By Rachel Rock and Jacob Colling
BU News Service
Four of the eight candidates running for the Democratic nomination in November spoke Wednesday night at Saint Anselm College in Manchester.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer each had an hour to give their speech, which aired on CNN at 8 p.m.
The speeches came hours after the Republican-led Senate voted to acquit President Donald Trump of all articles of impeachment. Several candidates had expressed their thoughts before the Town Hall, most controversially Tom Steyer who called Trump “the criminal in the White House.”
Anderson Cooper addressed the impeachment trial within a minute of the town hall, asking Joe Biden his thoughts on it.
“I can’t imagine being president of the United States and having all of one party and one person from another party vote to impeach and consider that a victory,” Biden said.
Biden also acknowledged Republican talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Tuesday night at Trump’s State of the Union.
“Rush Limbaugh spent his entire time on the air dividing people,” Biden said. “I do feel bad he’s suffering from a terminal illness but the idea that he, at the State of the Union, receives a medal of the highest honor that can be given to a civilian, I find driven by trying to maintain right-wing political credentials more than anything else.”
Biden said he will create millions of jobs through infrastructure projects, including a nationwide electric grid and leveraging America’s leadership in sustainable and renewable energy technologies. He admitted it will require significant funds, but said he believed its the way to help workers transition to a new source of income.
“We will need to invest in retraining,” he said. “We create 15% of the world’s carbon problem, we have to help to solve it.”
In a series of questions from the audience, Biden reinforced that he is the candidate for the job by citing his previous record, including his “forward-thinking plan” for climate change, his wish to increase access for education through free community college and his proposal to write off student debt with various sorts of community involvement.
In a personal and humanizing moment, Biden spoke for nearly six minutes of what it’s like to struggle with stuttering. He offered to give a personal phone number to young people who struggle.
“Stuttering is the only handicap left that people will make fun of. It’s a debilitating condition,” Biden said. “I’ll give you my phone number, not a joke, I’ll give you my private number.”
Warren spent much of her first 20 minutes discussing corruption, first by citing the stark contrast between her and the recently acquitted president, and by mentioning the several part-time jobs she had when she was young, compared to Trump’s childhood mansion.
Warren called Trump “the most corrupt president in history.”
Warren said corruption drives people across party lines “crazy.” She said for decades corporate lobbyists have opened loopholes to avoid paying taxes, which puts pressure on those below the 1%.
“Those guys get off the hook because they figured out it was cheaper to hire a whole bunch of lobbyists in Washington to open up a loophole,” she said,” to the point that they end up paying nothing.”
In an emotional response to a question about illegal immigration, Warren teared up about seeing cages full of children alone and nursing mothers in another cage. While making her point, Warren shared her conversation with one of these mothers who described why she and her infant traveled to the United States.
“This mother had offered water to a policeman which made her a target of the gangs,” Warren said. “She fled with her baby to save herself and her baby.”
Warren gave her support for the decriminalization of illegal immigration and her plans to make a path to citizenship for anyone who is in the United States.
“Immigration does not make this country weaker. Immigration makes this country stronger,” Warren said.
The senator also argued that Trump created the crisis at the border by cutting U.S. aid to Central America. She promised to restore U.S. aid in the region to stabilize the governments in an effort to reduce the flow of immigration.
Elizabeth Warren spent a substantial amount of time discussing her views on the current gun violence problem in America.
“I want to be in an America where children don’t have to have active shooter drills,” she said.
She paralleled her plan of action on guns to federal intervention within the auto industry, where she said deaths went down 80% with government intervention. She called gun violence “a national health emergency.”
“While I’m president, I want to reduce death by gun violence by 80 percent.”
Warren, a former teacher then transitioned into a question regarding climate change, arguing for education overall.
“Let me say something that is very controversial in Washington,” she said. “I believe in science. I will have a secretary of education who understands that public dollars should stay in public school … We can have a department of education that is really on the side of public education.”
Andrew Yang gave a humorous, personality-driven initial appearance during which he congratulated Sen. Mitt Romney for having the bravery to vote to convict Trump. Yang also analyzed the increasing polarization of the parties, which he said is making Trump harder to beat.
College student debt came up multiple times during Yang’s segment. He reinforced more technical training and not pushing typical college secondary education for all. He also explained his plan to give $1,000 a month to every American over 18.
“Six percent of Americans in high schools are in technical training, compared to Germany’s 59%,” he said.
Climate change and the subsidization of fossil fuel companies were next at hand. Yang proposed a carbon tax and moving subsidies from fossil fuel to renewable energy, a reversal of Trump’s policies.
Andrew Yang contrasted Trump’s currently high approval ratings and record unemployment with a record high suicide rate, positioning himself as an antithesis to the current president multiple times.
Tom Steyer and his experience, or lack thereof, was the driving force behind many of the questions he faced. Steyer argued that although he lacks political history, this is his strength in defeating Trump.
He drew upon his business history and spoke on how it would prove to be essential in defeating Trump. He drew on this private sector experience to explain how he would create the most effective combat to climate change thus far, specifically citing that a carbon tax is not the way to go.
He reinforced his “Day One” initiatives, including declaring a national state of emergency for climate change and fighting various corporate tax loopholes.
Steyer was briefly stumped when asked when he faced adversity. He told a story about a boss who treated people horribly in his first job after graduate school.
“I got in a gigantic fight with the guy. I left. The people at the firm 100% sided with him. They told me not only can you never speak to anyone in this firm, no one can go to your wedding,” he said. “It turned out after several years that everything I said was true … It’s not that different from standing here and telling you guys I can take down Donald Trump. When you’re right you’ve got to stick to your guns.”
Finally, he argued that stigmatism and racism are going unchecked, saying that racism like that spoken by Trump lets racists “think they have won.”
Steyer put his personality and proposed solutions on display tonight: common sense and common-sense solutions to today’s problems.
“It’s true that I’ve not held elected office but if you believe what I believe, which is that this is a government that is broken and has been bought by corporations, you have to ask who will take them on.”
The Town Hall will continue Thursday night at 8 p.m. with Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Deval Patrick.