Last night millions of American voters spent three hours with the top 10 Democratic candidates for president, listening to their views on health care, gun control, climate change – and even vegan diets.

But the two scholars who watched the debate for The Conversation both tuned into what wasn’t said on the debate stage.

Political rhetoric scholar Jennifer Mercieca of Texas A&M University explains why she feels Democrats need a more full-throated refutation of Ronald Reagan’s claim that “government is the problem.”

And economist Patricia Smith of the University of Michigan feels the candidates missed an opportunity to focus on the millions of Americans without access to healthy food.

Also today:

Top story

They didn’t come out and say what they really mean. AP Photo/Eric Gay

Why won’t Democrats say they want government to solve problems?

Jennifer Mercieca, Texas A&M University

Americans want government to serve them, but don't have confidence that it actually can.

Economy + Business

Health + Medicine

Environment + Energy

Science + Technology

Ethics + Religion

Arts + Culture

  • The bizarre social history of beds

    Brian Fagan, University of California, Santa Barbara

    Today's beds are thought of as bastions of privacy. But not long ago, they were the perches from which kings ruled and places where travelers hunkered down with complete strangers.

From our international editions

Today’s quote

The differences in gut bacteria and fungi between preterm and term babies were very consistent and stark.


The womb isn't sterile – healthy babies are born with bacteria and fungi in their guts


Kent Willis

University of Tennessee

Kent Willis

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