2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates: Do They Have Policies? What Are Their Policies? Let's Find Out!


I feel like I am constantly just bringing news stories in here, but I thought this essay on Cory Booker from Vox’s German Lopez (‘Cory Booker is a genuinely distinctive Democrat on one big issue: criminal justice’) was interesting:

My impression of Booker is that he is, at best, a centrist Democrat with a particular fondness for eye-rolling statements and charter schools.

I don’t think the article can substantiate most of its claims that Booker is running to the left of other candidates in a meaningful sense, though. Where it brings up issues outside of how Booker talks about violent offenders, it seems pretty muddy about whether Booker is meaningfully different than the mainstream. See this:

To deal with this, Booker introduced the Reverse Mass Incarceration Act, which would authorize $2 billion a year to encourage states to cut prison populations while keeping crime rates low. Some experts, like Fordham University’s John Pfaff, question whether this approach will work — given that similarly modeled efforts in the past, including the 1994 crime bill that encouraged more incarceration, have failed to produce results. But it’s at least an attempt to wrestle with an issue, however flawed, that most federal reform efforts miss.

Booker has also backed more traditional criminal justice bills, ranging from the First Step Act to ending welfare bans for drug offenders to public defender reforms to “ban the box.” The Reverse Mass Incarceration Act, though, shows he has a comprehensive view of the criminal justice system and the reforms that are necessary.

The material about Booker taking on discussions of violent offenders is interesting. See this:

Booker is also one of the few lawmakers to acknowledge that reversing mass incarceration will, at some point, require reducing incarceration for violent offenses, not just the low-level drug and property crimes that reformers have historically targeted. […]

He also noted that Americans’ perceptions of who’s a violent offender are often skewed.

“You could have someone who’s in a car, driving a boyfriend, and the boyfriend decides to jump out, pull a gun out, rob somebody, jumps back in the car, and she keeps driving — and now she’s a violent criminal,” Booker said. “So we need to start having a better conversation about the many people who are languishing in prison for very long terms when their crime was not showing the right sense and stopping the car and exiting the car as a driver or what have you.”

This feels like a valuable distinction to me. If there is a way for a Democratic candidate to thread the needle and lead people over the invisible river of “all violent crime is equally bad”, that is necessary for a platform to end mass incarceration.

I feel it’s worth reading in full, if only because we will see pro-Booker boosting; knowing the shape of their arguments, and where they might have merit, will be meaningful. This will be particularly important in a primary with Kamala Harris, who will be beating the I was a prosecutor, you know drum as hard as possible.


Booker sucks so hard. He tends to say one thing and ends up acting in a completely different way. Like you said, he’s a centralist trying to play to two crowds that do not combine well together, and I suspect that sort of pandering isn’t going to work this election cycle.


Basically I think he says all the right things and talks in platitudes a lot, but I’m thinking specifically of when Campaign Zero met with him in 2015. Vermont is 94% white, and the upshot is that while Bernie has a broadly appealing rhetoric on inequality he needs to be pushed to think about racial issues in more detailed ways.

Foreign policy-wise he’s been back forth on Israel, I like his current acknowledgement of the atrocities being committed against Palestinians but he doesn’t support BDS. I also sent him a letter on the subject and received a very “both sides”-y two state solution response.

What stood out for me in 2016 was that he had basic positions I agreed with on many issues, but his perspective seems filtered through American exceptionalism a lot of the time.

There’s also his general refusal to support gun control, but I imagine it would be nearly impossible to be a Vermont politician and advocate exclusively for tighter restrictions on guns. Our current governor, a Republican, stirred up a huge hornet’s nest in his own party by proposing some fairly moderate restrictions.

I don’t dislike him but I think him being a stubborn old white man contributes to his struggle to understand and address issues faced by marginalized communities, rather than just claim their votes because he’s not Trump.


No more old white guys no matter their policies, thanks!


old white man

I mean I’m not really big into identity politics being a good reason or point to or not to vote for someone, but isn’t calling him an “old white man” a little disingenuous? I mean some of his family was killed in the Holocaust yall.



You’ll notice I specifically didn’t include that Bernie is Jewish as a reason not to vote for him, because that doesn’t make sense. I think you have to consider his age, whiteness, and masculinity when trying to understand how he views the world: he has spoken in broadly appealing platitudes for years, but struggles when it comes to understanding and acting on differences in experience based on race and gender. Even with his (what I believe are) good intentions, he has more work to do to understand issues that don’t affect him.


And let’s not pretend that his being male and (at least presenting, depending on your understanding of being Jewish) white is somehow not a huge part of his appeal in the first place. In 2016, more often than I heard about Medicare for all I heard about that old dogwhistle “electabiity”, frequently in explicit, “only a white man can take votes away from Trump” terms.

Now he may still end up the best choice despite that, and despite his history on these issues – I’m certainly coming around, though I want to see his campaign before I can really say. But these are real, fair criticisms and problems. “I don’t want to vote for another old white man, it has never led to my interests or needs being prioritized” is a fair sentiment to hold, and needs to be engaged with, not dismissed.


I think he’s just more electable because his policy is still miles more empathetic towards working folk than the Democrats have ever been in my lifetime. I don’t think that his “electability” was a dog whistle about his gender and race presentation. His electability is more correlated to him being different than the mainstream dems who have only been fucking shit up since before I was born.


I want to be clear that I don’t think you specifically are saying anything other than what your words say. Historically, though, and especially recently, the word “electable” has been used as cover to mean white and male. This is especially true of pundits and analysts, but has also been adopted by the broader world of mainstream Democrats and centrist independents. Because of this, as well as the fact that literally any Democratic candidate would be heavily favored to win a general election against Trump, I’m just personally not even remotely sympathetic to arguments about electability.


I don’t think that Beto has as much pull over Texas as the more center left Dems would have us believe… I mean the dude still lost… The margin might be relatively slim but I think that might have more to do with Cruz than Beto.


While I do appreciate your angle, I think there’s a lot to be contested here in the context of the 2016 primary. Sanders’ campaign didn’t run on an ‘electability’ platform, whereas Clinton absolutely did by focusing on experience, her centre leanings, and her potential ability to court Republicans away from Trump.

Where we see, then and now, pro-Sanders people touting ‘electability’, it is often in response to a steady drum of ‘Bernie is unelectable’, ‘the left can never win’, and ‘these ideas will never work’. Centrist candidates can (and will, in this primary) punch left with this kind of rhetoric, and if the discussion goes that way, a candidate just cannot concede that ground.

I also, frankly, think this argument sucks. There is nothing inherently ‘electable’ about candidates & the most ardent standard-bearers for triangulation politics as a path to electability can easily become adrift. Focusing on ‘appeal to voters’ over policy and communications is a Beltway favourite and a way to allow elite judgement calls to weigh heavily into a candidate’s effectiveness. Allowing it to trump a candidate’s substance will mean a weak and ineffective platform that inspires few friends.


As someone who was glued to the primaries in 2016, this is 100% true. It’s revisionist history to pretend that Sanders was viewed as the “electable” candidate when his “unelectability” (due, a) to him being farther left than establishment Dems claimed mainstream voters would be comfortable with and b) being cranky and brash and old—note that ageism is something we’ve seemed remarkably okay with here) was a huge part of Clinton’s strategy against him. Maybe some (or even a lot) of that was valid, but the argument I would ask for here is, if we’re going to vote for someone who’s not old and/or white and/or male, please give us an alternative to Bernie Sanders that’s not painfully centrist or worse.

Kamala Harris has her record on incarceration and Cory Booker is a charter school proponent, which is an immediate no from me. Warren has issues that have been laid out above, same to an even greater extent with Tulsi Gabbard. I don’t know enough about Gillibrand and Castro and need to do more research on them; maybe they’ll be alright. Klobuchar has been running for a day and she’s already coming under fire from having run a toxic workplace in prior campaigns. Who else is there right now?


I’m not a Beto supporter. I want him to go out and win something before he mucks about with a primary (or just go out and win something and be good at that). That said, it’s worth noting that despite Beto losing, AFAIK the work he did/his campaign did for down ballot candidates in Texas this past election should not go overlooked.


I think I’m being misinterpreted. I’m not necessarily saying he “ran on” electability, or that Clinton didn’t run on it, or whether or not people talking about it were responding to anything or not. Just that, much more often than not, in the context of talking about white and/or male politicians in general, “electability” is used as code for white and/or male. (Right now you can see this in the discourse around for example O’Rourke.) And that in 2016, regardless of whether it was in response to Clinton’s campaign or otherwise, it was used in this way about Sanders.

I know this because, on top of seeing it online and in the news, it was made ad nauseum to my face. It always, when you scratched a little under the surfaced, boiled down to the belief that a chunk of people large enough to swing the election would vote for a man over Trump but not a woman.

And I agree that this sort of argument sucks! I think it sucked when Clinton made it, I think it sucked when people made it about Sanders, I think it sucks that it is eating up a lot of the discourse about the current slate of candidates. For the fact that it’s often a cover for bigotry as well as your points.

And I feel like I have to point this out again: right now I’m leaning towards thinking he’s the best option. (Mainly because, as @diglett points out, there aren’t any genuinely leftist alternatives that I know of right now). None of this is meant to be some sweeping condemnation of him or anyone who supports him.


So Sanders announced his run today and it’s got me kind of stressed out. Modern politics already leaves me feeling pretty fatalistic, but there is a particular question I wanted to ask. I won’t get into my personal feelings on Sanders but the read I see a lot around is that even if Sanders doesn’t get popularity he will at least pull the discussion leftward. What I was curious about and was wondering if someone more politically literate than me could help with is basically can the opposite happen? There is quite a bit of vitriol aimed at Sanders some valid some not, but could his alignment with certain progressive ideas be used to paint them negatively for any candidate that supports them. I’m just terrified that some shitty centrist will use his stances to poison the well.

Is there like a precedent for this kind of thing? Am I just worrying to much? Sorry for reviving an old thread I’m just kind of stuck in my head about this.


I think that’s already happening. Just clicking on the hashtag has garnered a bunch of centrist/neo-lib reactions to Bernie as being responsible for 2016’s loss. A lot of folk seem to have the stance, 'We need to cleanse ourself of 2016, get new blood in the running." Maybe that’s a good idea, who knows… Yet, as far as I can see, there aren’t that many candidates in the running that lean as progressive as Bernie. So, what’s the option? Hope someone else comes along?

I think with Trump as the opposition, a lot of people see this as a DO OR DIE moment where one mistake can ruin the whole party’s chances. I’d say the party can only ruin it’s chances, not a plethora of candidates. Let America choose! I’d hope by the time the primaries occur, the Democratic party has enough self-reflection to allow the people choose a candidate and keep super delegates out of it.


A lot of his 2016 ideas are already incorporated into the majority of the 2020 Democratic candidates so I don’t think that will cause any issues.


Looking at the discourse from the centre left here in the UK. They might claim that it’s the candidate they oppose and not the politics or policies but it’s almost definitely the latter. Unfortunately in the current hellscape you need people who have held these beliefs for a long time and are prepared to fight for them to the bitter end. Medicare for All might be something an increasing number of Democrats claim they support but how many of them are prepared to state explicitly what they mean by M4A and how willing are they to stake their entire candidacy on that and similar issues.

30/40 years of the left being in the wilderness has created this unfortunate situation as well where all of the leftists that are prominent or becoming prominent are either old because they were before Thatcher/ Reagan, or they’re very young as they’ve grown up in the aftermath of the 2008 crash and have only known the current state of capitalist realism.


Warren saying she likes “the idea” of a Green New Deal is a perfect example of the kind of vague rhetoric that we have to stop buying into. I don’t give a fuck about your half-baked considerations that you’re formulating as the hot mic is thrust into your face. Say what you will do, and say it firmly because it is what you believe in. This is why I am personally excited for Sanders to re-enter the race. He has told us, consistently, for decades, what he stands for, and I just do not get the feeling that his values are up for re-evaluation. I am less certain about the values of other candidates. I’m not ruling them out, I’m just less certain about them.

I also just…cannot stand candidates trying to stay fresh. I don’t CARE if you are likable and cool!!! I DO NOT CARE PLEASE STOP TRYING TO BE COOL!!! JUST MAKE LIFE LIVABLE FOR US! stop acting in defiance of who you are! don’t fucking crack a beer on stream and don’t fucking enlist an intern to film you dancing in your chair to cardi b!

bernie running for the train at like 78 years of age is the realest shit because he looks like a fuckin fool running for a train, and how he looks did not govern whether or not he did it. he does that extremely normal shit every fucking day and doesn’t enlist a squad of cameraman to ‘catch’ him In The Act of Being Normal, he’s just that guy. I have ZERO qualms putting my hopes in his basket because I have no reason whatsoever to suspect he is anything other than who he appears to be. that’s very important to me when I am deciding on who I think will follow through on the things they say they will do.