Chasing 2020 Part 4 Of 4: Comparing The Candidates For The Democratic Nomination
The Democratic Party of the United States has undergone profound change since the election of Donald Trump in 2016 which has nudged the party farther to the left and engendered crises of identity and confidence among its adherents. Indeed, since the end of Barack Obama’s second term and the disgraceful exit from mainstream politics of his intended successor, Hilary Clinton, the Democratic Party has been scrambling to reinvigorate itself. The party’s alignment with socialist doctrine has so far led the re-identification effort while wholesale admonition of the policies of the Trump administration, encapsulating the feeling of the majority of the Democratic electorate, has become a virtual litmus test for potential candidates.
The lack of clear leadership and the supposed imperative of defeating Trump has led nearly two dozen Democrats to throw themselves into the 2020 contest, each advertising that their candidacy will prove to be the definitive challenge to what is understood as Trump’s wanton demagoguery. While many are seasoned politicians with established political portfolios, many others are either relative newcomers or have never been elected to office. Furthermore, while the progressive playbook features prominently in most of their platforms, the central issues advanced in each of their campaigns differ significantly and imply that each potential president would pursue different central goals if elected.
This article will serve as the conclusion to a four-part series aimed at examining the many candidates’ backgrounds, platforms and chances of winning the Democratic nomination for the 2020 Presidential Election. Each article will use a formulated methodology to group candidates into four tiers based on their likelihood of winning the Democratic Party nomination in 2020, with Tier One candidates demonstrating the highest probability. By dividing the candidates in this fashion, these articles will present readers with a more informed view of their favorite candidate’s campaign and, taken together, will illustrate the sometimes hidden divisions between Democratic politicians. In doing so, the articles will also help paint a more complete picture of the state of the Democratic Party and anticipate the direction the eventual winner will take it.
Tier One Candidates: The Major Contenders
The tier one candidates are those that are the most likely to receive the Democratic Nomination in 2020. Each demonstrates a perfect acquisition of the essential requirement characteristics as well as very strong ancillary characteristics that make them near perfect contestants in this charged primary season. Every candidate in this list is a veteran politician and possesses an impressive portfolio of public accomplishment. More significantly, they each belong to a specific niche in U.S. politics and have been able to eclipse the minor candidates in the 2020 Primaries, giving them the greatest chance of winning the Democratic Nomination. As such, while the primary contests are far from decided, it is almost guaranteed that one of these individuals will be the next Democratic Nominee for President of the United States of America.
Joe Biden is best known as the forty-seventh Vice president of the United States and as the political partner and close personal friend of former President Barack Obama. After finishing law school, Biden briefly served as a public defender and defense attorney before becoming one of the youngest people to win a Senate election in his home state of Delaware in 1972. A career politician, Biden has been involved in federal politics for nearly fifty years and was at the center of many legislative initiatives and contentious nomination battles. Recognized as the most moderate candidate in this primary election cycle, Joe Biden has emerged as the frontrunner in the race for the Democratic Nomination since his official announcement on April 25 and seeks to continue Obama’s legacy by pushing for left of center policies that are more feasible than many of the projects proposed by his rivals.
As a moderate left of center politician, “Joe’s Vision for America” as outlined on his official campaign website centers around the three pillars of rebuilding the middle class, engaging in responsible foreign policy and empowering American democracy. Specifically, Biden’s platform looks to continue the work of his Democratic predecessor by strengthening the Affordable Care Act and continuing to enact the provisions of Obama’s environmental policy as outlined in the Clean Power Plan and other bills. Furthermore, appealing to the large moderate center of the Democratic party, Biden seeks to implement tax reform for the benefit of the middle class and reform the immigration system in a comprehensive and constructive matter. Recognized as an expert in international relations, Biden also advocates for a responsible foreign policy that emphasizes diplomacy and the use of U.S. soft power as the primary means of achieving international cooperation in conjunction with our established allies. Finally, sensing the leftward transformation of the party since his absence, Biden also puts forward provisions to reduce racial injustice, expand voting rights and remove money from the political process, most notably by advocating for the repeal of Citizen’s United. As such, Biden’s campaign is tailored to moderate Democrats, who still represent a substantial voting bloc, and is the most likely to rally their support (3).
Joe Biden has long been a ubiquitous name in U.S. politics. As a leading Senator since the 1980s, Biden’s name has been attached to landmark legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act and has been at the center of significant political events such as the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas in the late 80’s and early 90’s, respectively. However, it is Joe Biden’s tenure as Vice President of the United States alongside Barack Obama between 2009 and 2017 that has truly cemented the Biden name into the political consciousness of every American and which has made him the most recognizable politician in contemporary America. As such, Joe Biden’s campaign possesses uncontested name recognition entering the 2020 primaries, making him the most discernible candidate in the contest by a large margin (9). Indeed, Biden is so prominent in U.S. politics today that he was considered the Democratic frontrunner long before he officially announced his candidacy. Along with his unimpeachable qualifications, Biden’s recognizability has fueled a frenzy of media attention, making him the most covered candidate in the primaries by both liberal and conservatives presses, each publishing hundreds of articles on the candidate every week. Furthermore, with Biden having now formally announced his candidacy, his media attention is likely to grow and eclipse even those of other major candidates who have been on the campaign trail since the beginning of the year (9). Finally, the Biden campaign will not be short on resources during the primary contest, having already raised over $6.3 million in its first day of fundraising, more than any other Democratic primary contender. Additionally, while Biden has joined his colleagues in eschewing contributions from corporate lobbyists and industry political action committees (PACs), his campaign has already opened its own “For the People PAC” in order to raise millions more on the side to run auxiliary adds for the candidate. Thus, while official campaign finance numbers are not yet available, Biden's initial performance and the steps he has taken to ensure a steady stream of revenue suggest that his campaign will have ample resources to conduct its operations in the months ahead (9).
In terms of political experience, Joe Biden is by far the most qualified candidate in both the primaries and even the eventual general election. Serving as U.S. Senator for over thirty years and as Vice President, the most important executive office after the Presidency, for nearly a decade, Biden is intimately aware of the machinations of federal politics and projects the sage experience looked for in a contender for the nation’s highest office (6). In line with his long career in public service, Biden’s record while in office is extensive. As mentioned, in addition to planning and pushing through a slew of bills aimed at criminal justice reform he made himself known in the early 90’s as a key Senator in the confirmation hearings of two conservative Supreme Court nominees and as an early advocate for climate change and the limitation of nuclear proliferation. However, as is typical with aged career politicians transitioning into the modern progressive shift in the democratic party, many of his past positions on issues such as school busing and gay marriage have come to light, blemishing his reputation as a champion on liberalism. None the less, Biden’s sincere efforts to promote the Affordable Car Act and his more than 10,000 votes make his overall record a positive one to most voters (6). Finally, his campaign experience is second to none as he had consistently won reelection to the Senate in Delaware (which until recently was a fairly split constituency) by wide margins and will benefit from the experience of two previous presidential campaigns as well as two national campaigns in which he was a President’s running mate (6).
Building off of Obama’s popularity and his reputation as the strongest democratic candidate in the race, Biden maintains a wide reaching support network in virtually every state in the union. Support for Biden is strong across the country as he consistently leads in national polls and receives support from powerful democratic bases. However, while Biden remains popular his appeal to local organizers is less than that of many of his rivals and he has as of yet failed in creating the level of grassroots support networks among the lower levels of the nation’s democratic constituents which could hamper his efforts with get out the vote drives in many states where more populist and progressive candidates hold sway (4). Despite this relatively small setback, Biden has extensive private connections and many holdover contacts that remain loyal to Obama’s moderate vision, to which Biden is the natural successor. Indeed, Biden has already received the support from many Obama-era donors, including the former president’s most successful fundraisers and organizers. Furthermore, endorsements received by unions and lobby groups, including the prominent International Association of Firefighters, further bolsters his support from private groups (6). Finally, Joe Biden leads the pack in political endorsements having received public support from politicians of all levels of government. From multiple governors, over a dozen congressmen and Senators and a former DNC chair, Biden’s political support is extensive and iron clad and likely to grow as the primary race progresses (6).
In terms of personal traits, Biden also demonstrates grand acquisition. The former Vice president has created successful non-profits and charity organizations, most notably the Biden Foundation and the Biden Cancer Initiative, aimed at community engagement and to promote the laudable goals of a moral foreign policy, cancer research and ending violence among women, among others. In addition, Biden has attempted to inculcate a popular image for himself and his charities by limiting his personal pay for speaking and community events and instructing his foundations to refuse donations from companies in controversial industries like pharmaceuticals (3). Furthermore, Biden has been a politician since his mid twenties, starting with a local city council position and jumping ahead with his election to the U.S. Senate at age 29. Before this, Biden studied law and briefly worked as a public defender. As such, his career speaks as a testament to his understanding of politics and the law, a career voters look to approvingly when choosing a president (3). Finally, while Biden has come under fire recently for his alleged inappropriate conduct towards women, he maintains a reputation for “humanity” and the many tragedies of his past, such as the loss of his son Beau to brain cancer, have helped him connect to voters. This human side has endeared him to people, giving him a compassionate aura to add to his polished rhetorical ability after five decades in the public arena (2).
Joe Biden is thus a major candidate and, if polls are to be trusted, the most likely to win the Democratic Nomination. Indeed, Biden scores higher than any other candidate as he achieves a near perfect score of 72. His impeccable qualifications, polished name and reputation as the clear successor to the legacy of Barack Obama make him a popular choice and his level headed moderate platform gives him the realistic support from most moderate Democrats. As such, as the playing field narrows it is likely that voters recognize Biden as the best chance to win over Republican leaning constituents to beat Donald Trump and accord him the Democratic Nomination as a means of electing him as the leader of the Democratic Party in 2020.
Cory Booker is the junior Senator from New Jersey, a position he has held since 2013 and a leading figure in the Democratic Party. Growing up in an affluent New Jersey suburb, Booker defied expectations of race as he attended a trifecta of elite universities - Stanford for undergrad, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and Yale for law school - before settling down in the dilapidated inner city of Newark, New Jersey. Slowly integrating with many of Newark's residents, many of whom shared his skin color but not his family’s wealth, Booker eventually came to be accepted as an ally to the plight of the poor and was first elected to Newark city council in 1998 before becoming the city’s mayor in 2006. After winning a Senate special election in 2013, Booker used his first full term to quickly rise to prominence by taking liberal stances on many issues dear to his consistent in particular and to America’s impoverished and minority groups in general. Booker has been considered a major player in the 2020 Primary Election ever since his campaign announcement on the first day of black history month and has continued to be listed among the most likely to secure the Nomination in 2020.
Absent from his official campaign website, Booker’s campaign platform can best be ascertained by examining his previous statements and his past legislative activity. Like most progressive candidates, the most important issues to Booker (and as such the one’s he will likely focus on as President) are criminal and social justice, healthcare, the environment and education. Booker has been a long time advocate for criminal justice reform, spearheading the same in the Senate in 2018 and making it a top priority for his presidency. In tandem with outright criminal justice reform, Booker hopes to implement new policies, such as his “Baby Bonds” proposal to give each newborn a government run savings account, and reverse old ones, for instance by legalizing marijuana, to enact social justice reform. Furthermore, Booker has signed on to popular progressive pushes for Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, signaling his support for these initiatives should he reach the oval. Finally, Booker explains that once elected, he will continue to push for a unique blend of education policies that would expand public schooling while allowing for private options, with the caveat that they must be inclusive and accessible to the lower income strata of society. Booker’s platform thus suffers from being too left for many moderate Democrats (e.g., with his emphasis on Medicare for All and the wholesale legalization of cannabis) while being not left enough for many progressives (who would likely find fault with his public-private hybrid education plan) who in any case have much more popular progressive alternatives (2).
Cory Booker was always a recognized mayor nationwide (and even international) recognition. However, his term in the Senate and his championing of progressive causes (e.g., gay marriage) and fights (e.g., opposing most of Trump’s nominees) has exploded his popularity and the salience of his name in U.S. politics. As such, Booker is now a leading figure in the 2020 Primaries, with a much recognized name (9). Furthermore, while Booker has been featured less in the press than his chief rivals, his coverage is very positive and lacks the damaging stories that can turn media coverage into a liability. Additionally, he benefits from an immense social media following, second among he 2020 Primary crowd. Indeed, dubbed the “Social Media Senator” Booker’s massive following based on his tweets and posts of many everyday actions, has made him widely known among the internet generation and has enabled him to conduct wide-reaching outreach (9). Finally, while the Booker campaign financial record indicate that he only managed to raise $5 million (less than a handful of his competitors did in their first day of fundraising), its total stockpile of nearly $8 million give Booker a solid financial base to run his campaign and should not be taken lightly (9).
Booker also demonstrates a fair acquisition of the ancillary characteristics, albeit less successfully than many of his most important opponents. First, having been involved in politics in some capacity for over twenty years, including seven as mayor of a major east coast city and seven as federal Senator, Booker has considerable political experience. Indeed, his outsized role in the Senate for a junior Senator demonstrate that Booker’s grit in the political arena has given him considerable insight into the ways Washington works (6). Furthermore, Booker’s record as a liberal progressive champion garners addition points to his advantage. Indeed, Booker is a consistent partisan with a record indicating that he is 97% more liberal than his colleagues and has frequently sided with his party in opposing Trump. Additionally, while his tenure as Newark’s mayor has been called into question, many (including former rivals) admit that his governance is at least partly responsible for the city’s success after the Great Recession (6). Only in his campaign experience does Booker not match up to many other Presidential contenders, for while he has ample experience in local and state-wide campaigning he as of yet lacks any real experience doing so at the national level aside from speaking events for Democratic nominees in the 2018 midterms (4). As such, Booker’s support network is also limited despite the probable successes he will have rallying many African-American bases due to his unique (in the context of the 2020 Primaries) #ADOS heritage (4).
In terms of endorsements Booker’s campaign is more successful since his past outreach to many wealthy celebrities and philanthropists is likely to assist his campaign with further fundraising and support. However, many have questioned whether their investments, which have proved faulty in the past, will be of significant benefit or even if they will reach the campaign at all due to the slew of other high profile candidates arrayed against him. Furthermore, without any significant NGO or union support, Booker’s private network is less impressive than those of other’s of his caliber (4). However, Booker has received a cornucopia of political endorsements which include virtual all of New Jersey’s important political offices (i.e., gubernatorial and federal) as well as some out-of-state DNC executives (6).
Finally, Booker’s personal traits are all fully acquired and are sure to boost his popularity as a candidate. Having lived in a dilapidated Newark community and invested considerable time and energy into its improvement, Booker has cultivated a reputation for being very community oriented, helping to obliterate blight and mentor young children alike (3). Furthermore, as a highly educated lifelong politician, Booker’s career instills confidence in voters that he will execute the duties as president in a consistent and responsible manner (3). Finally, Booker’s personality, sweetened by his much publicized heroic actions, such as personally saving a Newark resident from a building fire during his tenure as mayor and (while this is debatable) ostensibly breaking with Senate rules to release detrimental information about Brett Kavanaugh prior to his nomination hearing, as well as his animal loving vegan side scores full points in this candidate analysis and has been able to overcome his singular scandal of accepting contributions from big-pharma (3). Thus, with 68 points Booker is rightly a major candidate in this election and likely to be among the final contenders when the Democratic field is inevitably narrowed.
Kamala Harris has been the junior Senator of California since 2017 and previously served as the state’s first female Attorney General. Descendent from an Indian mother and a Jamaican father, Harris was born and spent her early life in Oakland, California and attended the historically black Howard University and UC Hastings School of Law before becoming a deputy district attorney for the city of San Francisco shortly after being admitted to the state bar. For most of her public career she rose through the ranks of California’s judiciary, starting as the district attorney of San Francisco and eventually becoming California’s Attorney General in 2010. Elected to the Senate in 2016, Harris quickly asserted herself as a leading progressive figure at the forefront of the challenge against Trump and as a advocate for many progressive policies in the Senate.Announcing her candidacy for the Democratic Nomination in 2020 on Martin Luther King Jr. day, the black female politician immediately became a progressive favorite due to her impeccable credentials, liberal loyalties and unique personal identity.
Presented on her official campaign website as excerpts from her announcement speech, Harris’s platform reflects her dedication to advancing the progressive cause and is largely based on the same ideology. She supports improving the low and middle classes at the expense of the wealthy through progressive tax reform, supports the Green New Deal (having been one of the original co-sponsors), has declared healthcare and education to be “fundamental right[s]” and advocates for the end of systemic gun violence. Similarly, she argues for the federal rescheduling of cannabis, transgender rights (e.g., choice of bathrooms), the return to the Paris Agreement and a national kindergarten program. However and as a testament to her legalistic nature, unlike many other progressive candidates for the Democratic Nomination, harris has yet to call for more radical policies such as paying reparations for slavery (although she supports “that we study that”) and abolishing the Electoral College (despite being “open” to the latter proposal). This non-committal attitude and the diversity of the progressive ticket in this election as well as the lack of a central message to her campaign make her platform relatively weak, especially in comparison to many other leftist candidates (2).
While relatively unknown outside of California before the 2016 general election, Harris’s popularity and name recognition has exploded since her ascension to the U.S. Senate, with her outspoken opposition to Trump’s policies (e.g., Muslim Ban) and co-sponsoring of key progressive legislation (e.g., the aforementioned Green New Deal) as well as her black female identity and dedication to similar causes making her a star among Democrats. Furthermore, her important political positions in California pegged her as a likely future female president early in her political career, a sentiment that has resurfaced giving her name greater weight and providing her with ever increasing poll numbers (9). Furthermore, Harris has received heavy media coverage, with over 300 weekly articles covering her campaign, a trend that, unlike many other candidates, has stayed consistent throughout her run and is likely to stay that way with constant new additions to her campaign’s media team (9). Finally, Harris’s campaign raised a tremendous amount of money, with $12 million in donations received since her announcement (totaling over $13 million in receipts) making her fundraising second only to progressive rival Bernie Sanders (9).
Despite her perfect acquisition of the essential requirements however, Harris’s experience characteristics are not as polished as those of her chief competitors. While she is a U.S. Senator with heavy judicial experience in an supremely important state-wide position (6), her relatively brief Senate career (with only one-third of her first term served) as a progressive champion has not been able to distance her from her mixed record as Attorney General. Indeed, many policies supported by Harris’s former office have come under immense scrutiny for being either too harsh or counter productive to the progressive conversation. Examples include her effort to combat truancy by charging parents with criminal neglect, a burden which fell primarily on lower-income and minority parents, her heavy prosecution rates, non-committal stance on the death penalty and her call to exclude illegal immigrants in her own anti-recidivism program. Still, Harris has proven herself to be an immensely partisan progressive Democrat, rated as 98% more liberal than her Senatorial colleagues (4). Furthermore, like Booker, while she possesses heavy experience running for statewide office as demonstrated by her multiple Attorney General campaigns and her successful campaign for U.S. Senate, her lack of national political experience will prove to be a hinderance to her efforts to run in a national election (4) and has been shown by her general lack of a wide reaching support network across the country (4). Despite her lack of a national and grassroots support movement however, Harris does not lack influential sources of support. In addition to her private connections at one of the nation’s top three law firms through her husband, her innumerable connections made throughout her legal career and the support of many of the “Hollywood power elite” (6), Harris has received a plethora of political endorsements, primarily from her home state but including a few important out-of-state supporters such as the DC attorney general and a member of the Texas DNC (6).
Finally, Harris’s personal trait scores are similar to those of the top tier candidates in that her community outreach, especially concerning the betterment of women and children, during her tenure as attorney general (3), reputable career as a prosecutor and politician (3), and unique and distinctly popular (to progressives) black female identity (3), all come together to enhance her appeal as a candidate. Thus, with 68 points Harris also meets the threshold to be considered as a major candidate in the primaries and is sure to be a prominent candidate until the battle for the Nomination is over.
Bernie Sanders is perhaps one of the most influential politicians in the twenty first century. Relatively unknown for most of his career, Sanders was exploded onto the national scene after his unlikely success during the 2016 Democratic Primaries and has since been ingrained into the national consciousness. A self described “democratic socialist,” Sanders has been a champion of workers’ rights since his early start to politics as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont between 1981 and 1989. Elected as Vermont’s Representative at Large in 1990 and serving until his ascension to the Senate in 2007, Sanders is the longest serving Independent politician in U.S. history and is known for his exuberance (despite his old age), empathy to the plight of the lower classes and enthusiasm for progressive policies.
Often considered to be the father of the contemporary progressive movement, Bernie Sanders’s platform as outlined on his official campaign website reflects the core of progressive ideology and can be considered a refinement of his original ideas put forward in 2016. Defined by the “for all” catchphrase, Sanders advocates for universal programs for all Americans in the fields of healthcare (Medicare for All), education (College for All) and the economy (Jobs for All). In addition to promoting a $15 minimum wage, universal childcare, equal pay, a robust Green New Deal for the environment, Sanders touches on social inequalities by arguing for heavy taxation on the rich and and end to the discriminatory application of justice by legalizing marijuana and enfranchising incarcerated felons in order to lessen the negative by-product of criminal justice enforcement on communities of color. Furthermore, Sanders advocates for a foreign policy that benefits workers (e.g., domestic industry promoting trade deals) and ordinary Americans (e.g., justified application of U.S. military strength) and that takes into account the needs of veterans returning from conflict zones. Finally, true to the progressive ethos he helped popularize, Sanders argues that democratic reforms, such as ending gerrymandering, overturning Citizens United and publicly funding elections, must be put in place in order to separate money from politics and make the democratic process more inclusive “for all.” While Sanders may not publicly espouse many of the new progressives’ central policies (e.g., reparations for slavery), the fact that he has served as both the catalyst and greatest advocate of progressive ideology makes his platform incredible powerful to many Democrats (3).
Virtually unknown outside of Vermont prior to 2016, Sanders’s name is so ubiquitous to American politics that over 90 percent of Americans are now intimately aware of not only his prominence but also of his key talking points, a recognition that has translated to extremely high poll numbers across the country (9). Indeed, Sanders has been among the most covered politicians of the 2020 Democratic primaries, benefitting from over four thousand television mentions (including the most widely covered candidacy announcement) as well as the publication of hundreds of articles per week on the subject of his candidacy and a ubiquitous presence on social media (9). Furthermore, Sanders’s origins call to refuse PAC support and contributions from lobbyists and corporate donors (a practice which he pioneered in 2016) has become a virtual litmus test for Democratic candidates seeking the Presidency and has endeared him to many ordinary Americans. As such, since launching his campaign Sanders has raised over $18 million in contributions, more than three quarters of which is made up of small individual donation under $200 (9).
Much like his name recognition, media coverage and resource base, Sanders’s political experience also stands supreme. Having served in Congress for nearly thirty years (and as mayor of Vermont’s largest city for close to an additional decade), the Senator is clearly qualified for the political rigors of higher office (6). Furthermore, his record while in office stands as a testament to his dedication to progressive ideology having consistently supported liberal policies both within and without the Congressional chambers. Indeed, while he has not had much of an effect on the formulation of policy (successfully sponsoring only three bills - two of which were measures to rename post offices in Vermont - for an average of one bill a decade) and has previously taken positions that would conflict with his current views (e.g., gun control), Sanders’s tenacity and longtime advocacy for issues at the center of his movement represent a heretofore unseen level of partisan dedication (6). Additionally, having spearheaded one of the most prominent primary competitions in recent memory, Sanders’s campaigning experience at the national level (bolstered by nearly thirty years of experience campaigning at the state level in Vermont) is second to none (6).
Key to Sanders’s 2016 primacy was his ability to elicit enthusiastic support from a innumerable local supporters and grassroots coalitions. In addition to the small Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) chapters that rallied around his person, a large network of grassroots movements interconnected by pioneering use of technological outreach has developed in virtually every state in the union advocating on his behalf. As such, Sanders comes into the primary with the most widespread support network imaginable which can only be described as a “mass movement” and is only likely to grow as he gains more traction at the expense of his smaller rivals (6). In addition to his grassroots support, Sanders has received uncountable private endorsements by celebrity figures, academics and considerable national organizations such as the DSA as well as various other union and socialist consortiums (6). Unsurprisingly, this gush of support has also been met with a slew of political endorsements from office holders across the country and include such disparate politicians from U.S. Congressional Representatives, to the Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico to many members of the DNC in several states (6).
Finally, Bernie Sanders achieves perfect scores in the personal traits category which is unsurprising since above all else it is his tenacity, enthusiasm and genuine dedication to what he believes that first drove throngs into his political arms. It is widely known that Sanders’ was an active member in the Civil Rights movement and is recognized to have been heavily involved in his community as mayor (3). Furthermore, as a career politician who has been dedicated to improving the plight of the working class throughout his career, Sanders projects a unique blend of sagacity (an image assisted by his noticeable advanced age) and truth to self-principles that is rare to see in politics and attracts positive attention if not immediate support (3). Finally, Sanders’s rousing speeches with their provocative calls to arms against the monied classes, enthusiastic energy and compassion to the issues that affect the average American have solidified his personality as one of generous understanding to the American people (3).
At 71 points, Bernie Sanders is unquestionably one of the strongest candidates in the crowded 2020 Democratic primary field. Indeed, prior to Joe Biden’s official candidacy, Sanders was the frontrunner and most heavily discussed politician. However, due to his radical agenda, Sanders may risk alienating many in the moderate and upper-middle class Democratic camp which could seriously jeopardize his chances at winning a national agenda. Indeed, should the collective efforts of the latter group outweighs the truly impressive grassroots mobilization efforts of Sanders’s supporters, it is likely that he see a repeat of his performance in the 2016 primary election when many Democratic voters opted to choose a more moderate candidate capable of winning over undecided moderate voters and many Republicans who have grown disillusioned with Trump’s rule.
Elizabeth Warren is the Senior Senator of Massachusetts and a prominent legal scholar in the fields of bankruptcy and consumer law. Hailing from a middle-class family, Warren started her career as a special needs teacher before obtaining a law degree and moving on to teach in a slew of law schools around the country, including the prestigious Harvard University. Little involved in politics before 2008, the financial crisis catapulted her into the public arena as she became first the chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel in charge of overseeing a myriad of economic recovery measures and later the chief architect and most vocal proponent of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. After her intended nomination to head the latter was preemptively blocked by Republican Senators, Warren was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012 and after having secured reelection in 2018, announced her intention to form an exploratory committee for a Presidential run on Dec. 31 2018.
Warren’s platform, as outlined on her official campaign website, is by far the most “progressive” in the running. More than those of Harris or even Sanders, Warren’s policy proposals go further than the all inclusive “for all” labels and seek “big, structural change” in American government. Aside from trumpeting the generic progressive ideology, such as stemming Washington corruption by prohibiting elected officials from trading stocks and becoming lobbyists, banning drilling on public lands, advocating for universal childcare, instituting the Green New Deal and improving democracy by ending gerrymandering, outlawing PACs and dismantling ICE, Warren has sought to get an edge over her opponents with concrete policy proposals. Indeed, Warren is leading the pack is actual policy plans that according to her will reinvigorate the American middle class. Specifically, Warren has put forward two signature policies that are sure to define her tenure as president if elected. First, she plans to make public colleges tuition free and cancel most student loan debt by forgiving up to $50 thousand in student debt for households making less than $100 thousand in income and by partially cancelling the debt of those with incomes between $100 and $250 thousand (with no cancellation for those making more than $250 thousand a year). Second, in order to fund the latter proposal and the plethora of other policy plans (estimated to cost $42.5 trillion over the next decade), Warren has unveiled her signature ultra-millionaire “wealth” tax which would directly tax the wealth of those with assets valued at more than $50 million by 2 percent and of any assets valued at over $1 billion by 3 percent, a plan that has raised issues of constitutionality (but that is not without its proponents). As such, her campaign platform embraces the zeitgeist among democrats and is spearheaded by two well articulated proposals, making it among the best yet presented (3).
Warren is a widely known Senator and ubiquitous among anti-Trump circles. Indeed, she has made a name for herself since the latter’s election by being one of his most vocal opponents and has become a figure of defiance in the Republican controlled Senate. With her name recognition having gradually increased since her involvement in the economic stimulus plan of Barack Obama, Warren is know recognized as a leading progressive and one of Washington’s foremost female politicians, consistently scoring third in national polls (9). By virtue of this heavy name recognition, Warren has benefitted from near constant media coverage. While she has suffered from a flurry of negative press (e.g., her native ancestry scandal), she still ranks third in both the number of weekly articles published about her candidacy (400) and in overall TV mentions (16 percent of total) (9). Finally, Warren also ranks third in the amount of money raised at over $16 million as of the end of March, an impressive sum considering that (like most other candidates) she has forsworn financial support from super PACs and special interest groups (9).
Warren also has substantial political experience to boot. Serving on arguably the most important (considering the context of the financial meltdown) federal government committees between 2008 and 2011 and continuing her political career with her ascension to the U.S. Senate in 2013 and her membership in that body’s most significant committees (e.g., Armed Forces since 2016), Warren has a healthy political portfolio that dwarfs that of many of her immediate rivals (6). Furthermore, her record in politics is both impressive and demonstrates immense loyalty to her cause. In addition to being the main architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (perhaps the most honest government advocate of the middle class), Warren has introduced many pieces of legislation aimed at promoting the lower strata of the American economy (i.e., a revamped Glass-Steagall type bill) and has been a vocal opponent of prominent banking institutions largely seen as inimical to liberal values. Most recently, Warren has publicly defended progressive causes by opposing the Keystone XL pipeline development and challenging most of Trump’s nominees, earning her the accolade of the most progressive/liberal member of the U.S. Senate (6). However, much like Harris and Booker, Warren suffers from a lack of experience campaigning at the national level, which is likely to hamper her efforts to overcome more seasoned national campaigners such as Biden and Sanders (4).
Despite the lack of campaign experience however, Warren’s grassroots movement seems strong and has helped her consistently score third in most national polls. Indeed, Warren’s campaign has put a heavy emphasis on grassroots mobilization, courting many progressive mobilizers with national reach and rekindling old alliances with others (6). Furthermore, while Warren has only received sporadic endorsements from celebrity figures and private groups (4), she contrasts this by having received support from a slew of Massachusetts politicians at all levels of government and, importantly, former Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Additionally, Warren stands the best chance of receiving the powerful endorsement from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and many other popular and young progressive congresspeople (6).
Finally, Warren’s personal traits augment her score nicely. Her work with disabled children early in her teaching career and her outreach to underprivileged minority groups (esp. Native Americans after her ancestry scandal) serves to highlight her past community engagement (3). Furthermore, her extensive career as a political figure and her background in academia, including her research on bankruptcy and consumer law, give her respectable sagacity and a reputation for an educated and responsive approach to governance (3). Finally, despite her near impeccable career background, Warren does suffer from being “hard to love” and , according to many, demonstrates a less gripping personality than most other major contenders (2). In sum, with 70 points Warren places third in this analysis of 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates, in line with her poll numbers and likely to remain so without a change in the status quo.