From reproductive rights for women of color to a “say her name” moment for Atatiana Jefferson, the latest Democratic debate gave Black women plenty to consider as we weigh who to support in the bid to unseat President Donald Trump.
A dozen Democrats vying to go up against Trump next year spent three hours on stage at Otterbein University in Ohio Tuesday night, hashing out the issues for the first time since the House of Representatives began an impeachment inquiry into Trump.
Participating in the debate were: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; businessman Tom Steyer; Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey; Sen. Kamala Harris of California; Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont; Former Vice President Joe Biden; Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana; businessman Andrew Yang; former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas; Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; and former Housing Secretary Julián Castro.
While this debate did little to help narrow the crowded Democratic field, it did give the candidates a chance to expand on calls to impeach Trump, then quickly shifted to a discussion about health care, reproductive rights and whether the richest Americans should pay more in taxes to help close the wealth gap.
Harris, the lone Black woman in the race, pointedly criticized Warren for not backing her call for Twitter to suspend Trump’s account. “Here we have Donald Trump, who has 65 million Twitter followers and is using that platform as the president of the United States to openly intimidate witnesses, to threaten witnesses, to obstruct justice,” Harris said. “He and his account should be taken down.”
Harris also noted that there have been multiple debates yet no real discussion of women’s access to quality reproductive health care.
“It is not an exaggeration to say women will die. Poor women. Women of color will die, because these Republican legislatures in these various states who are out of touch with America, are telling women what to do with our bodies,” Harris said. “Women are the majority of the population in this country. People need to keep their hands off of women’s bodies and let women make the decisions about their own lives.”
Booker and Biden added to the argument, calling reproductive rights not just a women’s issue, but a human issue.
“Reproductive rights are a constitutional right. And in fact, every woman should have that right,” said Biden.
“Women should not be the only ones taking up this cause [reproductive rights] and fight. And men, it is not just because women are our daughters, and our friends and our wives. It’s because women are people, and people deserve to control their own bodies,” Booker said.
This coincides with recent data released from Higher Heights, a national organization devoted to Black women political movements and leadership. An August poll of 887 voters — 86 percent of whom were Black women — were asked to prioritize the issues most affecting them and their communities. They were also asked to identify what they believe should be the focus of the next president during their first 100 days in office.
Nearly half of the participants (46.59 percent) said healthcare as their top concern.
Warren touted her “Medicare for All” proposal as “the gold standard” for health care, even as she didn’t say whether it would also require tax increases on the middle class.
“It is the way we get health care coverage for every single American including the family whose child has been diagnosed with cancer. Including the person that’s just gotten an MS diagnosis. That’s how we make sure that everyone gets health care,” said Warren.
The economy (15.23 percent) and job growth (12.6 percent) ranked second and third respectively in the Higher Heights’ poll. Followed by safety and gun violence (7.50 percent) and education (4.32 percent).
This sentiment was echoed loudly by Castro, who invoked the name of Jefferson, the 28-year-old Fort Worth, Texas woman fatally shot by a police officer as she stood inside her home.
“I am not going to give these police officers another reason to go door to door in certain communities Because police violence is also gun violence and we need to address that,” said Castro invoking Jefferson’s #BlackLivesMatter story.
“This is a country that loses 40,000 of our fellow Americans every year to gun violence. This is a crisis and we gotta do something about it,“ echoed O’Rourke.
Booker said more needs to be done to eradicate child poverty.
“We’ve had 20 years of presidential debates and we have never talked about the violence in America of child poverty. We have got to begin to talk more eloquently and more persuasively and urgently about doing the things, not just to make sure fair taxes are paid by people on the top, but that we deal with the moral obscenity of having the highest levels of child poverty in the industrial world,” said Booker.
The candidates went on to tackle the economy, national security and foreign diplomacy. In his response to the final question about uncommon friendships, Sanders seemed to bring full circle by urging the party to unify in denouncing the behavior of the Trump administration.
“We have got to end the hatred that Trump is fostering on our people. The divisiveness. Trying to divide us up by the color of our skin, or where we were born, or our sexual orientation, or our religion,” said Sanders.