Democratic Debate comes with civilian hate

Rayeann Pauquette

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Protestors almost took center stage at the recent democratic debate that took place at Otterbein University on Oct. 15. The crowd boasted signs from strong second amendment supporters, like “My God-Given Rights Might Offend Your ‘Feelings,’”  as well as groups intensely supporting President Trump sported “Crooked Hillary for Jail 2020” and “Keep America Great” t-shirts, and even hoods representing the radical hate group the Ku Klux Klan were seen scattered through the crowd.

A lot of people had mixed feelings about these representations. Sara and Marco Castro, loyal Westervillians and musicians of the band The Castros, were interested to see what was happening in uptown Westerville. “I want to see what’s going on.” Sara said. “It’s interesting to see people coming into your town and representing many different things.” 

Marco had similar thoughts. “I think the extremists are not good. Kindness and to portray something good is what you should be here for. Just be people to people,” he said.

While some were quietly observing as the Castros were, a couple from Boulder, Colorado, Stephen Parlato and wife Jane stood out in the crowd. Standing with a “ten foot sphere” suspended in the air that read, “Your VOTE is the Only Antidote!”. Stephen Parlato said he has been displaying bold statements since the midterms.

 “I was using them on a mobile billboard in Washington, D.C. for the midterms, so that on either side of a sixteen wheeler was an eight foot high and twenty six foot long image image with the adage ‘your vote is the only antidote.’ I also did it for the first debate in Miami,” Stephen Parlato said. Stephen ran into issues with the vehicle displaying the message, so he found a company that specializes in parade balloons. Now, you can find him at any major political event across the country.

On the other side of the crowd sat Jim and Shawna Flaningan in lawn chairs with a neon green sign reading “My God-Given Rights Might Offend Your ‘Feelings’” in bold black letters. The sign refers to the second amendment, or the right to bear arms. “I wouldn’t call it a protest. We’re sitting out here demonstrating our first amendment right,” said Shawna Flaningan, holding an assault rifle. “[It’s important] that our constitutional rights are not taken.”

“Your right to ask us questions is just as important as our right to have our opinions,” Jim Flaningan said. “[The amendments] are being trampled on by numerous people; not just Democrats, not just Republicans.” Jim continued, while also holding an assault rifle, “It’s important because there’s a group of twelve in [the debate] that think we shouldn’t have this right.”

Further down State Street stood Amy McMillin from Akron, Ohio wearing a “Beto for America” t-shirt along with a group with matching merchandise. “We’ve been standing out here since ten in the morning. We’ve hit a couple of different locations, too,” says McMillin. The debate started at 8 p.m. “We love Beto’s big, bold action on gun control and we just want to see our kids safer in schools, but also have everybody’s rights respected. We’re just citizens who want to have a safe community.”

Chants ranging from “Dump Trump!” and “It’s time, it’s time, it’s time for a woman in the White House!” to “Four More Years!” could be heard through the entirety of Uptown Westerville. Everybody’s beliefs were projected across town until the debate ended at 11 p.m.

 

City Preparations

On October 15th, Otterbein University hosted the fourth Democratic Debate of the 2020 election cycle. While it did bring the college and Westerville lots of publicity and attention, some, like the Westerville Police Department, worried about the problems the event could cause.

 Every Democratic Debate this year has brought both supporters and opponents of the events to wherever they are being held, and police, such as Lt. Tracey Myers, wanted to make sure they created a safe environment for everyone in the city. 

“We looked back in the first three debates as a reference,” said Myers.

Myers said that the department assigned plain clothes officers to the event who were ready to respond to a variety of different scenarios.

 He also referenced the protests in Charlottesville in August of 2017, where a car was driven into a group of protesters during a rally. In order to increase the safety of protesters during the event, the police department parked large trucks on either end of Grove and Main Street, which was the designated safe area for demonstrators, in order to prevent vehicles from being able to enter the area.

“Our main goal was a safe and secure event where everyone could feel safe, and I think we were able to get that accomplished,” said Myers. 

He also acknowledged the help that was provided by other agencies throughout Ohio, including Delaware County, Franklin County, Grove City, Dublin, Whitehall, Reynoldsburg, Gahanna, and several others. 

“We didn’t do this by ourselves,” said Myers.

 

The Debate

The fourth Democratic Debate saw 12 candidates battling on stage for the nomination for the Democratic party: former Vice President Joe Biden; New Jersey Senator Cory Booker; Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg; former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro; Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard; California Senator Kamala Harris; Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar; former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke; Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; activist/businessman Tom Steyer; Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren; and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang. 

The impeachment inquiry of President Trump was a big topic of the evening. Vice President Biden, who found himself involved in the impeachment inquiry when President Trump allegedly asked Ukranian government officials to dig up dirt on him, was asked about the accusations made by Trump that Biden and his son, Hunter, were involved in misconduct in Ukraine. He responded by saying  “[Trump] doesn’t want me to be the candidate. He’s going after me because he knows if I get the nomination I will beat him like a drum.”

Warren, another frontrunner in the polls, faced many challenges by her opponents. As someone who has built her campaign on her plans for many of the important topics of this election cycle, she has been fairly evasive on her most expensive plan, Medicare For All. When asked about how she plans to pay for it, she gave vague answers, repeating continuously that costs would go up for the wealthy and corporations and costs would go down for middle class families. 

Buttigieg criticized her vagueness and unwillingness to directly answer the question, while promoting his own plan. Klobuchar followed, calling her answers dishonest and referring to her plans as “Republican talking points.”

Another highlight came later in the evening during a discussion of President Trump’s recent decision to pull American troops from Syria, which led to the escape of captured ISIS troops and the slaughter of America’s Kurdish allies. After being questioned about her opinion on the crisis in Syria, Congresswoman Gabbard voiced her support for pulling troops from Syria. Buttigieg challenged her on this, saying “the slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence, it’s a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal by this president of American allies and American values.” 

Buttigieg and Gabbard were the only military veterans on the stage during the debate, which gave them both a different perspective on the conflict than their colleagues. Buttigieg followed his remarks by adding that “soldiers in the field are reporting that for the first time they feel ashamed of what their country has done.” 

Gabbard also criticized the New York Times and CNN for coverage of her they produced recently. “The New York Times and CNN have smeared veterans like myself for calling to an end to this regime-change war,” she said.

Later on in the third and final hour of the debate came a question to Biden about whether the changes proposed by the other two frontrunners, Sanders and Warren, would be sufficient enough to draw in non-Democratic voters, which will be needed to beat Trump in 2020. Biden criticized his opponents for their plans, calling them too ambitious and vague, and said he was the only one who had gotten anything significant done. 

He also responded to a statement by Warren about her work in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the first regulatory agency established in a generation at the time, by claiming credit for her success in the agency’s establishment. “I went on the floor and got you those votes. I got votes for that bill. I convinced people to vote for it, so let’s get those things straight,” said Biden.

 Warren shot back by thanking President Obama and her other supporters for working to get the agency started, while making a clear point not to mention Biden. 

“You did a hell of a job at your job,” he interrupted. Warren responded with a deadpan “thank you” before continuing on with her statement. 

Biden was later criticized by viewers on social media as being condescending with his comment and his attempt to take credit for Warren’s work when, in reality, Biden’s influence on the creation of the CFPB was minimal.

The next Democratic Debate will take place in Atlanta on Nov. 20. So far, only nine candidates have qualified.