What to Watch for in Tonight's Democratic Debate

Tonight is the first Democratic primary debate.

Though beltway pundits are likely to focus on gaffes and soundbites, we’re hoping for a substantive policy conversation on our country’s most pressing concerns. Here is a shortlist of the issues we hope the candidates address, and Demos experts who will be sharing their thoughts on Twitter.


     Tamara Draut, VP of Policy & Research


Higher Education

A college degree is now more important—and more expensive—than ever. Any meaningful proposals to address the student debt crisis will have to reverse state funding cuts to higher education, the primary driver of the rapid rise in tuition.
Our solution, now endorsed by multiple candidates and policymakers, would return the US to a debt-free college system in which the federal government, states, and localities work together to rebuild this crucial pathway to the middle class.

Mark Huelsman, Senior Policy Analyst




Racial Equity

People of color are underrepresented in government, unjustly targeted by police, and disproportionately impacted by biased policies. In fact, today’s racial wealth and income gap, a consequence of centuries of racially discriminatory policies, is higher than at any point since the Federal Reserve began tracking these gaps 30 years ago.
All presidential candidates have a responsibility to detail the policies they’ll support to build racial equity in this country, and, tonight, Democratic candidates can start by declaring to the nation that Black Lives Matter.

Donovan X. Ramsey, Emerging Voices Fellow



Money in Politics

This year, we’ve heard candidates of all political stripes acknowledge the problem of money in politics. Tonight, we want to hear solutions.

Saturday, the New York Times revealed that 158 families provided nearly half of the early money for both parties’ presidential campaigns. Our research has shown that this impacts our economic policies and is a structural driver of inequality. To make our government responsive to Americans beyond the donor class, we’ve assembled a platform of ideas with key allies in the campaign finance reform field. Listen tonight to see who endorses the 21st Century Democracy Agenda platform.

Sean McElwee, Research Associate




Voting Rights

The freedom to vote is under more sustained, partisan attack today than at any time in the past 50 years—but Demos is working to promote solutions that make it easier, not harder, for people to register and vote. Just last week, numbers came in from our Motor Voter settlement in the red state of Oklahoma: because of the new procedures, public assistance agencies there are recording 100 times more voter registration applications per month than before our settlement.

All of the candidates should endorse the idea that it’s government’s responsibility to create an all-in democracy.

Cameron Bell, Legal Fellow
Liz Kennedy, Counsel