A Flood of Democratic Candidates

The 2020 United States Presidential election is on Tuesday, November 3, 2020 (or 553 days from the publishing of this post) and already there are 21 Democrats who have formally begun their campaigns. Over the next several months, we will take a dive into who the candidates are and what they prioritize. In each candidacy post, we will work in order of when the announcement for president was made and briefly explore a few candidates at a time to make the information easier to digest.

Below is a chart of all current Democratic candidates and a link to their campaign site.

Candidate Title (current or former) Official Start
Campaign Site
a former U.S. representative from Maryland August 10, 2017 https://www.johndelaney.com/
an entrepreneur and author from New York November 6, 2017 https://www.yang2020.com/
a U.S. representative from Hawaii January 11, 2019 https://www.tulsi2020.com/
a former U.S. secretary of housing and urban development and San Antonio mayor January 12, 2019 https://www.julianforthefuture.com/
a U.S. senator from New York January 15, 2019 https://kirstengillibrand.com/
a U.S. senator from California January 21, 2019 https://kamalaharris.org/
the mayor of South Bend, Indiana January 23, 2019 https://peteforamerica.com/
Marianne Williamson an author and lecturer January 28, 2019 https://www.marianne2020.com/
a U.S. senator from New Jersey February 1, 2019 https://corybooker.com/
Elizabeth Warren U.S. senator from Massachusetts February 9, 2019 https://elizabethwarren.com/
a U.S. senator from Minnesota February 10, 2019 https://amyklobuchar.com/
a U.S. senator from Vermont February 19, 2019 https://berniesanders.com/
Jay Inslee the governor of Washington March 1, 2019 https://www.jayinslee.com/
a former governor of Colorado March 4, 2019 https://www.hickenlooper.com/
the mayor of Miramar, Florida March 13, 2019 https://wayneforusa.com/
former U.S. representative from Texas March 14, 2019 https://betoorourke.com/
a former U.S. senator from Alaska April 2, 2019 https://mikegravel.com/
Tim Ryan a U.S. representative from Ohio April 4, 2019 https://timryanforamerica.com/
a U.S. representative from California April 8, 2019 https://ericswalwell.com/
a U.S. representative from Massachusetts April 22, 2019 https://sethmoulton.com/
Joe Biden a former vice president of the United States April 25, 2019 https://joebiden.com/


Within the Democratic Party, there are significant differences of opinion on key issues. At times, this is discussed as a contest between progressive Democrats and centrist Democrats.1 Some argue that there are more than two “camps,” dividing the party into three or four factions.2 Regardless of the labels or number of different camps, it is clear that this will be a hotly contested primary that will highlight divisions—and key commonalities—among the Democratic candidates. Already, proposals such as Medicare for All, a living wage, the Green New Deal, and free public college are becoming litmus tests for candidates to show where they stand.3 (NOTE: See our previous blog posts about the Green New Deal and tuition-free public college.) In the coming weeks, less well-known candidates will be struggling to win a place on the debate stage and to win that place securely. There are two ways to ensure a place in the Democratic party debates, and candidates want to meet both thresholds in order to show their strength. Candidates can secure debate spots by receiving at least one percent support in three approved polls or by securing at least 200 donors per state in at least 20 states. Several of the announced candidates are in danger of missing the first debate in late June.4


Discussion Questions

  1. How might the number and types of candidates from one political party impact the election overall? How might it impact the chances of that party winning the presidency?
  2. If you were in charge of the Democratic Party, would you make it more difficult for candidates to secure a position in the debate? Easier? What would you change, if anything?
  3. Looking at this list, do you notice anything interesting about the Democratic candidates who have announced their campaigns? Are there any noticeable trends?
  4. Are there any candidates from this list who immediately jump out at you because of something you know about them? Is what you know about them something having to do with their political views, something personal about them, or both? Does what you know about them make you more or less likely to support their candidacy for President? Why?
  5. Are there any candidates whom you have never heard of before or whom you know very little about their political views? What are some strategies you could use to learn more about those candidates? Why, if at all, is it important to learn more about those candidates?
  6. Of the candidates listed here, are there any that you initially think could have a good chance of defeating President Trump in the 2020 election? Why or why not?


Featured Image: New York Times “Who’s Running for President in 2020?” https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/us/politics/2020-presidential-candidates.html
[1] Ed Kilgore. “What is a Centrist Democrat, Anyway?” New York Magazine. August 10, 2018. https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/08/centrists-progressives-and-other-democratic-labels.html
[2] Noah Redlich. “The Four Democratic Parties.” Harvard Politics. March 19, 2018. https://harvardpolitics.com/united-states/the-four-democratic-parties/
[3] Jennifer Earl. “Three Bernie Sanders Policies Now Embraced by the Democratic Field.” Fox News. April 11, 2019. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/bernie-sanders-policies-now-embraced-by-the-democratic-field AND Rashaan Ayesh. “Where the 2020 Presidential Candidates stand on the Green New Deal.” Axios. April 29, 2019. https://www.axios.com/2020-presidential-candidates-green-new-deal-22faff60-3fee-45f3-8636-09e437c82431.html
[4] Maggie Astor, Denise Lu & Matt Stevens. “Who’s in the Democratic Debates, and Who’s in Danger of Missing Them.” The New York Times. April 29, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/29/us/politics/democratic-primary-debates-2020.html?mtrref=www.google.com


Should Public College Be Free?

College has not only gotten expensive, but the cost becomes a burden for years. When graduating an undergraduate program, the average student leaves with over $37,000 in student loan debt. This is a $20,000 increase from 20 years ago. Over 70% of students today graduate with a significant amount of loans with an average of a $393 monthly payment.¹ What impact might this have on their lives as they start their careers?

The main cause of this student debt is the rise in tuition over the past three decades. While the average private college undergraduate tuition has climbed over $18,000, Four-year public colleges and universities now average over $10,000, tripling what they used to cost. While two-year institutions are a much lower $3660 per year, they have also doubled in price.

(Source: The College Board, https://trends.collegeboard.org/sites/default/files/cp-2018-figure-3.png)

To address this issue, two Democratic Senators running for President, Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) and Elizabeth Warren (MA) have both produced proposals that would make higher education at public colleges and universities free to those who are accepted into the schools.

Bernie Sanders calls his “The College For All Act.” The legislation would:

  • Provide $47 billion a year to states to eliminate tuition at public colleges and universities.
  • The federal government would cover 2/3 of the cost while states would be required to provide 1/3 of the total cost.
  • The Act would cut student loan interest rates from 4.32% to 2.32% by changing the loan formula. Current student loans would be allowed to be refinanced.
  • Work-Study would be expanded so more students would qualify to work and earn money at school.
  • The proposal is paid through a “Robin Hood” tax on Wall Street. This tax would be imposed at a rate of 0.5% on stock trades and a 0.1% fee on bonds.

Elizabeth Warren’s proposal starts with student loan debt elimination and then eliminates public school tuition with her “Universal Free College” program. The proposal:

  • Cancels $50,000 in student debt for households with incomes under $100,000; This debt cancellation slowly lowers until households with over $250,000 in income do not get debt relief.
  • Splits the cost of tuition with states to make public 2-year and 4-year public colleges and universities free.
  • Adds an additional $100 billion to Pell grants to cover non-tuition expenses such as room, meals and textbooks.
  • Makes additional funding available to states that make dramatic improvements in graduating low-income students and students of color
  • While debt cancellation will be a one-time cost of $640 billion, Universal Free College will cost an estimated $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Warren plans on paying for that through an “Ultra-Millionaire Tax.” This would tax households with over $50 million in wealth an extra 2% per year, and those above $1 billion an extra 3%.

While both proposals address college tuition and college debt, they do so in different ways.


Discussion Questions

  • Have students examine the Sanders and Warren proposals more closely.
    • In what areas are they specific, and in what ways might one find them vague?
    • What questions do you still have after reading these proposals?
    • Which one do you think is stronger? Why?
  • First, read the following two quotes about free tuition proposals and discuss which quote is closest to your own view? Why?
    • “Going to college shouldn’t result in a lifetime sentence of student debt, but that is exactly what is happening and it’s only getting worse. [Tuition-Free College] would release Americans from their debt sentence so they can live their lives, care for their families and have a fair shot at the American dream.”  – Randi Weingarten, President, AmericanFederation of Teachers2
    • “People go to college, and often take on loans to do so, at least in part to greatly increase their lifetime earnings. It is unfair that they should not have to repay the taxpayers who had no choice but to give them that money, on the terms the borrowers voluntarily agreed to. Ending tuition and fees at public colleges would also be unfair, forcing taxpayers to fund the private gain of students, especially students from more well-to-do families, who tend disproportionately to go to college,”- Neil B. McCluskey, Director, Center for Educational Freedom at the CATO Institute.3
  • What are the benefits of providing tuition-free public college education? What are some of the problems with it?
  • Would you support a Tuition Free College proposal? Why or why not?  If no, do you think anything should be done about the rising costs of tuition and mounting student debt? If so, what would you propose?



Featured Image: Jeff Stahler, GoComics.com
[1] Hess, Abigail. “Here’s how much the average student borrower owes when they graduate.” Cnbc.com 18 February 2018. Retrieved 22 April 2019. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/15/heres-how-much-the-average-student-loan-borrower-owes-when-they-graduate.html
[2] Herndon, Astead W. “Elizabeth Warren’s Higher Education Plan: Cancel Student Debt and Eliminate Tuition.” 22 April 2019. The New York Times. Retrieved 22 April 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/22/us/politics/elizabeth-warren-student-debt.html
[3] Ibid.



Shifting Debate over Paid Family Leave

In the midst of economic policy debates on tariffs and trading gaps, one policy debate has continued for years in many different iterations: Paid Family Leave.  This week, the Senate introduced Bill 1174 as a companion bill to the House’s 2019 Federal Employees Paid Leave Act. Both bills support 12 weeks of paid leave for federal employees in cases of births, adoptions, fostering a child as well as taking time to support sick family members or long term illness of the employee.¹ The bill, sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) is not the first time that the House has tried to enter into deliberation over paid sick and parental leave for federal employees. There have been House bills introduced since 2009 with similar aims.  But this House bill does coincide with a vocal interest from the Trump administration to tackle family leave and a very high-profile interest from presidential daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump.² The House bill has bi-partisan support with 27 co-sponsoring the bill and now with the additional Senate bill, it seems that Congress is hoping the support from the President will be the push that the long-standing debate needs.

As Congress debates the leave policies for federal employees, what does this mean for other workers in the U.S.? Unlike any other industrial nation, the United States has no laws guaranteeing paid family leave. In the past few years, some states, including California and Connecticut, have enacted state laws regarding paid family leave, but currently there are no federal statutes that mandate any paid leave for new parents, employees who care for sick family members, or leave for elderly care.

A recent poll, cited by the Brooking Institution, shows that 84 percent of Americans support paid family leave. ³ Supporters span across the political spectrum from more liberal women’s rights advocates to more conservative family values groups.   There are also vocal opponents of paid family leave, who argue that paid leave will burden small business owners and impede the ability for employers to make the best decisions for their own organization and their own employees.

In 1993, the Family and Medical Leave act ensured unpaid leave and since that point, the debate over paid leave has continued in some form.  Many lawmakers, including the most recent bill’s sponsor, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, but also presidential hopeful Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and current House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer have tried unsuccessfully to introduce paid family leave legislation in the past.  Only now, when the Presidential Administration is lending more bipartisan support, does the bill have a chance of success.  Recently Ivanka Trump was quoted as saying “We are seeking to build consensus around policy that can garner enough votes to be passed into law.”₄

Time will tell if an all-encompassing paid leave law will be enacted to impact all U.S. workers, but a law that impacts federal workers is a good indication on how Congress is leaning on this issue.



  • Imagine a written policy  response to the Family Leave Act from differing organizations’ viewpoints:
    • Labor unions
    • Small Business associations
    • Doctors and healthcare workers
    • Religious leaders
    • Disability rights advocates
  • What are the main economic issues at debate?  The main societal issues?
  • Do you think that  policies are harder to debate when they include personal impact like issues of family and health?  Should Congress view the policy through a personal lens or focus only on the economic impact?
  • What is the role of the federal government in the employer/employee relationship? Should the government ensure fair treatment of employees through blanket legislation on family leave? Or does this type of legislation give government over-reach to meddle in contracts between employers and their employees?


Featured Image: Information source: U.S. Department of Labor; Bureau of Labor Statistics; Image from: https://bthechange.com/3-reasons-paid-family-leave-matters-863d08dd96a5
[1] Wagner, E. (2019, April 12). Senators Join In Renewed Efforts to Give Feds Paid Family Leave. Retrieved from https://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/2019/04/senators-join-renewed-efforts-give-feds-paid-family-leave/156289/
[2] House Democrats revive efforts to give federal employees paid family leave. (2019, March 06). Retrieved fromhttps://federalnewsnetwork.com/pay-benefits/2019/03/house-democrats-revive-efforts-to-give-federal-employees-paid-family-leave/
[3] Mathur, A., & Sawhill, I. (2018, September 09). A path forward on paid family leave. Retrieved from https://thehill.com/opinion/finance/405568-a-path-forward-on-paid-family-leave
[4] Salam, M. (2019, February 15). Could the U.S. Get Paid Family Leave? It’s Looking Better Than Ever. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/15/us/paid-family-leave.html