By Maddie Aitken ’19
With President Trump’s term approaching its end, many Democrats have announced their decision to run for president in 2020. Despite the election still being more than a year away, 18 Democrats have announced their bids, and will soon be vying for the nomination.
Big names include Joe Biden, Barack Obama’s vice president; Bernie Sanders, a Vermont senator who ran in the 2016 election, but lost the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton; Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts senator and former Harvard professor who came under fire earlier this year for a Native American controversy; Beto O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman who ran against incumbent Ted Cruz for a Senate seat in the 2018 midterms and narrowly lost; and Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota senator who became a hero to many for her role in the questioning of Justice Brett Kavanaugh during the confirmation hearings, but also has caught media attention for once eating salad with a comb.
Biden most recently joined the race, officially announcing his bid on April 25. Despite his recent entry, he’s already received a lot of coverage since he’s a former vice president and well-known amongst the American public. Biden has the longest record in politics of any candidates, and comes into this race as a Democratic pragmatist, more inclined to bipartisanship and moderate compromise than most others in the race. He’s also among the older candidates at 76 years old, just a year behind Sanders, who’s the oldest Democrat running.
Sanders has arguably garnered the most public attention of any of the candidates, because he is so well-known from the 2016 election. He is also the oldest candidate at 77 years old, and he will be 79 by the time of the actual election, which many people think is too old for a president. The oldest president ever (in terms of age at time of being sworn in) is actually President Trump, who was 70 when he was sworn in. If Sanders wins the presidency, he’ll beat that handily.
Sanders is also known for being a Democratic socialist, a unique position that sets him apart from the other candidates. In his words, “Democratic socialism means that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy.” His main beliefs are universal healthcare and free, or at least less expensive, college. Medicare for All is his plan for universal healthcare and the College For All Act is his proposed bill that would pay for tuition at public universities for students with yearly incomes of $125,000 or less.
Many of the Democratic hopefuls agree with Sanders’ opinions on universal healthcare and less expensive college tuition. Warren, along with Kamala Harris, a California senator; Cory Booker, a New Jersey senator; Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York senator; and Julian Castro, former mayor of San Antonio, Texas, all support Sanders’ Medicare for All plan.
Castro has said, if elected, he would consider paying for Medicare for All by raising taxes on corporations and wealthiest “.05, .5 or 1 percent” of Americans. He would also like to make the first two years of higher education free, although he has no formal plan for doing so, and wants to establish universal pre-k. These ideas are in line with Sanders’ other signature proposed bill, the College For All Act. Warren also supports this Act, having backed Sanders when he first introduced it in 2017.
Nearly all the candidates want to act on climate change, in various ways. Warren supports reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while Klobuchar wants to set specific goals for cutting emissions. Gillibrand was one of the first supporters of the Green New Deal, which O’Rourke is also in favor of, and she wants a net-zero emissions economy. Castro and Klobuchar, along with Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, all plan to rejoin the Paris Agreement if elected.
Most of the candidates support LGBTQ+ rights; want to remove or lessen the American army presence in the Middle East; plan to enact gun control in some form; and want to keep Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) and paths to citizenship but abolish or at least reform Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Gillibrand is big on gun reform. According to her campaign website, “Kirsten has an ‘F’ rating from the NRA, and she’s proud of it.” And O’Rourke, from El Paso, Texas, is a staunch supporter of immigration rights. He is in favor of the Dream Act and paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He has also called for the closing of private immigration detention centers, denounced the “militarization of immigration enforcement and spoken out against Trump’s wall. “We are not safe because of walls but in spite of walls,” said O’Rourke.
Booker is currently working on marijuana laws in his home state of New Jersey, and plans to take things to a national level if elected. When he announced his candidacy, he said he was for “changing our drug laws, ending prohibition against marijuana.” He’s also a proponent of criminal justice, which O’Rourke emphasized in his 2018 campaign, in particular on racial and economic inequities.
In addition to the names frequently covered in the media, there are a number of longshot candidates. Politicians running include John Delaney, former Maryland congressman; Tulsi Gabbard, veteran and Hawaii congresswoman; John Hickenlooper, former governor of Colorado and former mayor of Denver; Jay Inslee, governor of Washington state and former congressman; Wayne Messam, mayor of Miramar, Florida; and Tim Ryan, Ohio congressman.
And in addition to the politician longshot candidates, there are two wildcard candidates. Andrew Yang is a former tech executive who is running on a proposal to establish a universal basic income of $1,000 per month, funded by the government, for all Americans. Marianne Williamson, self-help author and new age lecturer, believes, “We need a moral and spiritual awakening in the country…Nothing short of that is adequate to fundamentally change the patterns of our political dysfunction.”
The sheer number of candidates running – 18 – is high, especially because the election is over a year away and the number will probably continue to grow. The number of women running – 6 – is also high.
In 2008, when Obama won the Democratic nomination, and eventually the presidency, there were eight Democratic candidates, and only one was a woman, Hillary Clinton. In elections 12 years apart, the proportion of female candidates for the Democratic nomination has grown from one-eighth to one-third, thus heightening the statistical chances of 2020 seeing our first female president.
However, some say the number of people running is actually bad, because the smaller the size of the field, the more likely party elites are to rally around one candidate, often getting that candidate the nomination and sometimes getting them elected.
In the 2016 election, for instance, the Democratic establishment did this around Clinton, and she won the nomination. On the Republican side in 2016, there were 17 candidates, and this high number meant the Republicans didn’t unite over one candidate, which is arguably the reason Trump was able to secure the nomination.
At the same time, the large candidate pool has opened opportunities for women and people of color in a race that has historically been dominated by white men, which will hopefully lead to the opening of opportunities for these minorities to serve in office.