Sep 11th, 2019, 04:25 PM

The Democratic Debates From Abroad

By Lauren Williams
The ten qualifying Democratic candidates on stage. Image Credit: Jonathan Bachman/Reuters
Young Democrats Abroad's viewing party made room for expats to discuss the upcoming elections.

Last week, while President Trump delivered a sixty-eight-minute speech in Baltimore outlining the disaster that would come of United States if he is not re-elected, a little bar in Bastille filled to the brim with expats gathered to watch the third Democratic Debate. With over forty people in attendance, Young Democrats Abroad welcomed all to a viewing party for the most selective round yet. 

This debate was a milestone for the 2020 election. As the only so far to take place in one night, it was the first opportunity for voters to see all of the front runners on stage together. In the week following the debate, nearly every American news network has attempted to break down the highlights, low-lights, and overall dynamics between the candidates and overall how the night played out. Although there were no significant disputes between the top candidates as anticipated, the issues that have been dividing the Democratic party and American voters were in the spotlight.  

Topics like climate change, healthcare, and education were the issues that demanded most of the two and a half hour event. Rachel Padilla, a student and member at large of Democrats Abroad, suggested afterward that there were missed opportunities for elaboration on some topics. "I thought there was too much focus on the healthcare reform issue, which the majority of the candidates agree on," Padilla says, "and not enough focus on the state of the economy in general." 

As beers flowed and policy plans were exchanged by candidates, conversations around attendees presidential preferences heated up. Destiny Jones, a long-time American expat in Paris', felt that Warren's stage presence was solid, while Biden's performance did not measure up to his rankings in the polls. "It makes sense that metropolitan progressives like Warren," she says, "but if she wants to win, I think that she should go to the places where her numbers aren't as good." 

Polling by FiveThirtyEight suggests that Jones' observations are shared with much of the population. Warren held the highest performance rating with Biden ranking near the bottom according to those who were polled. Taylor Douglas, an attendee of the viewing, explained that although it was great to be able to compare the frontrunners, the debate did not help her choose a candidate to back.  "I wish that the candidates would have focused less on attacking Trump and reminding us that he is bad and more on ways they will fix our country. It seems like the current candidates are using the president as a crutch," she explained. 



Although the debates have been criticized as being repetitive and at times superficial, they can start important conversations among voters. "The debates and the events surrounding them are helpful if you're far away from home. More than being able to hear from the candidates, debate viewings create a social environment where you are able to have important discussions," Douglas says. 

Some have regarded the 2020 election as the most critical of our lifetime. Out of all eligible voters overseas, only around 4 percent of them typically vote, according to the Federal Voting Assistance Program. With France holding more than 200,000 eligible U.S. voters, the engagement of those living abroad is imperative, making events like the debate viewing party all the more important.