Also on the roster are Sen. Kamala Harris, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Michael Bennet, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Rep. Eric Swalwell, Andrew Yang, and Marianne Williamson. Without opening statements, each candidate will have 60 seconds to answer questions and 30 seconds to respond to any follow-ups, putting them under immense pressure to stand out in a crowded field of 2020 hopefuls.
Whether or not you decide to watch, read on to find out the most important moments of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential election. We'll continue to update this story as the night goes on.
The candidates started the night by attacking Trump.
It took exactly five minutes before candidates decided to attack the rival not in the room: President Donald Trump. While their counterparts in the first night of the debate mentioned POTUS a handful of times, Joe Biden attacked him on his first turn. "Donald Trump thinks Wall Street built America," he said. "Ordinary, middle-class Americans built America."
Sen. Kamala Harris moved in with criticism of Trump's tax legislation, saying the measure added $1 trillion to the American debt. Sen. Bernie Sanders weighed in as well, calling the president a "phony," a "pathological liar," and "racist." He added: "That's how we beat Trump. We expose him for the fraud that he is."
Joe Biden: “I'm still hanging on to that torch.”
California Rep. Eric Swalwell, 38, took aim at Biden, saying that 32 years ago the former Veep said it was time to "pass on the torch" to the new generation of political leaders. He asked whether Biden still felt this way today: "If we’re going to solve issues, pass the torch." Biden, who will turn 78 two weeks after the 2020 presidential election, was unfazed. “I'm still hanging on to that torch,” he said.
Sen. Kamala Harris (a.k.a. Momala) told the kids no one is interested in watching a "food fight."
After the exchange between Rep. Eric Swalwell and Joe Biden led to multiple candidates arguing over whether age should have any bearing on someone's ability to lead the country, Harris put a stop to the drama. "America does not want to witness a food fight," she said, "they want to know how we're going to get food on their table."
The precise moment Kamala Harris proved herself to be the adult on the stage:— Madam President Kamala Harris (Supporters) (@flywithkamala) June 28, 2019
“Hey guys, America does not want to witness a food fight, they want to know how we’re going to put food on the table.” 🔥 🔥 🔥
She is the clear winner thus far!! #demdebate2 #Kamala2020 pic.twitter.com/blshpLNaU4
While the male candidates have happily bickered, interrupted, and yelled over each other two nights in a row, the women have had to toe the line between being firm and coming off as rude. (Thanks, patriarchy!) But Gillibrand was having none of it when Sen. Michael Bennet tried to hijack her chance to speak about her support for universal healthcare. She said: "No, it's my turn!" Bennet backed off.
When asked if their healthcare plans would cover undocumented immigrants, every candidate raised their hand.
In a show-of-hands moment, the candidates came to a consensus on one issue: allowing undocumented immigrants to receive health insurance. “Our country is healthier when everyone is healthier,” Mayor Pete Buttigieg said, before pivoting to his views on immigration policy. “We shouldn’t have 11 million people without a pathway to citizenship.” Joe Biden said additional people buying into healthcare would reduce costs for everyone else.
Trump has, of course, been firing off tweets for the second night in a row. He wrote, "All Democrats just raised their hands for giving millions of illegal aliens unlimited healthcare. How about taking care of American Citizens first!? That’s the end of that race!"
All Democrats just raised their hands for giving millions of illegal aliens unlimited healthcare. How about taking care of American Citizens first!? That’s the end of that race!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2019
Candidates condemned the Trump administration's hardline immigration agenda.
Candidates went after Trump for his administration's zero-tolerance immigration policy, which has led to the separation of thousands of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border. They also spoke up against holding migrant children in immigration detention centers. "In Colorado, we call that kidnapping," said former Gov. John Hickenlooper, of the separation of families. Author Marianne Williamson said the conditions at the detention centers should be called "collective child abuse."
Sen. Michael Bennet said he is reminded of his mother when he sees migrant children being split from their families at the border, because she was separated from her parents during the Holocaust. "What we should be represented by is the Statue of Liberty," Bennet said, not Trump's border wall.
Sen. Kamala Harris challenged Joe Biden on Obama's deportation policies.
Harris said that one of the few policies on which she disagreed with the Obama administration was the deportation of undocumented immigrants. (Nearly three million people were deported under his administration.) "The policy was to allow deportation of people who by ICE's own definition were non-criminals," she said. She pointed out that as attorney general of California, she stood against the criminalization of immigrants.
"I want a rape victim to be able to run in the middle of the street, to be able to run down a police officer and report the crime against her...and not be afraid of being deported," Harris said.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg addressed the police shooting in South Bend.
Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, IN, was asked why diversity on the police force in South Bend still lags behind in light of the recent fatal shooting of a Black man by a white police officer. "I couldn't get it done," Buttigieg acknowledged. "My community is in anguish right now. It's a mess and we're hurting." Rep. Eric Swalwell challenged him: "You're the mayor," he said. "You should fire the chief."
Sen. Kamala Harris confronted former Vice President Joe Biden over his past record on the issue of race, in perhaps one of the most emotional moments of the debate.
"I do not believe you are a racist," she began, before adding that it was hurtful to hear Biden speak highly of two segregationist senators and his work opposing busing. "You know, there was a little girl in California who was a part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me."
Biden immediately defended himself, saying he's worked throughout his political career for the rights of people of color and the LGBTQ+ community.
"Vice President Biden, do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America then?" Harris asked. Biden replied: "I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education. That’s what I opposed."
As a young senator, Biden called busing a "bankrupt concept" and worked with other lawmakers, mostly conservative, to limit the scope of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned school segregation, and to stop the federal government from threatening to hold federal funds if schools did not desegregate.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand took a not-so-subtle swipe at Joe Biden by mentioning the Hyde Amendment, on which he has flip-flopped.
"Women's reproductive rights are under assault by President Trump and the Republican Party," Gillibrand said. "I think we have to stop playing defense and start playing offense. But let me tell you one thing about politics... When the door is closed and negotiations are made, there are conversations about women's rights and compromises have been made on our backs. That's how we got to Hyde, that's how the Hyde Amendment was created, a compromise by leaders of both parties." She added, to applause: "I have been the fiercest advocate for women's reproductive freedom for over a decade."
Marianne Williamson said her first call as president would be to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern.
Asked what their first priority would be as president, many of the candidates focused on economic inequality or the encroaching threat of climate change. Not Williamson, who is Oprah’s personal spiritual advisor. She said she would call New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who once said that New Zealand was the best place in the world to raise a child.
Williamson said she would tell Ardern: "Girlfriend, you are so wrong."
The candidates each had 45 seconds to make their closing statements. Williamson's was one of the most memorable. "This man has reached into the psyche of the American people and he has harnessed fear for political purposes," she said of Donald Trump. "So, Mr. President, if you're listening, I want you to hear me, please. You have harnessed fear for political purposes and only love can cast that out. So I, sir, I have a feeling you know what you're doing. I'm going to harness love for political purposes. I will meet you on that field. And, sir, love will win."
Sen. Kamala Harris has a "3 a.m. agenda." (Ours is just to get some sleep before the next debate!)
In her own closing statement, Harris promised "to prosecute the case against four more years of Donald Trump," adding: "[T]his election is about you. This is about your hopes and your dreams and your fears and what wakes you up at 3 o'clock in the morning. And that's why I have what I call a 3 a.m. agenda that is about everything from what we need to do to deliver healthcare to how you will be able to pay the bills by the end of the month."