Democratic Debates, Day 1: Elizabeth Warren Came to Detroit and Caught a Body

Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), left, greets former Maryland congressman John Delaney while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) hugs Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) after the Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre July 30, 2019, in Detroit.
Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), left, greets former Maryland congressman John Delaney while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) hugs Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) after the Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre July 30, 2019, in Detroit.
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

DETROIT—Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was supposed to come to Detroit and prove to this mostly black city why its residents should trust her with their votes. She was supposed to present a vision of economic hope that would convince black women here, who are often impoverished heads of households and suffer disproportionate infant mortality rates, that she is their candidate.

Warren, one of the frontrunners for president of the United States, was supposed to tell Detroit how she would help breathe life into a city that so desperately needs the federal government to show its residents that America is here to help the country’s biggest black city rebound. She did that, but she did something more gangsta, something that no one really expected.

Elizabeth Warren came here and increased the city’s crime rate—by one.

John Delaney is dead, y’all. Warren killed him on national television and his body is still strewn on the world-famous Fox Theatre stage. She Crip-walked over it before leaving the stage. I didn’t see what she had on her feet, but she was likely wearing low-top blue Chucks.


During an exchange on health care plans and progressive visions for the country, Delaney said, in part that, “Democrats win when we run on real solutions, not impossible promises. When we run on things that are workable, not fairy tale economics.”

He continued by adding, “We should deal with the tragedy of [the] uninsured, and give everyone health care as a right, but why do we have to be the party of taking something away from people?” Delaney asked, chiding Sanders and Warren’s Medicare-for-All plans.

Warren shot back, “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running to be the president of the United States to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.”

The mostly black crowd at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, where I was watching the debate, cheered her on. Now, unlike Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), who yells his talking points at the top of his lungs, Warren’s ether was powerful but subtle. It wasn’t a .357 Magnum shot, but Warren pulled out her little .22 and popped Delaney in the dome. And now he is dead.


As a native Detroiter, I am used to seeing black people dying on our streets, left for dead. But I have never seen a white person kill another white person in downtown Detroit. White-on-white crime is not a common sight in The D.

Here in the Motor City, we like politicians who are fierce. But damn, Liz, you could have at least called 911 and had the coroner pick up Delaney’s body.


She is certainly on Detroiters’ radar and could possibly win the city if she plays her cards right. While many people at the Charles H. Wright Museum are still undecided, they clearly had their favorites. Here is how I think all of the candidates performed:

Bernie Sanders won the night. 

Detroit is a labor town and Sanders said all of the right things to evoke the emotional support of the crowd. Folks cheered and shouted, “Get ‘em, Bernie!” each time he pushed a progressive talking point. That he discussed the trip he’d taken to Canada the day before with locals to get cheaper medications is something that resonates with Detroiters. The Canadian border is a stone’s throw away from downtown Detroit, so people here know what it is like to find cheaper alternatives to health care just minutes away from where they live.


If I had to make a guess, Bernie is the person to beat during the Michigan primary. California Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Warren are in the hunt.

John Delaney sucks and I feel bad for saying it, but it’s true. 

The former congressman is a nice enough fella, but he is not the man we need. And I hate to say that he sucks, but, honestly, he does. It is not because he personally sucks. He sucks because he is a moderate trying to galvanize Democrats whose current energy demands a liberal or someone who they feel is center-left, at least. I do not know why he spoke of Detroit as enjoying a comeback, citing business investment in the city. Where the hell did he visit here? Corktown, and that’s it?


Drive outside of Midtown and go deep into the East and West Sides and you’ll find vacant houses and lots that have been in dilapidated states for years and black people who feel gentrification is slowing edging them out of the city.

It is not that Delaney is uninformed or doesn’t understand the issues. He really does. I sat with him for an hour and it is clear he is a sound businessman and has done well for himself. He means well and I truly believe he is a good person who has no fucking business running for president in 2020.


In 2000, he would have been a Democratic darling. In 2020, he is very out of place. Each time his face appeared on the big screen at the museum theater last night—which was a lot—folks flicked their hands at him, gesturing that he needs to go away.

Well, Elizabeth Warren killed him, so there’s that. We’re still waiting on the coroner to come and get his body.


Mayor Pete didn’t do too badly.

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg didn’t do bad at all. In fact, he was fairly steady. Didn’t make any big mistakes but did not stand out. (I mean, Elizabeth Warren killed someone in front of the country, so it is not all his fault; he was there on stage to witness it, so he may be traumatized).


But seriously, the war vet did respectably well. However, his Midwest roots did not help him, nor did he do a very good job of connecting with Detroiters about why they should support him. Perhaps he was thinking about all of the heat he is catching back home from black folks who feel he is not doing a good enough job of addressing racism in the town of 100,000-plus people.

That said, he did aight, but not well enough to move the needle for his candidacy.


Beto O’Rourke is a well-meaning white man, but...

He is punching well above his weight class. During his run for U.S. Senate in 2018, he generated national attention for squaring off against Sen. Asshole Ted Cruz (R-Texas). When you think about it, it is really easy to look good against Ted Cruz. Because he is an asshole. During my interview with O’Rourke, he seemed really keen on the moral requirements to win the White House and to lead the nation, but he is not as sharp on the issues as Warren or Sanders. Not even close. He honestly looked like a lightweight up there with them.


Am I saying he is unqualified to be a presidential candidate eventually? No, not at all. But there was rarified air on stage last night and O’Rourke was gasping for breath when discussing his policy positions across from Sanders and Warren. Perhaps a drop in altitude would get his breathing back in order.

Perhaps a U.S. Senate (there is a black woman running for that Senate seat, by the way) or gubernatorial run would solve that problem.


Marianne Williamson is...

Saying all of the right things about reparations and she got cheers from the audience at the museum last night. No one expects her to win a primary state, let alone the nomination. But she does provide some moral honesty during these debates. It is very refreshing, given how scripted politicians are.


Marianne Williamson is like Blanche from the television series The Golden Girls.

But while she seems nice on the surface, many people I know and respect took to Twitter to accuse her of making troubling statements about HIV, people with disabilities and mental health.


Here is a thread from the Washington Post’s Gillian Brockell:


And here is another thread from Alice Wong, founder and co-director of Disability Visibility Project, addressing what she says are Williamson’s problematic views on people with disabilities:


To be clear, I have to thoroughly investigate these claims myself and I have reached out to Williamson’s team for a sit-down interview. I am simply notifying you that The Root is paying attention to the claims and I will report back when we do our own reporting. Basically, she says the right things about race, but we need to check into her beliefs to give you all a more comprehensive analysis. But, at least for last night, she gave a respectable showing.

Everyone else...

The rest of the candidates did OK. Well, except Delaney. His body is still cold and what is remaining of his presidential campaign is setting up funeral and wake arrangements. Or, at least, they are trying. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) was respectable and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper...was there. Gov. Steve Bullock (D-Mont.) played the moderate mountain western guy who flirts with being somewhat aware that progressive politics are needed. But not really. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) didn’t make any noise, but that is because she really didn’t get much time to talk.



Bernie won the hearts of Detroit last night, but Warren is actually the better policy communicator. I want to call it a tie, but Bernie got the edge—barely. But Warren caught a body, yo. She 86’ing clowns. That means something.


If you want to meet her while she is in Detroit, y’all can meet here on the corner of Grandriver and West Grand Boulevard talking to voters.

We have footage:

Terrell Jermaine Starr is a senior reporter at The Root. He is currently writing a book proposal that analyzes US-Russia relations from a black perspective.

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I said this elsewhere but the best part of Warren’s delivery was the way she changed her tone to a mocking one and made a subtle mocking face when she said “what we can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.” Just beautiful. It wasn’t so blatant as to be distasteful (people would give her shit for that) but it was just enough so that it was clear she was mocking him.