CSU students, professors discuss first Democratic presidential debate

Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick

Tuesday night, CNN hosted the first Democratic presidential debate of this election season. An anticipation of civility was echoed by many on Colorado State University’s campus, including Ph.D. student Desiree Fiske.

“I think the standards for the debate are really interesting in that Bernie will not, or does not, use forms of attack,” Fiske said. She is currently studying international relations, political theory and environmental politics.


The two major players in the debate were former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. However, three other presidential hopefuls stepped on the stage. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Sen. Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Gov. and Sen. Lincoln Chafee all made an appearance. Clinton was positioned center-stage, sandwiched between Sanders and O’Malley, while Webb and Chafee stood on the very ends. The arrangement was made according to standings in the polls — with the most popular in the center and the less popular on the outside.

“I would like to see Bernie Sanders in action,” political science professor Scott Moore said. “I’m interested to see Martin O’Malley, because he’s not even moving any needles in terms of polling. His numbers will likely go up after tonight just because nobody knows him. Lincoln Chaffee, he’s a smart guy, but I don’t think he’s going to get any traction after this.”

Civility, perhaps less than entertainment, was what was expected of the debate. Without the character O’Malley called “that carnival barker in the Republican Party,” many predicted the debate to be a dry experience.

“I think the Democratic debate tonight will be less entertaining than the Republicans have been,” political science professor John Straayer said. “There seems to be less interest in it.”

Despite predictions, the debate showcased the many points on which candidates clash.

Clinton did not support the legalization of marijuana, and Sanders appeared more conservative around gun control than both Clinton and O’Malley.

Sanders also differentiated himself as the only candidate that does not identify as capitalist and had an anti-war sentiment. The senator told audiences that “I happen to believe, from the bottom of my heart, that war should be the last resort.” O’Malley edged himself into the conversation, focusing mostly on his opposition to the National Rifle Association.

Although also revealing a more confrontational side, Sanders stayed true to his policy of simply talking about the issues. When Clinton was questioned about her email scandals, the exasperated senator said, “Enough about the damn emails. Let’s talk about the real issues facing America.”


When asked if “black lives matter” or “all lives matter,” Sanders and O’Malley were quick to say that black lives matter, Webb said that all lives matter, Clinton dodged giving a clear answer and Chaffee didn’t have the chance to speak.

The two leading candidates also maintained different opinions regarding how to pay for higher education. Sanders said that public universities should be free, while Clinton stated that she believed students should work 10 hours a week. Both candidates were enthusiastic about reforming the issue of student debt.

“Bernie Sanders talking about making higher education free, or at least less expensive, is so important,” sophomore Gabby Alcula said. The health and exercise science major cited European countries in which higher education is more readily available, adding that “access to higher education makes for a more educated public — a better public.”

One face absent from Tuesday night’s debate was Vice President Joe Biden. The VPOTUS was welcome at the debate, but is still contemplating whether or not to join the race.

“He’s a lovable guy. He’s an authentic human being and people love him. I think Biden is probably the most human of all the people potentially running,” Moore said.

Moore went on the say that even if Biden is running, his absence creates talk, which is what the potential candidate would need this late in the game.

Collegian Reporter Tatiana Talesnick-Parafiniuk can be reached online at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @tatianasophiapt.