- At the first primary debates of the 2020 presidential race on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, 20 Democratic candidates will be making their case for voters to send them to the White House.
- Issues such as health care and climate change are energizing the Democratic electorate.
- The Democratic primary is full of policy plans that could fundamentally change American life. Here are seven issues that the 2020 candidates mostly agree on and where divides emerge.
- Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.
At the first primary debates of the 2020 presidential race on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, 20 Democratic candidates will be making their case for voters to send them to the White House. And for many of them, it represents their best opportunity to distinguish themselves before a nationwide audience in a crowded primary field.
Issues such as health care and climate change are energizing the Democratic electorate, but not every candidate shares the same approach to policy-making.
Some candidates, like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, are running as crusaders for the middle and working classes who will tackle inequality with bold action. Others, like former Vice President Joe Biden, are promising to restore a sense of normalcy and bipartisanship in Washington before its politics was upended by President Donald Trump. Most fall somewhere in between and are maneuvering for support from the progressive and centrist wings of the party.
Here are seven issues that the 2020 candidates mostly agree upon, and where the dividing lines emerge.
Michael Ainsworth/AP Images
Mostly agree: Many of the candidates favor reforming the American health care system to varying degrees, which is criticized as costly and inefficient. And they back expanding health care coverage to more Americans and improving on the Affordable Care Act, which allows Americans to purchase federally subsidized health insurance via health exchanges.
The divide: Democrats are split on the mechanisms to achieve universal health coverage.
While Sanders and Warren support "Medicare for All," a proposal to create a government-run insurance program funded by taxpayers that would virtually eliminate private health insurance, many of the candidates prefer less sweeping changes.
Biden backs a public option, as do Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke. That course would allow Americans to choose between private coverage and a government health program. But many candidates have yet to put forward detailed proposals on the plans and cost to taxpayers.
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
Mostly agree: The Democratic candidates favor taking steps to preserve the environment and taking action to alleviate the worst effects of climate change.
Most candidates back the "Green New Deal," a sweeping plan that would transition the American economy from fossil fuels to clean energy and curb greenhouse gas emissions.
And 18 of them have signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, promising to not seek financial support from the oil, coal and gas industries. Fifteen candidates also support having a climate change debate.
The divide: The devil is in the policy details.
Few of the people taking the primary stage have the ambition of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who has centered his campaign on fighting climate change and rolled out policy proposals to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2030, a decade-long $9 trillion investment plan, and phasing out fossil fuels.
That hasn’t stopped other Democrats from trying to match Inslee. Warren bills her "green manufacturing plan" as a $2 trillion investment in climate-friendly industries that would boost American manufacturing and promote job creation.
O’Rourke has also released a climate plan with an eventual $5 trillion price tag that sets a legally-binding target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Biden released a similar plan pegged to the 2050 deadline, calling for $1.7 trillion in federal spending, a carbon pollution tax, and job training for workers to readjust in a greener economy. Sens. Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, and Buttigieg have not issued climate proposals.
AP Photo/John Minchillo
Mostly agree: Most Democratic candidates support alleviating income inequality. Raising minimum wages to $15 an hour, reducing unemployment, and student debt are also areas where there is plenty of agreement.
The divide: Depending on the issue and their worldview, candidates diverge on the extent of government intervention into the economy and how to pay for their proposals.
Warren has released plans to increase access to affordable housing and ensure universal child care, paid for by a tax on corporations and the assets of the wealthy.
Both Warren and Sanders have relied on such taxes on the rich to pay for their expensive proposals, with both putting forward plans to drastically reduce people’s student debt.
Former Gov. John Hickenlooper supports giving small businesses in rural areas tax credits to foster development and mobilizing private industry in the process. Harris also has a plan to close the gender wage gap by mandating large companies to certify that male and female employees are paid equally.
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