By Sydney Black
As the first primaries approach, students have begun to ponder the question, “Who will be the next Democratic presidential nominee?” The candidates represent a wide range of ideologies as well as changing demographics. Household-name politicians, such as Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, as well as emerging stars, such as Pete Buttigieg, have taken center stage. Thus far, it seems to be four main players who have their sights set on running against Donald Trump, the presumed Republican nominee.
A few months ago, very few people outside of Indiana would know “Mayor Pete,” but much has changed. His apparent middle ground approach and LGBTQ+ advocacy have left him with a notable amount of press. Buttigieg himself admits, “I’m definitely the only left-handed Maltese-American-Episcopalian-gay-millennial-war veteran in the race, but I think profile is just what gets you that first look.” However, his inexperience of being under a larger spotlight does prompt some skepticism, as he is going from mayor of a relatively small city in the Midwest to leader of a global superpower, like the U.S. The focuses of his campaign have been bridging generational gaps and adjusting the makeup of the supreme court. Unlike other top-tier candidates, Buttigieg has put forward a limited number of policy initiatives.
Bernie Sanders remains a strong second in many polls, and his socialist ideology appeals to many young people. Eric Ferreira-Szilagyi, a Byram Hills freshman, notes, “Right now America needs a substantial change. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who I believe has proposed ideas and policies that would bring the change needed to America.” Others find his policies concerning and too far left for the United States. Third Way, a center-left think tank, finds many loopholes in the Sanders campaign strategy. Regarding the topic, they state, “They [The Trump Campaign] will call him a socialist…They will say that he thinks the middle class wants to pay more in taxes…They will say he’s backed anti-American radicals.” Though his reformist approach is much needed for a broken economic and justice system, some have outlined clear battlegrounds for purple-state voters.
Elizabeth Warren is a clear leader in the Democratic field. Even from her campaigns preliminary stages, Warren outlined policy initiatives such as wealth taxes, student debt elimination, and Medicare for all. Audrey Goldberg, a freshman, feels, “There is a need for more gender equality and overall diversity in the political world.” This is something Warren wishes to deliver on, but at times she can be overly ambiguous. Warren has already begun to step back from hard left positions of eliminating private insurance. But this is probably a good tactic for achieving policy goals.
Joe Biden is a relatively moderate Democrat with the goal of taking away the momentum that the current president has gained among moderates. Remaining clear on this position, he states, “If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are, and I cannot stand by and watch that happen.” But his motives are not limited to simply beating the incumbent president. Throughout his campaign, the legacy of Barack Obama’s administration runs deep. Biden wishes to maintain the United States’ platform on the global stage and reform healthcare, while still maintaining private insurance.
Though much of the race has been focused on the four candidates mentioned above, there have been other candidates shifting the conversation. Andrew Yang has talked about instituting a form of Universal Basic Income. Mike Bloomberg arrived late to the race, but is seeking to capitalize on his experience as a three-term mayor of New York. Meanwhile, Tom Steyer has built a strong grassroots effort. Amy Klobuchar has talked of comprehensive mental health action.
Ultimately, the Democratic presidential nomination is not just about beating the incumbent president, but attempting to reform the broken political and economic systems that currently exist. So much of the race has been about beating Trump, when creating meaningful policy is just as, if not more, important.
*Candidates placed in order based on initial Iowa caucus results*