The Democratic Primaries

By Paul Hinta

In October 2019, Canada saw PM Justin Trudeau retain his position in Parliament, although the structure of the government formed has shifted significantly—from a majority to a minority government. Now, with 2020 in full swing, we find our neighbours down south going through a similar changing of political tides. This article serves to debrief you on everything you need to know about the primary elections in the US, specifically with respect to the Democratic candidates.

Why Should I Care About the US Elections?

As a student at a Canadian University, chances are that you won’t be voting in the US primaries or in the general election later this year. Despite this, there are several reasons that it is important for students on campus to have at least a general understanding of what’s going on in the states: McGill is well-known for being one of the most diverse schools in terms of international students; among its international population, nearly 18% are from the US. The United States has the most powerful global economy and military; in one way or another, directly or indirectly, every other country in the world is affected by the US’ actions. Even if you can’t vote in the upcoming election, it is important to be up to date on the election cycle, since this is the first domino to fall in the upcoming years of international relations. A common sentiment among the youth is one of avoiding political conversations because they’re “too convoluted” or “too depressing”. With Gen Z and Millenials making up the majority of the eligible voting population for years to come, it’s important to start having discussions about politics so you can make your mark wherever you may be. Tuning into the US elections is a great place to start if you’ve been out of touch with modern politics recently.

General Details & Timeline

For those unfamiliar with the US electoral system, here’s how it works: The general election is held in early November (this year, the date is November 3rd, 2020). At that time, all eligible US citizens will have the chance to cast their vote for the Electoral College; they are between the selected candidates from each political party (the Republicans, the Democrats, the Libertarians, etc.) to select the next President. Note that there are two types of election events in voting for the Democratic candidate: primary elections and caucuses. Voting in primary elections is done in the traditional singular voter in their booth method, whereas caucuses are more communal (and in some ways, more chaotic). Whether a voter will be electing the candidate via primary election or caucus depends solely on the state in which they live. For instance, Iowa holds caucuses run by the Democratic party, while New Hampshire holds primaries run by the state government. For the sake of simplicity in this article, both forms of voting are referred to as the “primaries”. These candidates will be selected during the primaries, which in itself is a long phase; each state has a different set of dates for voting, starting with the Iowa caucuses on February 3rd and lasting all the way until June. Ahead of the primaries, most nominees started campaigning over a year ago. However, due to budget constraints and other reasons, the Democratic field has narrowed down to just twelve candidates.

Why Are We Focusing Only on the Democratic Candidates?

The main in the primary elections is on the Democratic candidates because Trump is eligible for a second term. Although there are other candidates for the Republican Party, such as former governor of Massachusetts, William F Weld, it is highly unlikely that Trump is not selected to represent the Republicans (according to polls & statistics). Since the Democratic party is the only other major political party in the US, statistics show that the selected Democratic candidate has the highest chance of beating Trump (amongst the non-Republican parties) In other words, until the general election, it’s only the Democratic Primary election that’s interesting.

Impeachment

After Donald Trump has been impeached, can he still run for office? In short, the answer is yes. In fact, Trump seeks to be the first-ever president to be re-elected after having been impeached. Furthermore, it is a common sentiment among Democrats that even though he has been impeached, Trump will likely not be removed from office—this is because his trial is underway in front of a Republican Senate, who is likely to acquit him. Impeachment isn’t a big part of the conversation when it comes to the Democratic debates, either. While it has been mentioned, the candidates tend to focus on causes that their future policies can actually affect—such as Health care. Some even view the impeachment process to be a detriment to some of these candidates, since they are spending precious time in Washington instead of on the campaign trail.

The Remaining Candidates and their Positions

As aforementioned, there are just a dozen candidates remaining in the democratic primary. Below, they are listed, along with a summary of their political views.

Joe Biden, former Vice-President Health Care: opposes Medicare for All, prefers for people to make their own choices regarding health care plans Federal Minimum Wage: supports an increase of minimum wage to $15/ hour Taxes: Supports a raise in corporate taxes, but wants to keep them lower than they were in 2017 Student Loan Debt: proposes to change the current debt-relief system by simplifying income-based repayment, thereby reducing monthly payments College Tuition: proposes making two years of community college free Defence Budget: supports a raise in the defence budget Deployment: supports keeping troops deployed

Bernie Sanders, US Senator (Vermont) Health Care: in full support of Medicare for All* Federal Minimum Wage: supports an increase of minimum wage to $15/ hour Taxes: supports a tax policy focused on eliminating tax breaks from offshoring Student Loan Debt: wants to completely eliminate the $1.6 Trillion US student loan debt College Tuition: proposes for college tuition to be funded in full by the government Defence Budget: proposes a cut in the defence budget Deployment: wants to bring troops home

Amy Klobuchar, US Senator (Minnesota) Health Care: opposes Medicare for All, prefers for people to make their own choices regarding health care plans Federal Minimum Wage: supports an increase of minimum wage to $15/ hour Taxes: Supports a raise in corporate taxes, but wants to keep them lower than they were in 2017 Student Loan Debt: wants to allow borrowers to refinance their debts at lower rates of around 3% College Tuition: proposes making two years of community college free Defence Budget: proposes a cut in the defence budget Deployment: supports keeping troops deployed

Elizabeth Warren, US Senator (Massachusetts) Health Care: in full support of Medicare for All Federal Minimum Wage: supports an increase of minimum wage to $15/ hour Taxes: supports an increase in corporate taxes beyond the 2017 rate Student Loan Debt: proposes partial loan forgiveness, specifically targeting lower- and middle-class borrowers College Tuition: proposes an Ultra-Millionaire Tax **, which should cover up to four years’ of tuition Defence Budget: proposes a cut in the defence budget Deployment: wants to bring troops home

Andrew Yang, Businessman Health Care: opposes Medicare for All, prefers for people to make their own choices regarding health care plans Federal Minimum Wage: supports minimum wage increase to be determined on a state-by-state basis Taxes: wants to introduce a comprehensive value-added tax, whereby products are taxed when value is added (via processing of raw goods, manufacturing, etc.) Student Loan Debt: proposes partial loan forgiveness College Tuition: wants to personally mandate how much yearly government funding colleges receive and how much they can raise tuition by Defence Budget: proposes a cut in the defence budget Deployment: supports keeping troops deployed

Mike Bloomberg, Billionaire & Mayor of NYC Health Care: opposes Medicare for All, prefers for people to make their own choices regarding health care plans Federal Minimum Wage: supports an increase of minimum wage to $15/ hour

Pete Buttiegig, Former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Health Care: opposes Medicare for All, prefers for people to make their own choices regarding health care plans Federal Minimum Wage: supports an increase of minimum wage to $15/ hour Taxes: wants to reverse the corporate tax cut of 2017 Student Loan Debt: proposes a system to provide some debt relief in exchange for national service College Tuition: proposes an increase in student aid to reduce the amount of student loans Defence Budget: supports a raise in the defence budget Deployment: wants to bring troops home

Michael Bennet, Former US Senator (Colorado) Health Care: opposes Medicare for All, prefers for people to make their own choices regarding health care plans Federal Minimum Wage: supports a minimum wage of $12/hour Student Loan Debt: proposes up to $10,000 per year in loan forgiveness for borrowers in public sectors or in high-need sectors (such as health care) Defence Budget: supports a raise in the defence budget Deployment: supports keeping troops deployed

John Delaney, Former Maryland Representative Health Care: opposes Medicare for All, prefers for people to make their own choices regarding health care plans Federal Minimum Wage: supports an increase of minimum wage to $15/ hour Taxes: Supports a raise in corporate taxes, but wants to keep them lower than they were in 2017 Student Loan Debt: proposes access to forgiveness to borrowers who rely on income-based repayments, and plans to allow borrowers with private loans to refinance up to $27,000 of their debt College Tuition: proposes making two years of community college free Deployment: wants to bring troops home

Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii Representative Health Care: Supports Medicare for All, but pitches a gradual approach in which people are offered cheaper options throughout the transition Federal Minimum Wage: supports an increase of minimum wage to $15/ hour Taxes: supports a tax policy focused on eliminating tax breaks from offshoring College Tuition: supports the idea of free college, and co-sponsored Sanders’ College for All Act during her tenure in Congress Defence Budget: proposes a cut in the defence budget Deployment: wants to bring troops home

Tom Steyer, Billionaire Health Care: opposes Medicare for All, prefers for people to make their own choices regarding health care plans Federal Minimum Wage: supports an increase of minimum wage to $15/ hour except in low-cost areas

Doval Patrick, Former Governor of Massachusetts Health Care: opposes Medicare for All, prefers for people to make their own choices regarding health care plans Federal Minimum Wage: supports an increase of minimum wage to $15/ hour

* Medicare for All: A proposed system where all providers are conglomerated into one and issued by the government (instead of the current system, where private insurance, employer insurance, or the government pays for individuals’ health care depending on their plan). The estimated cost of this program, according to some experts, would exceed $30 Trillion per decade.

** Warren’s Ultra-Millionaire Tax: Elizabeth Warren proposes an ultra-millionaire tax on America’s 1%. The idea is to not only tax their income (the 1% make around 20% of the US’ income), but also on their entire net worth (the 1% owns around 42% of the US’ net wealth). Warren claims that this tax would bring in almost $4 Trillion.

Conclusion

As much as you may have learned about the current state of the US, the American election process, or the candidates, please keep in mind that the election cycle started a long time ago. There’s a lot more to the story than this brief article covered, so please take the time to look into the politics that are shaping the US, and consequently, the world. Remember that you have the power to directly influence the politics that will affect you down the road. Whether you’re an American voting in 2020, a Canadian voting in the next federal election, or someone who is able to vote overseas, please let your voice be heard. ♦

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