Last night, voters had the opportunity to see the first ten candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. In a policy-heavy and not particularly exciting debate, the candidates showed that the differences between them have a lot more to do with how they would accomplish goals like universal health care, immigration reform, or addressing climate change. Or they’re John Delaney and they think that they’ll magically be able to get Republicans to help them (something Joe Biden seems to think, too).

Tonight is the second part of this first debate and features ten more candidates. Who are they? Why are they here? Allow Our Long National Nightmare to answer the first question. The second question’s answer is probably also answered by “Our Long National Nightmare” but here we go anyway.

Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Former Vice President of the United States

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1942. Biden, who is English-Irish, moved around a bit before settling in Delaware. He went to a couple colleges, ultimately graduating from Syracuse Law in 1969. Elected to the Senate in an upset in 1972, he served until 2008, when he resigned to become Vice President of the United States under President Barack Obama. Full Article

Biden’s big issues: minimum wage and labor reform, campaign finance reform, Medicare public option, finally defeating the witch’s curse that has kept him from the Oval Office for fifty years

Bernard Sanders

U.S. Senator

Bernie Sanders is a true New Yorker, born in Brooklyn in 1941. He grew up in a working class immigrant family and many of his relatives were killed during the Holocaust – events that gave him a distinctive political perspective when he studied political science at the University of Chicago in the 1960s. “Captivated by rural life,” he moved to Vermont and became a filmmaker and later the Mayor of Burlington. He grew the city’s economy and created civic institutions that last today, and that gave him a platform to run for Congress in 1988 and, in 2006, for the U.S. Senate. Full Article

Sanders’ big issues: tax code reform, Medicare for All, campaign finance reform, labor rights, releasing another killer spoken word album

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor of South Bend

Pete Buttigieg – his name is pronounced “boot-i-jej” if that helps at all – was born in South Bend, Indiana, in 1982. Interested in politics since his youth – he wrote an essay on then-Rep. Bernie Sanders for the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Essay Contest in his senior year in high school – he attended Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and served in the Naval Reserve as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan. Since 2011, Buttigieg has been Mayor of South Bend, population 101,166, and has been trying to steer the Rust Belt city towards the new economy. He is the first openly-gay candidate for President of the United States from a major party. Full Article

Buttigieg’s big issues: “freedom, security, democracy,” and branding

Kamala Harris

U.S. Senator

Harris was born in Oakland. Her mother was Tamil Indian and her father is Jamaican; her first name, Kamala, is a Sanskrit name that means lotus. She worked as a deputy district attorney in Alameda County in the 1990s. She became Chief of the San Francisco Community and Neighborhood Division, a civil code enforcement office, in 2000, and three years later was elected San Francisco District Attorney.  While Harris wasn’t exactly a leftist folk hero, her reputation as San Francisco’s chief prosecutor was generally positive, although after becoming Attorney General of California her reputation worsened among progressives, who have criticized her record on prison overcrowding and social justice. Full Article

Harris’ big issues: affordable housing, teacher pay, climate change, criminal justice reform, “Kamala Harris’ reputation on criminal justice” reform

Andrew Yang

Philanthropic entrepreneur

Andrew Yang was born to Taiwanese immigrants who, for whatever reason, settled on the beautiful paradise of 70s-era Schenectady, New York. He attended the fanciest schools imaginable, starting at Phillips Exeter Academy and then Brown and finally Columbia Law. He worked as an attorney for a startup and found he liked startup culture, moving to another one before joining Manhattan Prep and becoming its CEO. It was acquired by Kaplan in 2009, and Yang used his windfall to launch the social entrepreneur incubator Venture for America. Full Article

Yang’s big issues: universal basic income and the rise of the machines; as we said in our piece on him back in February, “Yang’s candidacy is centered on these specific concerns – unfettered capitalism and the dangers of automation – to the point that, while he does talk about other policies, it’s clear that these are the things that matter most to him. His response to nearly everything else is “spend money on it”, which reflects exactly what you would expect from an entrepreneur and makes it odd that he worries so much about unfettered capitalism.”

Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Senator

Kirsten Gillibrand is a New Yorker, continuing a longstanding political tradition where New York dominates the nation’s political discourse for some reason. Gillibrand bucks this trend slightly as recent New York political figures have come from New York City while she’s from Albany and currently lives in Brunswick, a city in New York’s Capital District region. As an upstater rather one of those godless communists who lives in NYC, Gillibrand’s early political positions are fairly conservative. At the urging of her mentor, Hillary Clinton, she ran for Congress in 2006. Gillibrand at the time came across as a Blue Dog, a conservative-to-moderate Democrat, but has since moved dramatically to the left (coincidentally beginning in 2009, when she began to represent all of New York state in the U.S. Senate instead of a small upstate congressional district). Pretty much from that day forward, Gillibrand has been a progressive leader; she’s received some criticism for taking money from Wall Street banks and financiers but maintains that they are her constituents – Wall Street is in New York, after all – and that she’s happy to take money from her constituents regardless of whether she intends to give them what they want. Full Article

Gillibrand’s big issues: women and families, minimum wage, student loan reform, Medicare for All, staying in the election long enough to try a whiskey from every state

Ol’ Johnny H Jr.

Former Governor of Colorado

John Wright Hickenlooper Jr., was born in 1952 to Anne Kennedy and John Wright Hickenlooper Sr., who had absolutely no wright – er, right – to pass that name on to anyone. He got a degree in English in ‘74 and in geology in 1980, and used that knowledge to start a brewpub in 1988. Starting a brewpub in the late 80’s in Colorado is, in hindsight, one of them best business moves anyone could have taken, and in 2003 he was elected Mayor of Denver per what I can only assume is a Colorado state law where the mayor is selected from the owners of brewpubs and now, presumably, cannabis dispensaries. Full Article

Hickenlooper’s big issues: bipartisanship, wishing the Republican Party was a bit more moderate so he could run as one of them instead

Marianne Williamson


Marianne Williamson was born in Houston, Texas, and dropped out of college before graduating to become a cabaret singer in New York City. This might sound like a harsh judgement, but you can tell a lot about Williamson from this sentence. Full Article

Williamson’s big issues: mindfulness, healing, vaccines are dangerous, food processing is corruption, please buy my books

Michael Bennet

U.S. Senator

Michael Bennet is the son of a prominent State Department bureaucrat (who later served as CEO of National Public Radio) and the grandson of an economic adviser to F.D.R.. His grandparents were Holocaust survivors. He was born in New Delhi in 1964 and he grew up in Washington, D.C., and attended Wesleyan where he earned a degree in history. He later attended Yale Law and was editor of the Yale Law Journal. Is this a real person or a character from The West Wing? You decide. Full Article

Bennet’s big issues: election reform, campaign finance reform, restricting lobbyists, climate change, fundraising for his 2022 Senate race

Eric Swalwell

U.S. Representative

Eric Michael Swalwell Jr. was born on November 16, 1980, in Iowa. His family, unaware that he wanted to be elected president someday, took him out of Iowa and moved him to Dublin, California. Full Article

Swalwell’s big issues: transparency, gun violence, getting appointed to the U.S. Senate in case Kamala Harris gets to the White House

Don’t forget to join us for the live-blog during the debate. The debates begin at 9PM on NBC; our live-blog starts at 8:45PM here on Owl Line.

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