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Brown Dems throw watch party for presidential debate

Students fill basement of Salomon Center to watch candidates take debate stage

When moderators introduced Andrew Yang ’96 during the third Democratic Presidential Debate last night, Salomon Center erupted into raucous cheers.

The Brown Democrats held a watch party for the debate, filling Salomon’s basement almost to capacity with students spilling onto the stairs as they talked among themselves about past debates and the candidates on stage.

Out of the 20 candidates still in the race, only the top 10 in national polls were invited to take the stage in Houston. Candidates also had to acquire donations from at least 130,000 unique donors and poll at 2 percent in four polls in the first four primary states to qualify for the debate.

A few students were particularly excited about the new match-ups between candidates, some of whom had yet to share the debate stage. “It’ll be good to see Elizabeth Warren go against Joe Biden,” said Ethan Mullen ’23, referring to the Massachusetts senator and former vice president, respectively.

“It’s good to see the field narrowed down,” echoed Angela Zhu ’23. Mullen supports Warren while Zhu “likes (Yang) because he’s very logic-heavy.”

Other candidates included current Senators Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, former Housing Secretary Julian Castro and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. rounded out the field.

As the debate began, students were asked to keep cheers and boos to a minimum, which did little to stifle their exclamations when candidates ended their opening statements. “I’m so excited to have a crowd like this,” said Brown Dems President Zoë Mermelstein ’21.

Students cheered after Harris, Sanders, Klobuchar and Warren were introduced by moderators, while Biden received scattered applause and boos when he was introduced.

When the debate turned toward the topic of healthcare, the showdown between Warren, Biden and Sanders elicited a mix of groans and cheers when Sanders and Warren defended their plans of Medicare for All. “At the end of the day, they’re not going to pass,” said Joshua Neronha ’22, who supports Buttigieg and Biden. To pass massive legislative projects like Medicare for All, Democrats would have to get rid of the filibuster which would “open the door to a lot of dangerous things,” Neronha added.

As the debate turned toward talk of gun violence and racial inequality, Booker brought the room to cheers when he promised to pass a bill on reparations.

The Brown Dems have been planning this watch party since before the school year began, Mermelstein said. Apart from giving students the opportunity to view the debates with their peers, “we want our members to be informed and have access to all information,” Mermelstein said. The large turnout was a good sign because the engagement and excitement “is how we’re going to take back the White House,” she added.

The Brown Dems hope to use the momentum from the event to increase engagement with the organization. “We’re taking steps to make sure there are more defined roles for members to get engaged and come to events,” Mermelstein said. The group will begin conducting additional training for phone banking, advocacy lobbying and other strategies to further the Democratic legislative agenda.

Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified Joshua Neronha '22 as Peter Neronha '22. The Herald regrets the error. 

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