Fiorella Beccaglia Managing Editor
With the 2020 presidential race around the corner, you may be wondering how the election’s most popular Democrats differ, or you may be a progressive voter trying to distinguish who to lend your support to. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the leading progressives of the race, and although they have many similarities, they are also perceived as two sides of the same progressive coin. Nonetheless, both are liberal populists who want to fundamentally change the current economic system to help working and middle-class Americans.
Warren and Sanders, who are friends, also have some vital differences in policy, in the strategies and rhetoric they use, and even in the kinds of voters who support them. To me, the biggest difference has to do with their political philosophies. While Sanders is a self-identified democratic socialist, advocating for a socioeconomic revolution, Warren has called herself a “capitalist to my bones,” claiming to be the candidate with detailed plans for solid actions that will help working people. In the U.S. Senate, their voting patterns have generally been in sync, with a few differences during the Trump administration. Here are some other ways in which the candidates align and differ:
Both support ‘Medicare for all’ and want to get rid of private insurance. Sanders has long called for universal health care, arguing that the only way to fix the broken health care system is to replace it with his policy plan, known as “Medicare for all.” The proposal, which would all but eliminate private insurance, became one of his most outstanding rallying plans when in the 2016 presidential election.
Both want to significantly increase taxes for the wealthy. Warren has focused this year on imposing a tax on the wealth of the superrich, an idea Sanders has also supported. Warren’s marquee tax proposal is to create a tax on wealth (an “Ultra-millionaire Tax”). She would impose a 2 percent annual tax on household assets over $50 million and an additional 1 percent annual tax on assets over $1 billion. Sanders included a wealth tax in a list of financing options for Medicare for all in 2017. He has also proposed an expansion of the estate tax that would include a top rate of 77 percent on estates above $1 billion (the current estate tax rate is 40 percent). Ms. Warren proposed a similar expansion of the estate tax in a bill, first introduced in 2019, that is intended to increase the supply of affordable housing.
Moreover, Warren was first to call for eliminating student debt, while Sanders has a plan for K-12 education. Warren also supports—it was Warren who initially gained attention for her call to eliminate student loan debt for tens of millions of people. Sanders went a step further and came up with his own plan to eliminate all student debt.
Finally, the two candidates have two different approaches to matters of racial justice. Warren’s policy plans include measures that focus on intersectionality and emphasize racial justice. Her housing plan includes down payment assistance for first-time home buyers who live in formerly redlined neighborhoods where incomes are still low. She has a proposal to reduce maternal mortality among black women, who die of pregnancy-related causes at a rate about three times higher than white women. She has a child-care plan that would raise wages for more than one million child-care workers, who are disproportionately women of color. Also, her campaign has emphasized that her student debt cancellation plan would reduce the racial wealth gap. Mr. Sanders’s message, on the other hand, remains focused on economic equality and systemic change. However, I think he focused on elevating matters of racial justice more in this campaign than he did in 2016, and he has made a concerted effort to hire a more diverse campaign staff. Sanders speaks often about the need to reform the criminal justice system and getting rid of disenfranchisement to make sure all Americans have the right vote.