Here's how Sanders and Warren are making the Democrats stronger — even if Biden is leading the polls
The Democratic Party, contrary to the hysterical nonsense and extremist blather one typically hears on Fox News or right-wing talk radio, has not been “hijacked by the far left.” Even Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), for all their progressive stances, would be too far to the right for European leftist parties such as Greece’s Syriza or Spain’s Podemos. But liberal and progressive ideas, thanks in part to Warren and Sanders, are getting a larger seat at the table in the Democratic Party of 2019.
Sept. 12’s Democratic presidential debate underscored the fact that the Democratic Party is still a big tent: Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former Vice President Joe Biden made it clear that they are still decidedly centrist in their views, but when Sanders or Warren was speaking, it was also evident that progressive causes are receiving more attention in the Democratic Party in 2019 than they were 20 or 30 years ago. In the 1990s and 2000s, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) automatically assumed that centrism was the way to go; in the current Democratic presidential field, there are both centrist options and progressive options.
Here are some of the important progressive issues that Sanders and Warren are bringing to the forefront — and forcing even centrists like Biden and Klobuchar to talk about.
1. Universal health care
Friday morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” it was a conservative, host Joe Scarborough, who explained, in a nutshell, why the Democratic presidential candidates are so much better on health care than President Donald Trump: all of them favor universal health care, while Republicans want to take health care away from millions of Americans. Scarborough, a former GOP congressman, is critical of the Medicare-for-all proposals of Warren and Sanders and is clearly much more sympathetic to Biden and Klobuchar’s ideas — which include an aggressive expansion of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare, combined with introducing a public health option. But here’s the thing: even if one doesn’t go as far to the left as Sanders or Warren on health care, there’s no denying that they are both doing their part to make sure Democrats continue to discuss universal health care. Sanders and Warren probably aren’t going to be able to sell Biden or Klobuchar on Medicare-for-all, but they are still forcing them to talk about universal health and explain how they hope to achieve it.
2. Climate change
Twenty years ago, many centrist Democrats were afraid to talk about climate change and feared that if they did, they would be labeled as anti-technology. They allowed Republicans to dictate what they said or didn’t say about climate change. But in 2019, climate change is something that Democrats in general — whether they’re centrist or progressive — don’t hesitate to address. However, they have different ideas on ways to combat the problem: centrist Democrats like Biden aren’t on board with the more aggressive and comprehensive Green New Deal proposals that Sanders and Warren, with the help of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City, have offered. But thanks in part to Sanders and Warren, climate change is a prominent topic among Democrats — and even centrist Democrats acknowledge that climate change is a dangerous reality.
3. Raising the national minimum wage
Sanders and Warren have both been strong proponents of raising the United States’ national minimum wage to $15 per hour, which is something the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted to do when the Raise the Wage Act was passed in July. Of course, there’s no way the Raise the Wage Act will be passed in the Senate, which is still controlled by Republicans under the leadership of Sen. Mitch McConnell. But Sanders and Warren would be happy to vote for the Raise the Wage Act if it did stand a chance in the Senate. Among Democrats — or in Sanders’ case, an independent who, for all intents and purposes, is a Democrat — raising the national minimum wage isn’t even controversial. The Raise the Wage Act received 231 votes in the House, and only three of them came from Republicans.
4. Strengthening Social Security and Medicare
While Republicans and Libertarians talk about privatizing Social Security and Medicare — which is a horrible idea — Sanders and Warren favor not only keeping them in the public sector, but also, expanding them. It is ironic that so many older white voters favor Trump over progressives like Sanders and Warren because Social Security and Medicare are vitally important to older Americans. Of course, Social Security and Medicare came about because of Democrats: Social Security started in the 1930s under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, and Medicare was the crowning achievement of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society in the mid-1960s. And Sanders and Warren haven’t been shy about reminding centrist Democrats how important those programs are to the Democratic Party’s legacy.