A recap of the March democratic debate between the leading candidates


The Democratic Party began the 2020 Presidential Election cycle with nearly 30 candidates, but since then, the field has narrowed to two: former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. To qualify for the Democratic Debate, the candidates must have gained at least 20 percent of the total number of pledged delegates from designated states.

Sunday’s debate focused heavily on the coronavirus, college tuition, immigration and climate change, among other topics. 

The candidates were given 90 seconds to answer questions and 45 seconds to respond. 



When discussing the coronavirus, Biden called for American unity, saying the most important thing was to help those who could be exposed and get them tested. According to Biden, this should include securing at least 10 drive-thru testing points in every state. Biden also expressed concerns over the economic impact the virus could cause.

Sanders targeted President Donald Trump for the way he has been speaking about the virus. Sanders said his belief is aggressive measures should be set to ensure that all payments are made if a person were to get sick. 

According to Sanders, this means everyone should get the care they need without being ripped off by drug companies.

When asked if he would ask for a national lock down, Biden said he would call a meeting in the Situation Room and do what his administration did by asking for expert advice on what the best decision is.

Sanders discussed how unprepared America is for this virus, connecting it back to the need for better healthcare.

Biden disagreed with Sanders, claiming that as a global crisis, the coronavirus should not be looked at in the same light as healthcare. However, Biden sided with Sanders in saying he wanted to pass legislation that specifically regards the crisis and ensures that no one must pay during the crisis, but deal with the economic impacts once the crisis is overcome. 

Although the coronavirus began in China, Chinese diplomats have recently spread false allegations that it began with the U.S. military as a way to avoid blame, according to the New York Times.

When asked on what the repercussions for China should be, Sanders said they should not be punished, but the U.S. should learn to work with them and they should learn not to lie.

Biden went back to his discussion on unity, saying all nations need to work together to combat the virus. 

Biden and Sanders agreed on the need for a major bailout package that rewards individuals, not large companies. 

Both candidates agreed that we need to make sure all immigrants feel safe going to the hospital if they were to contract the virus. 


Need for change 

The need for a socio-political change was also discussed. 

Biden emphasised the need for immediate change. Biden also went on the offensive, saying he could incite such changes whereas Sanders has not explained how he is going to pay for anything he suggests. 

Biden took that opportunity to discuss the Biden Healthcare Plan, which is essentially an amended Obamacare plan. 

“What people want is hope, and they need it now — not four years from now,” Biden said. 

Sanders took aim at the current healthcare system, which does not have paid family leave or universal healthcare. He emphasised the importance of looking at “the reality of human life,” which he says needs more than the current system administers.

Sanders connected this to an unfair social ladder in America, which favors the rich over the poor. He said that to make real changes, the people must take on Wall Street, drug companies and fossil fuels. 

“In the richest country in the history of the world, half of our people should not be struggling to put food on the table,” Sanders said.


College Tuition and Bankruptcy

Sanders criticized Biden for only coming around to his ideas of free college and higher minimum wage recently, when he has been promoting them for a while. 

Sanders continued to bring up their difference in voting records, suggesting he has been on the side of justice longer than Biden. Sanders said that in a time of crisis, people know his record. 

Biden defended himself, saying the reason he voted differently was not because he was less moral than Sanders, but because he did not believe the bills would adequately solve the issues at hand.


Women’s Rights 

In discussing women’s rights, Sanders and Biden said they would appoint women to positions of authority. Biden said he is going to appoint the first black woman to the courts, and would pick a woman to be vice president. He also touted that he wrote the domestic violence law. 

Sanders responded that “in all likelihood,” he will run with a woman, but he is more concerned with a progressive mate. 

Sanders reminded the audience that he is pro-choice and stands for equal pay. 

“I believe it’s a woman’s opportunity to make that decision,” Biden said with regards to abortion. 

Sanders also attempted to attack Biden’s past positions on abortion, such as being against the Hyde Amendment. 



Biden said he would deport criminals and everyone else can stay in the nation. He stood against the wall and wants to speed up the system that leads to citizenship. 

Sanders wants to restore the legal status of DACA members, eliminate ICE raids and pass comprehensive immigration reform. He also denied that he wants open borders and said the issue is about people who have been here for a very long time and deserve to stay here. 


Climate Change 

When asked for specifics about how his plans would address the health impact of climate change, Sanders said that he believes we need to attack it harshly. He wants to transform America’s energy system away from fossil fuels and stop giving companies tax breaks. 

Biden agreed extreme measures need to be taken to address climate change. He believed even though his plan is cheaper, it is just as ambitious as Sanders’ plan. He also wants to immediately rejoin the Paris climate accords and wants no more funding to the fossil fuel industry. 


Closing Message  

Sanders said in these moments of economic security we need to examine how we end up in an economy where so many people are hurting.

“This is the time to move aggressively… But it is also a time to rethink America,” Sanders concluded.

Biden said that he can’t imagine what people are going through right now. 

“This is an all hands on deck. This is bigger than any individual,” Biden said. “This is about how we bring people together.”