10 Questions Anderson Cooper Should Ask the Democratic Candidates

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U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a community forum campaign event at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, October 7, 2015. REUTERS/Scott Morgan

CNN's Anderson Cooper will host the first of six Democratic debates Tuesday night in Las Vegas. Front-runner Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state under President Barack Obama, will be center stage. Alongside her will be Bernie Sanders, independent senator from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats; Martin O'Malley, former governor of Maryland; Jim Webb, former senator from Virginia; and Lincoln Chafee, former governor of Rhode Island. Tonight's debate will be the first chance for American voters to watch these candidates square off against one another without the help of scripts or armies of staffers and aides. It will also give the candidates an opportunity to refine their talking points and test their policy proposals against real opposition. Here are 10 questions Cooper should ask the Democratic candidates:

1. In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney attacked his Democratic rival, Obama, over what he said was the president's plan to "redistribute" American wealth. Even Republicans now recognize the growing divide between rich and poor. Republican Senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, all 2016 presidential candidates, have decried income inequality. GOP front-runner Donald Trump, a billionaire businessman, agrees. But what they can't seem to agree on is how—or if—the government should try to solve this problem. How, specifically, will each of you work to address wealth inequality?

2. The Syrian Civil War continues to spiral out of control. Close to 2 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes since the conflict began. The Obama administration's approach, to arm Syrian opposition groups like the Free Syrian Army, does not seem to have slowed the flood; nor is the dictator Bashar al-Assad any closer to being deposed. Now, Russia has stepped into the mix. How would you handle the situation differently?

3. On guns, most Democrats agree: The country needs tougher gun control. The recent mass shootings in Charleston, South Carolina; Newtown, Connecticut; Aurora, Colorado; Tucson, Arizona; and Roseburg, Oregon, are proof enough of this. How do you plan to push through legislation to curb the availability of guns in opposition to a gun lobby that is one of America's strongest?

4. Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are 74, 76 and 79, respectively. If you become president, it's likely one or more of these justices will retire. Will you insist that your nominee vote to uphold Roe v. Wade?

5. Perhaps the biggest surprise of this campaign cycle has been the popularity of Donald Trump. Voters seem fed up with lifelong politicians and eager for outside voices, if Trump's popularity is any indication. Each of you has been in politics for a long time. How will you convince voters that you're not just another career politicians in the pocket of special interests?

6. The most significant social movement of the past few years must be Black Lives Matter. How will you address its concerns that police are given the benefit of the doubt, and black men never are, resulting in needless deaths?

7. The Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United opened the floodgates for money in politics. Mrs. Clinton has benefitted from Super PAC contributions, while Mr. Sanders refuses to accept them. Yet all of you have said you think something needs to be done about it. Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton support a constitutional amendment to overturn the ruling. How can you get it through the states?

8. Abortion: While Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood seem to have been stymied for the time being, efforts to reduce access to abortion have been quite successful on a state level. In Texas, for example, a recent law reduced the number of abortion clinics from around 40 to just 10. With will you do to protect and expand abortion access in light of strong Republican opposition?

9. While vaccines are widely accepted to be safe and effective, on rare occasions they can cause an adverse reaction. How would you convince a parent to vaccinate their child, anyway?

10. Self-described whistleblowers such as Chelsea Manning have been prosecuted in connection with their uncovering of classified information. Edward Snowden is facing charges and has fled to Russia. Should these sentences be reduced?