While Sen. Bernie Sanders had the left lane to himself in 2016’s Democratic primary, the Vermont senator has company this time around. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is running an inspiring progressive campaign of her own, signing onto Bernie’s signature proposals of Medicare for All, tuition-free public education and a wealth tax. Despite the overlap, however, Warren and Sanders differ substantively on key 2020 issues. Here are a few key areas that convinced me to stick with Bernie in 2020. If you’re wavering between the two candidates, you should be sticking with Bernie.
Polls show Bernie is likelier to beat Trump. While RealClearPolitics’ average of 2020 polls shows Sanders and Warren similarly situated to be next year’s popular vote winner, Sanders performs better in the Midwest. Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are absolutely necessary for Democrats to retake the White House. In Michigan and Pennsylvania, Sanders performs four percentage points better than Warren against Trump, on average. In Wisconsin, Sanders outperforms Warren by 2 points. While these numbers may seem trivial, Hillary Clinton lost these three states by less than one percentage point. Every single vote matters in these crucial swing states and Bernie’s polling shows an advantage of tens of thousands of voters.
Sanders’ coalition is also more diverse than that of his competitors, an essential element to winning the 2020 election. Sanders consistently polls ahead of Warren among Black and Hispanic voters. Young voters, historically plagued with anemic turnout, choose Bernie by a “yuge” margin. One poll showed Sanders with a colossal 73 percent support in Michigan, for example. Given that young voters are more likely than any other demographic to stay home for an election or vote for a third-party candidate, nominating a candidate proven to win these voters is essential. Sanders has shown he is a turnout machine, capable of igniting optimism ahead of a general election.
Even if he’s not the nominee, Bernie can keep the party progressive. If no candidate alone reaches 50 percent of the pledged delegates, the Democratic convention will go into a free-for-all, forcing candidates and delegates to forge alliances to craft a majority. Even if Sanders fails to be the top vote-getter through the primaries, a large number of delegates will give him the power to push the eventual nominee in a progressive direction. Imagine, for example, that Warren and Biden are the top two vote-getters, but neither candidate garners 50 percent of the delegates. If Bernie performs well in the primaries, it is far more likely that Warren turns to him to strike a deal as opposed to moderating herself to win another candidate’s delegates. Progressives should prefer Warren works with Sanders delegates to form a majority rather than compromising on policy to win delegates from the Buttigieg or Harris camps.
Sanders has long been known for his dovish foreign policy views, from his vote against the Iraq War to his resolution to withdraw military force from Yemen. Unfortunately, Warren has not yet proven herself to be a non-interventionist. She has repeatedly voted for Trump’s military budgets, voting in 2017 to increase the military budget by $80 billion. Rather than voting to increase our bombing budget, this money could be used on progressive social programs here at home. While a bipartisan group of eight senators voted with Sanders to oppose the bill, Warren was not one of the brave senators to go on record to oppose forever wars and ever-increasing military budgets.
Bernie’s loan forgiveness policy is comprehensive. While Yale College offers one of the best financial aid programs in the country, many students across the country graduate with huge sums of student debt. Both Sanders and Warren have plans to cancel student debt, but Bernie’s plan is far more comprehensive. Sanders recognizes student loan debt for what it is: a national crisis. While Warren’s plan offers to cancel up to $50,000 in debt for those making under $100,000, Sanders’ plan is complete loan cancellation. Warren’s plan may seem reasonable at the face, but it fails to reckon with the fact that those most in need of loan forgiveness are those that have the highest debt, not the lowest. The reason there is more than 1.5 trillion dollars in total student loan debt is that many of us don’t just have a few thousand dollars of debt, but literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. Sanders understands the colossal crisis we are in.
Bernie’s Medicare for All plan is the best for the working class. While I am thrilled to see another presidential candidate fully support Medicare for All, unfortunately, Warren’s plan fails to provide an adequate funding mechanism. Her plan has a variety of funding sources, but the core “head tax” she proposes is a regressive tax on America’s lowest earners criticized by many progressive publications. The tax is billed a “tax on corporations,” but the simple reality is that this tax will be felt hardest by small businesses and those making just above minimum wage. In essence, a lower-wage worker ends up paying a far larger share if their salary, albeit indirectly, than a high-wage worker to fund the program. That is unjustifiable. The rich should pay their fair share to fund Medicare for All.
Warren and Sanders have staked out inspiring progressive turf in next year’s presidential primary. However, Sanders has proven himself committed to the issues of healthcare, student debt, and war. Most importantly, polling shows he’s the best-equipped to beat Donald Trump.
ELI PALES is a first year student at Yale Law School. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .