Democrats focus on some Midwestern issues at Westerville debate, a departure from past three forums –

WESTERVILLE, Ohio Democrats have said to win in 2020 they need to go into their traditional strongholds and talk to voters about the issues that matter to them.

At Tuesday nights debate at Otterbein University, they finally started following their own advice.

After three debates that largely failed to address Midwestern issues in depth, the 12 Democrats on the stage had a fairly robust discussion, taking advantage of their location in the Buckeye State. And they found a way to tie the topics to regional problems.

The economy and jobs were a prime focus of the first hour of discussion, including the monthlong strike by autoworkers against General Motors and the closure of the Lordstown GM plant. The August massacre in Dayton, Ohio, got some play. And the debate even featured a question from a teacher about the opioid crisis.

It was a stark difference from the previous three, which have mostly focused on health care with passing attention given to Midwestern issues.

The economy and jobs

Businessman Andrew Yang, whose chief plank is universal basic income, brought up the economy first, after pivoting from a question in the opening minutes about whether he supported impeaching Republican President Donald Trump.

Why did Donald Trump win your state by eight points? Yang asked the crowd. Because we got rid of 300,000 manufacturing jobs in your towns. And we are not stopping there. Amazon alone is closing 30 percent of America's stores and malls, soaking up $20 billion in business while paying zero in taxes. These are the problems that got Donald Trump elected, the fourth industrial revolution. And that is going to accelerate and grow more serious regardless of who is in the Oval Office.

After focusing on impeachment and health care for 30 minutes, the moderators switched to the economy when Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont was asked if his proposed federal jobs guarantee would, in fact, provide a job for every single American.

Damn right we will. And I'll tell you why, Sanders said. If you look at what goes on in America today, we have an infrastructure which is collapsing. We could put 15 million people to work rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our water systems, our wastewater plants, airports, et cetera.

CNN moderator Erin Burnett eventually shifted the discussion to automation, asking Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts if she stood by her statement that automation was not the main reason for job loss.

So the data show that we have had a lot of problems with losing jobs, but the principal reason has been bad trade policy, Warren said. The principal reason has been a bunch of corporations, giant multinational corporations who've been calling the shots on trade, giant multinational corporations that have no loyalty to America. They have no loyalty to American workers. They have no loyalty to American consumers. They have no loyalty to American communities. They are loyal only to their own bottom line.

Her proposed solution was to make it easier to join a labor union and require any multinational corporation that wants to do business in America to have 40% of its board elected by employees.

That will make a difference when a corporation decides, Gee, we could save a nickel by moving a job to Mexico, when there are people on the board in the boardroom saying, No, do you know what that does to our company? Do you know what that does to our community, what it does to our workers? Warren said.

Former Rep. Beto ORourke of Texas and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said they would rewrite trade deals to require that Mexican workers be allowed to join a labor union.


The candidates were all asked what they would do to curb gun violence, such as the shooting in Dayton, Ohio, where nine people were slaughtered in less than a minute.

Most of the discussion on the topic was over whether the candidates supported a mandatory or voluntary gun buyback program.

ORourke said he supported a mandatory program. The other candidates supported a form of voluntary buyback, mostly reasoning because they wanted to accomplish goals like universal background checks and red-flag laws while public support is on their side.

I just dont want to screw this up, said Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. When I am president, I want to bring in an assault weapon ban. And I do want to bring in a limitation on magazines so what happened to Dayton, Ohio, doesnt happen again.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California said she would give Congress 100 days to send her a gun reform bill, after which she would use an executive order to institute universal background checks.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said holding gun manufacturers liable for shooting deaths was also a viable option to curbing gun violence.

If you really want to get it done, go after the gun manufacturers and take back the exemption they have to not being sued, Biden said.


The opioid addiction crisis also received some play from the moderators, who said they asked Ohioans for their top questions before the debate.

The issue wasnt given as much time as other topics, though, with the candidates uniformly arguing for decriminalizing personal use and shifting funds from jailing addicts to treatment. Yang also argued for safe injection sites.

The candidates mostly agreed with holding the drug companies civilly liable for overdose deaths.

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Democrats focus on some Midwestern issues at Westerville debate, a departure from past three forums -

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