At the 110th NAACP National Convention in Detroit, where President Donald Trump was never far from mind, 10 of the candidates running to unseat him in 2020 showed up Wednesday to make their pitch to black voters.
Nine Democratic candidates and one Republican sat down for question-and-answer sessions with April Ryan, the chief White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks and a CNN political analyst.
The Democrats will return to Detroit July 30-31 for a second round of Democratic debates organized by CNN.
Nine Democrats participated in the forum Wednesday: former Vice President Joe Biden; former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro; South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas; and Senators Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who is challenging Trump for the Republican nomination, also participated.
Trump was supposed to participate, but pulled out after he said the date and format changed when he agreed to giving a speech.
Discussing the Congressional testimony of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday regarding Russian interference in the 2016, Warren called for impeachment proceedings against Trump to begin regardless of the party line.
“Some things are above politics,” Warren said. “One of them is our constitutional [responsibility] to do what is right and the responsibility of Congress when a president breaks the law: bring impeachment charges against that President.”
While discussing issues of excessive use of force by police in African American communities, including the shooting of Eric Garner, Booker called for bringing stricter accountability for police shootings and use of force.
“You can’t have safe, strong communities unless you have an accountable police department that has a legitimate connection to our community,” he said.
O’Rourke said he wants to enact a "Medicare for America" plan that would see those without insurance or with insufficient insurance enrolled in Medicare. Those who like their insurance plan could keep it, O'Rourke said.
“It will allow us to make prescription drugs affordable for everyone,” he said. “We will also use the purchasing power as leverage for Medicare to bring down the price of prescription drugs.”
When asked about the minimum wage, Buttigieg said he hopes to increase the rate specifically to benefit minorities.
“We are better off when there is a higher minimum wage,” the South Bend mayor said.
“We have to have a spotlight on our agenda to making people better off, especially the minimum wage — which disproportionately benefits Americans of color but makes the whole country better off.”
Castro was the first candidate in the 2020 race to publish his "black agenda," he said.
The former HUD secretary said he hopes to create a national use of force standard for police officers.
“My police reform plan would create more accountability and transparency by setting a national use of force standard that says a police officer must exhaust all other reasonable alternatives before they use lethal force,” he said.
Reparations for slavery have been a hot issue in politics recently. Sanders said he supports the study of reparations to gauge their effectiveness in elevating economic status of African Americans, but he fears a single check will not be enough.
“Here’s my fear: if Congress gives the African American community a $20,000 check and says ‘thank you, that took care of slavery — we don’t have to worry about anything more,' I think that's wrong,” he said.
The Trump administration recently announced a plan that would kick 3 million people off of SNAP benefits, previously known as food stamps.
Citing budget cuts often affect poorer Americans, Klobuchar said cutting SNAP benefits will minimize children’s likelihood of succeeding in life.
“You’re not gonna have kids do well in school when they don’t have good nutrition,” she said. “They’re not going to be able to succeed if they’re not able to learn.”
Biden discussed incarceration in the African American community, saying the system should focus on reintegrating prisoners back into the community upon release.
“We have a systemic problem with too many African Americans in jail,” Biden said.
“We should shift the whole focus in terms of what we’re doing with incarceration to rehabilitation ... the whole idea is when we let someone out of prison, they should be engaged in the community. Don’t just give them $25 and a bus ticket.”
Speaking about cannabis legalization, Harris said a lot of money is being made in the industry as cannabis becomes legal — but said those who received felony convictions for selling cannabis need to have more access in the industry.
“People are making a lot of money off of this new industry,” she said.
“Those young men and women who for years were selling it on the street and are now felons for life have been excluded from this industry and now people are making a lot of money doing the exact same thing. Part of what I’m proposing is they be first in line to get those jobs.”
Weld, the only Republican running against Trump for the party’s nomination, said Mueller’s report makes it obvious Trump obstructed justice.
“Mueller’s report paints the most vivid picture of a scofflaw and a one-man crime wave as I’ve ever seen,” he said. “He orders people to destroy documents and to lie. The man is a moral leper. He has no clue, no compass.”
Lead photo: Kamala Harris. All photos taken by Dustin Blitchok.
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