Where Do the 2020 Democrats Stand on the Major Issues?
As the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries launch into full swing, the crowded and competitive field of candidates has finally started to crystallize into a few main contenders.
Though all candidates are staunchly opposed to President Donald Trump, they differ in subtle yet crucial ways when it comes to the issues. Some, like Joe Biden, have towed a more moderate line while others, such as Bernie Sanders, have fully embraced democratic socialism. This has led to a number of notable policy differences between them – which could mean a very different outcome for the country if one makes it to the White House come January 2021.
While the Iowa caucus produced a chaotic result giving little clarity to the field, the vast bulk of the 2020 primary season lies ahead, giving each of the candidates increasingly little time to make their case to Democrats across the country that they should be the one to take on President Donald Trump come November 3.
Meet the 2020 Democrats
The field of 2020 Democratic contenders has shrunk in recent weeks, but still remains sizable. Some candidates, such as Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, have grabbed headlines for months while new hopefuls like Michael Bloomberg have jumped into the fray only fairly recently.
We break down the major candidates and where they stand on the key issues.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders
After battling former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a surprisingly close primary contest in 2016, Bernie Sanders has returned to make another bid for the White House after going from relative unknown to progressive icon during the last election cycle. Arguably the de facto leader of progressives across the United States today, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was born in New York City on September 8, 1941 into a working-class family. He attended Brooklyn College and the University of Chicago, becoming a political activist and organizing fellow students in support of the burgeoning Civil Rights movement.
After relocating to Vermont in 1968, he was elected Mayor of Burlington in 1981 as an independent, later winning a Congressional seat in the House of Representatives in 1990 and the Senate in 2006. In 2015, he announced his candidacy for president and, despite little funding and name recognition initially, went on to win 23 primaries and caucuses. Building on his success in the 2016 campaign, Sanders again launched a bid for the White House in 2019 and has positioned himself as a leading contender in the Democratic field.
A self-described Democratic socialist, the Vermont senator has had success rallying progressives to his cause with bold proposals on signature issues. Sanders has long advocated for single-payer healthcare in the form of Medicare for All, which would expand the government program for seniors’ healthcare to everyone. He’s also been a leading proponent of of proposed Green New Deal legislation introduced into Congress in early 2019, and in general has been a vocal advocate of tackling climate change and embracing clean energy as soon as possible. Another one of Sanders’ signature issues has long been fighting economic inequality, which he’s proposed to do by enacting a living wage, expanding social security, and opposing free trade agreements.
The Vermont senator has also made education a cornerstone of his campaign, vowing to make public colleges tuition-free and cancel all student debt. On social issues, Sanders has supported legalizing marijuana and abolishing private, for-profit prisons while also emphasizing a smaller Pentagon budget and diplomacy as opposed to military intervention when it comes to foreign policy.
Former Vice President Joe Biden
Joe Biden, born on November 20, 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, served as Barack Obama’s vice president from 2009 to 2017. Born and raised in Scranton and New Castle County, Delaware, Biden first made a name for himself as a lawyer after graduating from the University of Delaware and Syracuse University law school. After entering local politics in 1970, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972, becoming the sixth-youngest senator in United States history.
After an unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1988, Biden rose through the senate ranks to become a key player in foreign policy on Capitol Hill, becoming the ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1997 and its Chairman in 2001. Biden launched another presidential campaign in 2008, emphasizing is foreign policy pedigree, but withdrew after the Iowa caucuses. However, he was chosen as Obama’s running mate and sworn in as Vice President in 2009. Biden served as vice president until 2017, helping to craft the administration’s national security and foreign policy agenda. After leaving office, he launched his third run for the presidency in April 2019.
The one-time unanimous frontrunner, former Vice President Joe Biden has seen has standings in the polls slip as of late as other challengers like Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg have risen. Still, the 47th Vice President remains a formidable contestant for the nomination, propelled not only by the enduring popularity of former President Barack Obama, but his appeal to working-class and moderate voters. Biden has towed a more centrist line compared to other contenders like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, opposing any Medicare for All healthcare proposals while instead favoring a more incrementalist public option and building off of the Affordable Care Act.
Biden has also called for investing billions in renewable energy and decriminalizing, though not fully legalizing, marijuana at the Federal level. In keeping with his more moderate views, the former Vice President has called for two years of free public college for students in the United States, stopping short of the more progressive proposals adopted by candidates like Sanders and Warren. Biden has also called for the U.S. to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal and reversing the Trump administration’s stricter immigration policies.
Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg
One of the most unlikely top-tier candidates, Pete Buttigieg has risen from relative obscurity to recently win the Iowa caucuses. Born on January 19, 1982 in South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg attended Harvard University and Oxford University before working at the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company from 2007 to 2010, also serving as a naval intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve from 2009 to 2017, rising to the rank of lieutenant and serving in Afghanistan in 2014. Buttigieg served as the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana from 2012 to 2020. He launched his 2020 presidential bid in April 2019, rising in the polls later that year.
Politically, Buttigieg has generally tried to straddle the line between moderate and an unabashed progressive in the vein of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. He’s called for a “Medicare For All Who Want It” healthcare system that would expand Medicare to the entire U.S. population but keep private insurance in place. Buttigieg has also aggressively advocated for investments in green energy, vowing to join the Paris Climate Accord and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
He’s been a supporter of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative launched by former President Barack Obama and has harshly criticized Trump’s deportation policies. Buttigieg has also called for expanding Federal protections for LGBT Americans and supports marijuana legalization at the Federal level.
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar
Amy Klobuchar, born on May 25, 1960 in Plymouth, Minnesota, graduated from Yale University and the University of Chicago law school before becoming a partner at two Minneapolis law firms. She later was elected Hennepin County Attorney in 1998, overseeing law enforcement in Minnesota’s most populous county. Klobuchar was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006, being reelected in 2012 and 2018. Since serving in the Senate, Klobuchar has become a key voice on judicial issues in particular.
Klobuchar has generally towed a moderate line, opposing single-payer health insurance proposals but vowing to expand coverage incrementally and build on the Affordable Care Act’s foundation. On education, she’s called for making two years of public college free and expanding current debt-relief programs for students. Klobuchar has also been a proponent of expanding clean energy and has vowed to boost affordable housing across the U.S. and enact a $15/hour minimum wage. The Minnesota senator has called for increasing taxes on the wealthy while cutting the defense budget.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren
A longtime progressive advocate, Elizabeth Warren was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on June 22, 1949. Warren taught at several colleges after graduating from the University of Houston and Rutgers University law school. Warren soon forayed into public policy in the 1990s, becoming a vocal proponent of stricter consumer protections and financial regulations, her national clout rising in the wake of the devastating 2008 financial crash. After helping to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she ran for office and was elected to represent Massachusetts in the United States Senate in 20120 before launching a White House bid in February 2019.
An unabashed progressive, Warren, unlike fellow New England Senator Bernie Sanders, still declares herself a capitalist. The Massachusetts senator has made bold, populaist ideas a cornerstone of her campaign, proposing to impose surtaxes on the wealthy, cancel student debt and create a Medicare for All universal healthcare program. She’s also come out in favor of cash bail reform, using Federal funds to construct affordable housing, and breaking up major tech companies.
Tom Steyer, born on June 27, 1957, is a longtime donor and political activist for progressive causes across the country. Born in New York City, he attended Yale University and Stanford University before becoming a hedge fund titan in the financial sector, working as the founder of Farallon Capital and cofounder of Onecalifornia Bank. A political neophyte, Steyer launched his campaign for the presidency in July 2019.
Politically, Steyer has consistently taken progressive positions on various issues. He supports stricter gun control laws, enacting a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions, and boosting infrastructure spending. Steyer has also come out against Trump’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall and in favor of leveraging the Federal government’s resources to expand healthcare coverage, though he’s not in favor of a single-payer universal healthcare solution.
Another entrepreneur-turned-politician, Andrew Yang was born in Schenectady, New York on January 13, 1975. The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Yang attended Brown University and Columbia University law school and started off his career as a corporate lawyer before becoming a technology entrepreneur in 2000. He also established Venture for America, a nonprofit group focused on creating jobs in struggling cities, in 2011 and formally launched a presidential bid in November 2017.
The cornerstone of Yang’s bid for the White House is his “Freedom Dividend,” a form of universal basic income in the form of $1,000 every month to all adults in the U.S. in response to the growing automation of the country’s workforce. In addition to this signature proposal, Yang has also come out in favor of taxing carbon emissions, tightening gun control laws, expanding health insurance coverage, and taxing financial transactions on Wall Street.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
The newest entrant to the crowded field of presidential contenders, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was born in Boston, Massachusetts on February 14, 1942. After attending Hopkins University and business school at Harvard University, he worked at the securities brokerage Salomon Brothers before launching his own company in 1981, Bloomberg L.P. After finding financial success at his firm, he started his political career in 2001 with his bid for Mayor of New York City, winning the election held just weeks after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the city.
Then a Republican, he was sworn in as mayor in 2002 and became a political independent in 2007 and served as mayor until 2013. After toying with a presidential bid for years, he launched his campaign for the White House in November 2019, just weeks before the 2020 primaries kicked off.
Bloomberg is an emphatic proponent of stricter gun control laws and has also vowed to increase taxes on the wealthy. He’s also come out in favor of raising the Federal minimum wage, boosting funding for housing, and expanding healthcare funding, though he opposes single-payer health insurance proposals.
2020 Democratic Primary Schedule
By Steve Longo and Jim Notaris