Last Saturday night’s CBS News Democratic debate in Des Moines, Iowa took place as the world community worked to comprehend the tragedy that happened in Paris, France on Friday. Each of the Democratic candidates for President issued a written statement on the Parisian shootings and bombings ahead of debate night, and they opened the debate with statements addressing the massacres.
The rest of the night’s topics included health care reform, race relations, college affordability, gun control and the minimum wage (where the tension between the candidates really began to erupt). One of the newest offerings came from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who said, "Climate change is directly related to the growth in terrorism," citing the CIA’s claim that the increase in terror will come from the "struggles with limited resources like water and land."
The verbal sparring became bit more intense on the next topic: Hillary Clinton’s proximity to Wall Street. The former Secretary of State fought back against Senator Sanders, telling him that he wouldn’t "impugn my integrity" over that issue. Clinton reiterated that she helped Wall Street rebuild after 9/11, but will now go after all of Wall Street and not just the "big banks" but the "shadow banks," too.
On the issue, Sanders said, "the business model of Wall Street is fraud." He went on to admonish its practices, declaring emphatically, "Wall Street representatives will not be in [my] Cabinet."
Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley contended, "We need new economic thinking" and "I will not be taking my orders from Wall Street." He promised that he would not use the veterans of the Clinton administration to be part of his team of economic advisors if he is elected president.
In regard to gun control, Clinton talked of her plans to take the fight to the gun lobby (the NRA). She noted that the since the last debate in Las Vegas, nearly 3,000 people have been killed by guns.
On race relations, Sanders called for major reform to the criminal justice system. He used statistics to emphasize the disproportionate numbers of Blacks in prison, saying, that Black males born today have a 1 in 4 chance of ending up in the criminal justice system.
Clinton touched on the racial incidents on some college campuses, including the University of Missouri. She applauded the actions of the minority students on these campuses, saying she believes it reflects a deep sense of concern and despair. Clinton also spoke of her recent meeting with the mothers of Black children who were killed by gun violence, like Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice.
Martin O'Malley also chimed in, proclaiming, “Black lives matter.” He displayed confidence in his expressions and it was clear that the former Maryland governor finally found his debate stride and established a presence. That was not an easy task—standing toe-to-toe with two seasoned public speakers—one of whom has the highest legislative and executive experience of any of the 2016 presidential candidates.
April Ryan is an ESSENCE contributor, White House Correspondent, and Washington Bureau Chief at American Urban Radio Networks.