I kind of noticed was foreign policy. We can see that these candidates do not know their way around foreign policy. And that is kind of making me concerned at this point. Because before, I think it was fine to focus on domestic issues, because you know, as America we have so many. And yet..

GABBY: As foreigners, ourselves these days, for exactly two weeks..

MARISSA: I just, like, actually, like, genuinely need to know, like, what these candidates think about Venezuela, about China, about like X, Y and Z without tying it to the economy solely. Because, yes, like the economy is a huge factor. But so is, you know, military colonization and welfare and foreign relationships. And they’ve talked about those things in the past, but like, just not well.

GABBY: Yeah, I’m curious to hear it. Definitely more on like, foreign policy in terms of climate change is what I’d like to hear more of besides just like re-entering the Paris climate agreement. And definitely it was the boringest section for me when they talked about trade. Yeah, I did find it interesting when Elizabeth Warren — and she said this before, it wasn’t the first time she said this — she sort of staked out this position that’s mostly sort of associated with like activists from the 90s. There was this, after the WTO was created in the Clinton era, there was this sort of merging between unions and environmental activists, who basically their position, and Warren’s position, is that like, for unions, they lose out because when multinational corporations are allowed to move their labor and their manufacturing costs to places that don’t have regulations, or as strict regulations, like China, then American businesses lose out and American workers lose out. At the same time, then those countries also not allowed to have strict environmental regulations. So then, you know, global labor and global environment suffer in that sense. And then it also hurts, you know, American businesses and the global environment.

MARISSA: It’s not enough for me. I need, because like, the economy and climate change, those are obviously very important to the American people and to the broader world. But, when the United States has been doing so many heinous things, in terms of immigration, in terms of foreign policy, through the White House, I’d need more at this point. And I don’t know if we’re going to get that in time for the fourth debate. You know, if I’m between two or three candidates, that’s going to be a tiebreaker. For sure. Not just because I’m studying abroad, because like the world that we live in is clearly going through a lot of crises right now. And I need someone who will be able to articulate, like, their plans and their policies and actually enact them. We can’t just have someone who will do something that someone else tells them to. I want someone who wants to take action, or put people into office who can take action. And I haven’t really seen that from any candidate in particular.

GABBY: I’m also curious to start hearing about what an administration under these candidates would look like. You know, how they’re going to staff their cabinet, what kind of things they’re looking to do terms of civil service, State Department, Department of Education, all these bureaucratic functions that have been essentially, at best, made irrelevant, and at worst, completely mismanaged and actively doing harm under the Trump administration. First 100 days, what are your priorities? You know, what are the things you really going to push? Because sometimes, you know, you only get a policy window, you can only push forward one thing.

MARISSA: Well, I mean, it seems like Biden is going to be Vice President forever. I feel like he doesn’t really need to have anything because, you know, as Vice President, you can’t do anything at all. As he said on the debate stage, Obama was really in charge of the whole immigration thing. He was just sitting there.

GABBY: But he was in charge of gun control, and nothing happened.

MARISSA: When’s the next debate, Gabby?

GABBY: I would love it to be never, but when it comes, we’ll be here.

MARISSA: Unfortunately. Hopefully they make it at a time that’s accessible to, I don’t know, Europe, because we’re the most important voter base in the American election, and to Russia, who will be controlling the entire election.
GABBY: Yeah, I think they would really appreciate if they could watch it at a convenient time so that they know how much money to give to Tulsi Gabbard.

MARISSA: She’s still swinging. Okay, dedication wise — we are recording this during our study abroad session. I am in a closet currently. Gabby’s in her room. Very difficult.

GABBY: It’s like 9pm. Dinner time around here — an early dinner, if you will. So, we’re trying to diversify some of our content. You’ll see some graphics coming up.

MARISSA: Yeah, just stay in touch. We will be continuing this the entire time we’re abroad. A little more infrequently than over the summer.

GABBY: Nadie nos pregunt…ó? Preguntó? Some of us are still working on that. It’s Cory Booker. It’s not me.

MARISSA: Okay, no is still no in Spanish. I didn’t realize that. He’s the Dora of the Democratic debates.

GABBY: Nobody asked us, but here we are.

Email: mmartinez@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @mar1ssamart1nez

Email: gabriellebirenbaum@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @birenbomb

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