Elizabeth Warren participates in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN (Paul Sancya/AP)

Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls have faced off in a televised US debate that laid bare the struggle between a call for revolutionary policies and a desperate desire to defeat President Donald Trump.

Standing side by side at centre stage, liberal candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren hit back against their more cautious rivals who ridiculed “Medicare for all” and warned that “wish-list economics” would jeopardise Democrats’ chances for taking the White House in 2020.

“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,” said Ms Warren, a Massachusetts senator, decrying Democratic “spinelessness”.

Pete Buttigieg listens as Bernie Sanders speaks during the Democratic presidential primary debate in Detroit (Paul Sancya/AP)

Mr Sanders, a Vermont senator, agreed: “I get a little bit tired of Democrats afraid of big ideas.”

Six months before the first votes are cast, the tug-of-war over the future of the party pits pragmatism against ideological purity as voters navigate a crowded Democratic field divided by age, race, sex and ideology.

The fight with the political left was the dominant subplot on the first night of the second round of Democratic debates, which was notable as much for its tension as its substance.

Twenty candidates are spread evenly over two nights of debates. The second night on Wednesday will feature early front-runner Joe Biden, the former vice president, as well as Kamala Harris, a California senator.

While much of the debate was dominated by attacks on the preferred liberal health care policy, the issue of race emerged in the second hour.

The candidates were unified in turning their anger towards Mr Trump for using race as a central theme in his reelection campaign.

Mr Sanders called Mr Trump a racist, while others said the president’s rhetoric revived memories of the worst in the country’s history, including slavery.

“The legacy of slavery and segregation and Jim Crow and suppression is alive and well in every aspect of the economy and the country today,” said Beto O’Rourke, adding that he supported the creation of a panel to examine reparations for the descendants of slaves.

Beto O’Rourke talks to John Hickenlooper during a break in the Democratic presidential primary debate (Paul Sancya/AP)

The marathon presidential primary season will not formally end for another year, but there was an increasing sense of urgency for many candidates who are fighting for survival.

More than a dozen could be blocked from the next round of debates – and effectively pushed out of the race – if they fail to reach new polling and fundraising thresholds implemented by the Democratic National Committee.

Amy Klobuchar, who is working to keep her campaign alive, aligned herself with the pragmatic wing: “We are more worried about winning an argument than winning an election.”

Montana governor Steve Bullock, in his first debate appearance, took a swipe at Mr Sanders: Working people “can’t wait for a revolution”, he said. “Their problems are here and now.”

While he avoided any direct confrontations with his more liberal rivals, Pete Buttigieg tried several times to present himself as the more sober alternative in the race.

He rejected extreme positions, quoted scripture and abstained from calling out his opponents.

It is time to stop worrying about what the Republicans will say
Pete Buttigieg

The 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, also subtly emphasised the generational difference between himself and Mr Sanders, the candidate 40 years his senior standing to his side.

Perhaps no issue illustrates the evolving divide within the Democratic Party more than health care.

Mr Sanders’s plan to provide free universal health care, known as Medicare for all, has become a litmus test for liberal candidates, who have embraced the plan to transform the current system despite the political and practical risks.

Medicare for all would abandon the private insurance market in favour of a taxpayer-funded system that would cover all Americans.

The moderates derided the plan as too costly, ineffective and a way to give Republicans the evidence they needed that Democrats supported socialism.

“They’re running on telling half the country that their health care is illegal,” said John Delaney.

“We have a choice. We can go down the road that Senator Sanders and Senator Warren want to take us, which is with bad policies like Medicare for all, free everything and impossible promises,” he said. “It will turn off independent voters and get Trump reelected.”

But Mr Sanders and Ms Warren did not back down.

“Health care is a human right, not a privilege. I believe that. I will fight for that,” Mr Sanders said.

Mr Buttigieg called on his party to stop the infighting.

“It is time to stop worrying about what the Republicans will say,” he said.. “It’s true that if we embrace a far-left agenda, they’re going to say we’re a bunch of crazy socialists.

“If we embrace a conservative agenda, you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to say we’re a bunch of crazy socialists.

“So let’s just stand up for the right policy, go out there and defend it.”

PA Media

Fonte: https://www.independent.ie/world-news/sanders-and-warren-fight-back-at-democratic-debate-against-moderate-rivals-38361645.html

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