How Location Has Influenced The 2016 Democratic Debates

By Peyton Carper on March 12, 2016

Location is key, especially in politics, which is why the settings for political debates are often so important to the content of the events.

The Democratic candidates for President of the United States held a debate in Flint, Michigan this past Sunday, March 6th. Topics discussed included gun control, welfare reform, fracking, and Wall Street, and overall the candidates remained civil and collected for the majority of the debate, in stark contrast to the behavior of the Republican candidates during their debate on March 3rd. (An annotated transcript of the debate can be found here.)

Image via Jim Young/REUTERS

If the name “Flint” sounds familiar to you, it’s because toxic levels of lead were recently found in the town’s water sources. The situation in Flint is quite dire, which is why it is so important that a debate was held there.

Citizens of the town of Flint were invited to ask questions of the candidates; this opportunity was taken to discuss what the candidates would do to solve the water crisis, as well as discussion of the recent shooting in nearby Kalamazoo. What’s key here is that Flint would likely not have been a topic for discussion if the debate were held anywhere else. We as a nation, as well as those in Flint, more specifically, got to hear the candidates’ plans to rectify current events, but more importantly we got to hear firsthand how each candidate would respond to an American city in crisis.

Another Democratic debate was held in Miami, Florida on March 9th, which afforded the audience and the candidates the same opportunities for specific questions. While the city is not nearly in such dire straits as Flint, it faces problems that are relevant to the current political climate. The debate, which was broadcast on CNN via Univision, featured discussions about immigration reform and deportation. Audience members included a mother of five whose husband was recently deported, who asked the candidates how they would alter immigration policies in order to reunite families like hers.

The settings allowed for the debate to focus on real issues rather than hypotheticals, things that are actually happening in our country right now rather than imagined catastrophes. The candidates were afforded the opportunity to show how they would handle an actual city in crisis during the debate in Flint, and discussed immigration policies with people who have seen the negative effects of the current system firsthand. It would be wise to continue holding debates in hot-button locations, but the fact that we got to see two  in relevant cities is a gift in itself.


Peyton Carper is an Editing, Writing, and Media student at Florida State University. She is a former staff writer with the Beaches Leader Newspaper in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. She is a fierce advocate for the awareness and prevention of sexual assault and domestic violence. She hopes to one day write biographies and own many dogs.

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