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Get to Know Your Candidates: 2020 Democratic Primary

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Brown chapter.

In a race that once featured over 25 candidates, and in a general election already deemed the most important of our lifetimes, the voting stakes have never been higher than they are in the run-up to the 2020 Democratic primary. Those affiliated with the Democratic party will vote in primary elections beginning in February of next year. In a vicious cycle of crowded debate stages, petty drama, and breaking scandals, it’s easy to stray from the specific policy planks of each candidate. However, the future of our nation is entirely dependent on the issues of this election. Be informed before you hit the polls!

Joe Biden: (Frontrunner) The former Vice President under President Barack Obama hails from Pennsylvania and boasts a long public service resume. He supports bringing an end to capital punishment and hopes to raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour. Under his presidency, he plans to expand existing college debt relief programs, build on the work of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and tax large corporations for high carbon emissions. He has more moderate views on social issues like abortion, where he promotes the right to choose with limitations (no late-term abortions), and gun control, where he plans to impose voluntary buyback programs. Biden would work to decriminalize the use of marajuana. His presidency would see an increase in defense spending and the deployment of troops overseas. Overall, his stances separate him from the many staunch liberals in the field; he takes a much more middle-of-the-road approach and, in some cases, straddles party lines. 

Elizabeth Warren: (Frontrunner) Warren, originally from Oklahoma, currently serves as a senator for the state of Massachusetts. She takes a strong stance on many issues, namely combatting the excess influence of big business, Wall Street, and corporate taxation in the public arena. Along with raising the federal minimum wage, she plans to increase taxation on the wealthy and use the funds to create and improve federal social programs. She supports strict government regulations on carbon emissions, and hopes to convert U.S. farming practices to climate-friendly alternatives during her presidency. Other policy planks include few to no restrictions on access to abortion, restoration of voting rights for convicted felons, a complete ban on assault weapons, and the federal legalization of marajuana. Unlike Biden, she wants to slash the defense budget and bring U.S. troops home. Her views on virtually all policies are extremely progressive, and she plans to undo much of the Trump agenda. 

Bernie Sanders: (Frontrunner) Bernie Sanders, a Brooklyn native, was also a Democratic candidate in the 2016 primary. In just a few years, he has gone from a little-known Vermont Senator to a political and social  icon. Sanders, a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist,” is the most progressive candidate in the race, leading the charge with ambitious policies on public education and welfare initiatives. If elected, he promises to make college free, eliminate all student debt entirely, and funnel federal funds into public education by boosting teacher pay and mandating universal free meals in public primary and secondary schools. Like Biden, he supports a voluntary buyback on firearms. Like Warren, he believes in a completely pro-choice approach to federal abortion intervention. A Sanders presidency would see the repeal of the illegal entry statues created under the Trump administration, a sharp increase on the income taxes of the wealthiest Americans, a restoration of voting rights for incarcerated felons, and an extension of the Medicare for All and the ACA. 

Kamala Harris: Harris, a junior senator from California, originally hails from Oakland, CA and has previously served as the Attorney General of the state. Harris, due to her legal background, professes strong views on the criminal justice system, favoring the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences and the abolition of the death penalty. Her stance on affordable housing is more comprehensive than those of other candidates, since she plans to subsidize a large population of American renters and homeowners, as well as expand and create tax breaks for the working class. She believes that Americans should  de-emphasize the animal agriculture industry as a way of combating climate change. Harris proposes that the entire ACA system be rethought; she opposes the proposition of Medicare for All but would expand the benefits of the current system. She supports a complete ban on assault weapons, uninfringed abortion rights, and citizenship and legal help for Dreamers under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).  

Pete Buttigieg: Affectionately known as Mayor Pete, Buttigieg is the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. As his polling numbers continue to rise, he could be a dark horse in this primary race. He’s the only millennial in the race, as well as openly gay and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. His stances are focused primarily on the future of the country and how legislation now can have a lasting impact. He supports nuclear power, plans to end new oil and gas leases on American soil, and ban offshore drilling entirely. Buttigieg hopes to institute a voluntary gun buyback, as well as establish a nationwide gun licensing program. Unlike others, he would boost the defense budget, but bring home U.S. troops. Like Harris, he hopes to rethink the entire concept of Universal Healthcare and the ACA and, while he doesn’t support Medicare for All, he will expand the benefits of the current system. He calls his stance Medicare for all who want it, where affordable and comprehensive healthcare coverage will be readily available to anyone, but individuals can choose to opt out for privatized insurance.

Andrew Yang: (Brown Class of 1996!) Yang, a former Manhattan executive, has gained significant traction in the race, transitioning from an underdog to a legitimate contender. His campaign is multifaceted, but his primary message centers around his plan to provide a universal basic income to all Americans over the age of 18. His stances on many issues differ from the other candidates in the field, since he believes that college shouldn’t be free or subsidized, the Electoral College system should be kept intact, and minimum wage laws should fall under state jurisdiction. However, he supports social programs like Medicare for All initiative, but believes universal basic income will cancel, or at least minimize, the need for alternative social assistance programs. Additionally, he plans to slash defense spending, but keep U.S. troops deployed overseas. His approach to tackling Wall Street and Big Business is relatively lenient, but he does propose a value-added tax to all corporate profit.  

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the loud news cycle that pervades our lives. However, being informed before you hit the polls is a civic duty and more important now than ever before. If you’re registered to vote in the primary, get out and do it! For information about how to register as a voter or secure your absentee ballot, visit this website!

Maddie is a junior at Brown from Connecticut. She is concentrating in Economics.
Caleigh is the Co-Campus Correspondent of the Brown University chapter of Her Campus. She is in the class of 2021 studying History and French. She has previously held an internship position at Latina Magazine and worked as a social media editor for the Brown Daily Herald. She currently works as a digital marketing consultant for SiO Beauty. Caleigh grew up in New York City, where in her free time she explored neighborhoods looking for the best sushi and pizza, sharing her experiences through her food Instagram @food_overdudes.