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Elizabeth Warren Is the Democratic Frontrunner. Everyone’s Piling On.

Last night, some Democratic presidential candidates took aim at Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) over war, health care, and how she plans to pay for all of the “free” things she’s been promising. Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) also got huffy over Warren not joining Harris in demanding that Twitter cancel President Donald Trump’s account.

(Andrew Yang still just wants to give everyone $1,000 and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker seems to just want everyone to get along.)

The three hour debate, put on by CNN and The New York Times, saw Warren facing tough questions and direct criticism from Harris, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas), and even Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.).

The latter three mostly tried prompting or provoking Warren into saying how she would pay for all the programs she’s proposing—Medicare for All, universal child care, and tuition-free college, to name a few—and admitting that taxes on most Americans would go up to cover the cost of her plans. But Warren repeatedly dodged direct questions and deflected their concerns.

Watching O’Rourke and Klobuchar (who, as per usual, reminded viewers that she’s from the Midwest about 80,000 times) make Warren squirm was sort of fun, but both B-list candidates were plenty bad otherwise. O’Rourke doubled down on a pledge to seize guns. Klobuchar accused Russia of “actually invading our election” in 2016. (O’Rourke did have a good comment on tech companies, saying it’s not “the role of a candidate for the presidency to call which companies should be broken up.”)

Meanwhile, Harris (who, as usual, reminder viewers she’s a former prosecutor about 80,000 times) badgered Warren for not joining her in calling on Twitter to ban Trump. (This has become a running Harris theme.)

Tulsi Gabbard (who remains great on foreign policy, bless her heart, but bizarre-to-bad on domestic issues) pressured Warren to join her “in calling for an end to this regime change war in Syria, finally.” Warren, appearing flustered, responded “so, look, I think that we ought to get out of the Middle East. I don’t think we should have troops in the Middle East.”

Warren’s campaign subsequently defined getting out of the Middle East to not really mean that.

Pete Buttigieg went after Warren over Medicare for All, saying that his plan—”Medicare for all who want it”—would see that all Americans got health care but still leave people with choice:

No plan has been laid out to explain how a multi-trillion-dollar hole in this Medicare for All plan that Senator Warren is putting forward is supposed to get filled in. And the thing is, we really can deliver health care for every American and move forward with the boldest, biggest transformation since the inception of Medicare itself.

But the way to do it without a giant multi-trillion-dollar hole and without having to avoid a yes-or-no question is Medicare for all who want it. We take a version of Medicare. We let you access it if you want to. And if you prefer to stay on your private plan, you can do that, too. That is what most Americans want, Medicare for all who want it, trusting you to make the right decision for your health care and for your family. And it can be delivered without an increase on the middle-class taxes.

Warren replied that “Medicare for all who want it” is really just “Medicare for all who can afford it.” That’s strange, since the only big difference in Buttigieg’s plan is permitting private and health insurance plans to still exist. Any low-income person who wanted to could still opt in to the government-run program. But Warren’s model is contingent on forcing everyone to sign up.

Best moments of the debate:

  • Tulsi Gabbard condemning mainstream media‘s complicity in war-mongering and lazy smears of her.
  • Andrew Yang challenging the value of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I–Vt.) federal jobs guarantee.

Worst moments of the debate: everyone on “Big Tech,” social media, data, and antitrust.

Full transcript of last night’s Democratic debate here.


  • “A homeless man who pleaded guilty to trafficking cocaine had his case dismissed after the substance turned out to be powdered milk.” He said he pleaded guilty because it was the only way to get out of jail.
  • Start here for a strange look at a bad study on bots and vaping and Wall Street Journal‘s peculiar coverage of it:

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About The Author

Elizabeth Nolan Brown

Founded in 1968, Reason is the magazine of free minds and free markets. We produce hard-hitting independent journalism on civil liberties, politics, technology, culture, policy, and commerce. Reason exists outside of the left/right echo chamber. Our goal is to deliver fresh, unbiased information and insights to our readers, viewers, and listeners every day. Visit

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