Citizen by CNN discusses potential Democratic Debate topics


By Kinsey Burnett & Chanel Stitt

On Sunday, July 28, Citizen by CNN held a panel at St. Andrew’s Hall to discuss the issues that matter to the public as a kickoff to the Democratic presidential debate. The panel included moderator and CNN’s Jake Tapper, W. Kamau Bell, Nia Henderson and Michigan’s former Governor Jennifer Granholm. 

Following the panel was a conversation between Van Jones and former NBA player Grant Hill. They talked about the lack of participation in voting and how to focus on certain groups, specifically black millenials. 

The topics below were about how the population is affected by these issues and what the candidates have said they plan to do to solve these problems. 


Bernie Sanders created the plan of Medicare for All, and it has been co-sponsored by Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker. Under this bill, private insurance would be taken out of the spectrum and healthcare would be fully provided by the government. 

Union members have had their healthcare service plans negotiated by their union, and a few people in the crowd raised their hands saying they are happy with their current plan. Those that are happy with their plans may oppose government provided healthcare if the plan involves banning private insurance.

“I think most Democrats are actually uncomfortable with that idea,” said Nia Henderson. “So you’re going to see this divide.”

Jake Tapper had people in the crowd raise their hands to say if they would be fine with government provided insurance. Again, only a few people in the crowd agreed. 

Tapper says we live in one of the wealthiest countries, yet people are constantly on social media asking for money to support their health. He says, “we have a GoFund me healthcare system.”

A point raised by Granholm is that in Michigan, “26 percent of young people don’t have healthcare.” She says that whether the public agrees that there should be different sectors of insurance, all people agree that everyone should have access to healthcare.

Trade Deals

Many worry that the recent trade deals that Trump has made were negotiated for Wall Street and elitists. Much of Trump’s 2016 base included people whose jobs left the country and went to Mexico where labor is cheap.

Granholm pointed out that the USMCA, the replacement for NAFTA, is not addressing the fundamental problem that “In Mexico, people cannot collectively bargain. In Mexico, there is no robust labor movement.” Companies are continuing to leave the states and Trump’s trade agreements are currently failing.

It is possible that Trump loses his support among the labor sector in 2020. If Democrats are willing to talk about trade and appeal to this base, they might be able to win many of these voters over.

Jake Tapper pointed out that in 2008 Obama and Clinton both pledged that they would renegotiate tariffs and NAFTA. “Everybody knew it was a load of crap at the time… both of them did that right before the Ohio primary, coincidentally,” said Tapper. There is credit to give to Trump for trying to do something about the failures of NAFTA since coming into office, because these issues really matter to voters.

Voter Suppression

It is known that Russia targeted all 50 states during the Trump 2016 election by sending messages to voters through various media platforms. Those strategic messages told citizens of the U.S. deceiving texts that would stray them away from the polls. 

One commercial that Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm mentioned was a photoshopped image of Oprah saying “First time voter? You vote on Wednesday.” Deceitful messages like this caused numbers to go down in 2016, landing at only 48.5 percent of voters present in the polls in Detroit, according to the Washington Examiner.

There were also television advertisements that said to text in a vote to a certain five-digit phone number, which is not a real option in our election system. 

In order to stop this from happening within state elections, Granholm says, “I think we have to be super vigilant in 2020, so that this doesn’t happen again.”

She says the three fake news stories made headlines were a factor in the election as well, and they were: the Pope endorsing President Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton was on a breathing machine and former President Barack Obama banned the pledge of allegiance. 

Granholm hopes that the “racist appeal” will encourage voters to not stay at home for the 2020 election in efforts to stop President Trump from being elected again. 

What’s next for the debates?

With so many Democratic candidates, they need to be able to really reach voter’s “hearts and minds” according to W. Kamau Bell; just as Trump was able to capture voter’s “racist hearts.” There could be possibly dangerous and polarizing effects to saying that half the population of the United States is racially motivated deep down in their hearts when they choose who to vote for. That might also be a statement that motivates Democrats to get out to the polls.

People across the industrial midwest voted for Trump because he talked about trade, he talked about healthcare, and he had a plan for changing and writing new policies. It is up to Democrats to talk about these policies if they want to reach voters.

It will be important for the candidates to stay cool, calm, and collected when fending off attacks from other candidates. The last debate clearly displayed that Democratic candidates are not playing nice.

Issues that matter to voters are what the candidates need to talk about during the debates this week. That includes immigration, ICE, the border, healthcare, trade, even issues such as reparations, marijuana and the death penalty will come up.

This debate will impact which candidates start dropping out of the race. The country is still a year and a half away from the election, but the primary is only about seven months out.