On June 26 and 27, Democratic nominee hopefuls will face off in a televised debate on NBC. This will be the first of several debates before the primaries begin next February.

The first major test for the 24 candidates eyeing the Democratic nomination starts tonight. Well, actually only 20 of them. Democratic National Committee rules state that candidates must receive either one percent of the vote in early polls or 65,000 individual donors to participate.

The remaining 20 will be split into groups of 10. Unlike the Republican National Committee, who used poll rankings to divide 2016 candidates up, the DNC will divide them at random.

Those who did not qualify are Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, former Sen. Mike Gravel from Alaska, Miramar, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam, and Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton.

The Line-Up

The first debate, which will air on NBC at 9 p.m. EST, includes Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Joining her are Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker, as well as former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke. 

Four of the top five candidates will be facing off the next night, despite the indiscriminate placing. Former Vice President Joe Biden will debate his closest opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. 

Interestingly, the oldest candidate, Sanders, will be debating the youngest candidate, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Also on stage will be California Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and activist Marianne Williamson.

According to DNC chairman Tom Perez, there will be 12 debates leading up to the Democratic National Convention next July. Therefore, if the DNC continues to not use polls to determine debate groups, there will be a new line-up every time. Of course, as candidates begin to drop out, there is the chance there will only be one debate per cycle, rather than the two twin debates next week.

The Issues

There are several key issues that should be addressed. These are questions that deal with trademark policies of the Democratic party, including climate change and expanding health care.

Marianne Williamson, an activist and self-help author, supports the Green New Deal, while several others do not. Both Sanders and Warren support free public universities and colleges. Klobuchar does not see it as a feasible option. The issues that are both liberal policies and issues with a wide range of candidate support will get the most screen time next Tuesday and Wednesday.

One important issue for many Americans, especially younger voters, is gun safety. As the generation that grew up with full lockdown drills and a new mass shooting every few months, reviewing and updating gun legislation is understandably very important to them.

It would not be surprising if the candidates were asked about their plans to stop the gun violence epidemic. Sen. Booker promises to start a federal licensing system for guns. Requiring universal background checks before purchasing guns is supported by former Governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper.

There are Democrats who recognize that the Second Amendment protects a law-abiding citizen’s right to own a firearm. When asked by the New York Times if anyone would have a handgun in an ideal world, the candidates’ answers were as varied as could be expected.

Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro said, “In an ideal world, people would not own handguns.” 

On the flip side, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney stated, “We don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a country where we have the Second Amendment, which I support.”

During the debate, should this question come up, candidates should not just affirm their support for or against the law. Instead, they need to offer a clear path to preventing gun violence in our schools and on our streets.

Electability

A key issue for Democratic voters in 2020 is electability. At the end of the day, they just want to beat Donald Trump and are searching for the right person who can do it. However, prioritizing the defeat of the incumbent president means Democrats will have to sacrifice an essential part of their brand: diversity.

This, of course, does not mean candidates will not have different opinions or strategies. The diversity that has become a trademark of the party includes race, gender and sexual orientation diversity. 

If the base only wants to see Trump out of the White House, they most likely will revert back to the standard candidate profile: the white, heterosexual, cisgender, older male. The majority of the 24 candidates do, in fact, fit this profile, but it is not necessarily what those to the far left of the political spectrum want.

Democrats are hoping to appeal to the voters they lost in 2016: white, middle-class Americans in the Rust Belt. There is a quiet fear that they will not gain them back with a more diverse candidate. Strong, qualified female candidates like Warren and Klobuchar are therefore at risk of being pushed out.

This debate could be very exciting or it could be dominated by the current front-runners. Candidates who have yet to make a mark on the race may gain a stronger following. They could decide it is time to step aside and support another candidate. 

Regardless of what they say, this debate is an opportunity for Americans to hear from nearly every Democratic candidate, in their own words. Just keep in mind,they may not have adequate time to give enough context to an answer. And even if you are a staunch Republican, consider watching the debate and seeing exactly who these candidates are.

Kayla Glaraton

Kayla Glaraton is a Generation Z Voice at The Pavlovic Today. Her interests include human rights, American politics and policy, the environment and international affairs. Kayla is studying journalism and...