Pietrow: Taking stances on the top polling Democratic candidates

David Pietrow, Staff Columnist

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Who will champion the Democratic party for the next presidential election? Well, the answer is unclear. Based on polling numbers alone, former Vice President Joe Biden stands out among the crowd, leading by 13 points over Sen. Bernie Sanders. However, this is not a good metric to determine the future president, and one only needs to look to the 2008 Democratic primary to see why. Hillary Clinton was leading in the polls up until early February 2008, only for former President Barack Obama to sweep the polls and win the nomination. Instead of only looking at the top polling candidate, it would be wise to instead consider all five top polling candidates: Biden, Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kamala Harris and the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg.

Biden’s focus lies in strong investment in clean energy and climate research while incentivizing deployment of clean energy innovations across the entire economy. This is a decent start to pushing climate change, which I believe to be the most important issue at the moment, to the forefront of the nation’s agenda. If he gets elected, it will be interesting to see how exactly he will execute this plan, as he fails to specify or estimate the amount of money that would be spent. 

In terms of health insurance, Biden stands for universal health care, increasing tax credits to lower premiums for health insurance to expand coverage to low-income Americans. On the surface, this seems to be a narrow plan to address health care, but it still appears to be a great start to a solution to the health care problem. Even though the idea of a universal health care system is very appealing, it will cost a great deal of money. As both these plans require significant financial planning, it should be worth observing to see how Biden manages them if he is elected.

Behind Biden in the polls is longtime Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Some of his main points for climate change is to invest in infrastructure to protect frontline communities most vulnerable to natural disasters and end exports of coal, natural gas and crude oil. I believe his idea about investing in infrastructure for vulnerable communities is brilliant, but I heavily disagree with outright banning exports of fossil fuels. Our exports of fossil fuels bring in over billions, potentially trillions, of dollars. Sanders should have a proper substitute immediately ready or ease the ban into effect over a few decades. 

On the topic of health care, Sanders advocates for universal single-payer health care, while allowing the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to bring drug prices down. This is part of exactly what health care needs, especially with lowering drug prices. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren from California, on the other hand, sees the solution to the health care issue as the establishment of a universal single-payer health care system while abolishing private health care companies. In my estimation, making a universal single-payer system is even better than a universal system, but I struggle to convey how much I disagree with abolishing private health care companies. Nationalizing health care will have detrimental impacts on the long-term health of the medical field as it would lose a source of funding, or risk becoming subsidized at a cost to taxpayers. 

Warren also advocates a two trillion dollar investment for researching and manufacturing clean energy technology. I cannot say that I dislike this plan. She is the only candidate out of the five that has given a hard number of how much she plans on investing into clean energy. Two trillion, when devoted to climate change, should have a profound, beneficial impact. 

Former Attorney General of California Kamala Harris writes on her website that in addition to lowering the price of prescription drugs, she wishes to improve Medicare buy-in to achieve the goal of universal coverage while also keeping public or private Medicare plans alive. I consider this a moderate approach. I like the idea of having both private and public options available to the people, but it would be interesting to see how a single-payer system can accomplish her plan. 

While discussing climate change, Harris states that she would like to create a Green New Deal for modernizing transportation, upgrading clean energy infrastructure and investing in technologies to gradually eliminate carbon emissions. In comparison to the other candidates’ plans, there is nothing in this plan that makes it unique. I do like the fact that it is a gradual approach to climate change, but I do not believe it is detailed enough to provide a deep analysis on its effectiveness yet. 

On the idea of health care, Mayor Peter Buttigieg states that he will provide a public buy-in option affordable enough to pressure private companies to drive their prices down. Buttigieg is the only one of the five to mention using a capitalistic idea to make health care affordable, for which I give him massive credit. It is unique and should get support from opposing sides of the aisle if he provides details as to how he will implement the public option. 

While discussing climate change, Buttigieg claims that he will implement a Green New Deal that will include increasing energy efficiency in urban and rural homes and getting back into the Paris Climate Agreement. Getting back into the Paris Climate Agreement should be an expectation; I am far more intrigued by his implementation of making rural and urban homes more energy efficient. That is quite a challenge and will definitely span more than two presidential terms.

On the record, I am not a partisan person. I evaluate candidates, not parties, but I appreciate the candidates the Democrats have produced thus far. In my opinion, a huge element missing in the present day United States is the objective use of information to form nation-wide policy. I have faith that these candidates will bring back that missing element to America.