What’s the most memorable moment from the first round of Democratic primary debates?
Unless you’re a big fan of Andrew Yang, chances are your answer was the showdown between Kamala Harris and Joe Biden. These moments where two candidates bare their claws and face off head-to-head are the only memorable part of debates that are two hours or more. They show off a candidate’s personality and how he or she will perform under pressure.
So it’s very likely that a similar showdown will take the spotlight in the second round of debates, which starts tonight. But if history is any indication, that showdown won’t be between two of the party’s more progressive candidates: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Senators Sanders and Warren are two of the most similar candidates in the Democratic primary. They are both senators from the Northeast. Each of them is comfortable with the label “democratic socialist,” though they’ve waffled at times. And both are progressive liberals who believe in big government programs.
And yet, in spite of that, the two have coexisted so far. In fact, they have been outright friendly. Whether it is solidarity in democratic socialism or a progressive detente, the two have remained allies throughout the primary. They’ve been totally unwilling to challenge one another, even where significant policy differences exist.
Take for instance their view on student debt reform. Sanders believes in total elimination of all student loan debt. By contrast, Warren has a tiered proposal to eliminate student loan debt based on need and ability to repay. Both plans are daring, but one is at least somewhat fiscally responsible, while the other is utopian but probably impractical.
No Hate on the Horizon
But even with these differences, there seems to be no sign of conflict on the horizon. Warren herself said she “can’t imagine why” the debate stage should descend into conflict, adding, “Bernie and I have been friends for a long, long time.”
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut added: “When Bernie and Elizabeth have worked together as they have in the past, it’s a powerful coalition. Both of them want to be president, but I’m sure neither one of them wants to give up the ability to work on issues [if] they get back here.”
But others in the know are not so convinced that Sanders and Warren will maintain the ceasefire. Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii stated: “I don’t doubt that their friendship and their partnership is real. But it’s a competitive business, so they still are going to go after the votes as vigorously as they can.”
Perhaps Schatz is right. If one of them attacks the other unexpectedly, it could give them a head start so significant that the other can’t recover. At the end of the day, only one of them can be president. And the longer they wait to eliminate their most obvious political opponent, the last chance there is that either of them will.