Biden-Bernie Platform Gives Trump Little to Hang Campaign On
WASHINGTON – The policy platform recommendations released by the campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden provide little ammunition for President Donald Trump to use to right his struggling campaign.
Ever since Biden became the presumptive Democratic nominee for president in the spring, Trump has searched for a way to define his opponent in November’s general election.
Though Trump supporters who call into C-SPAN and any number of right-wing radio shows still appear to revel in Trump’s calling Biden “sleepy” or “corrupt” or a shill for the “radical” left, the president himself has failed to settle on a narrative to carry him to victory on Election Day.
There was a time, of course, when he planned merely to run on the strong economy, a plank the coronavirus and its economic fallout took away from him.
With just four months to go until the election, and the pandemic surging in much of the country, Trump could be forgiven if he had been hoping Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., would be successful in their efforts to pull Biden further to the left than he’d run in the primaries.
But when the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Forces submitted its recommendations to the Democratic National Committee’s platform committee last week, proposals like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal were nowhere to be found.
“To me the remarkable thing about the 110-page document the Task Forces released is how really, really united the Democrats are in their desire to defeat Trump,” said Ryan Pougiales, senior political analysts for Third Way, a centrist think tank in Washington, D.C.
“It’s really an astounding contrast to where we were just four years ago,” he said.
Pougiales noted as he spoke Friday that as of July 10, 2016 — exactly four years earlier — Sanders had yet to endorse Clinton as the party’s nominee.
In fact, Sanders’ endorsement would come two days later, on July 12, 2016, but it did little to heal divisions in a party that was headed to its national nominating convention two weeks later.
Throughout the endorsement, which was made at an event staged in Portsmouth, N.H., there appeared to be little natural chemistry between Clinton and Sanders and their body language was noticeably stiff.
During a 30-minute speech, Sanders repeatedly mentioned Clinton by name without acknowledging that she was standing next to him looking on. When she spoke, she largely disavowed left-of-center positions he pushed her to adopt during the primaries.
“We were a party in the throes of a real conflict,” Pougiales said.
“This time, everybody is united behind Joe Biden,” he continued. “Everyone from [House Majority Whip] Jim Clyburn in South Carolina to AOC, who participated on the joint task force, is united in stating that Biden is their candidate.”
That unity has also been evident in recent polling, including last week’s New York Times/Siena College polls of the six battleground states, which found that 87% of Sanders supporters said they will now back Joe Biden, as did 96% of Warren supporters.
“And I think the proposed unity platform is a testament to this as well,” Pougiales said. “My reading of it is, this is the party rallying around mainstream ideas.
“It’s not Medicare for All, it’s a Medicare buy in. It’s not focusing on a few narrow pathways to get to net zero carbon emissions, it’s a technology-inclusive pathway that includes advanced nuclear, carbon capture, all kinds of different options,” he said. “And this approach is evident throughout the document.
“For instance, it doesn’t call for defunding the police or anything like that; what it does do is take the priorities and perspectives of everyone across the Democratic Party and finds a compromise.
“And I think this is a testament to another thing — the sense of urgency all Democrats feel this election cycle,” Pougiales said. “There’s a real urgency to defeat Trump, for sure. But there is also an urgency to achieve meaningful progress for the American people.”
The individual task forces that comprise the whole formed in May to tackle health care, immigration, education, criminal justice reform, climate change and the economy, sought to hammer out a policy road map to best defeat Trump.
In a statement following the release of the recommendations, Sanders reaffirmed his commitment to helping Biden win in November and to moving the country “toward economic, racial, social and environmental justice.”
“Though the end result is not what I or my supporters would have written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country,” Sanders said.
So what did the task force recommend?
Instead of a single-payer Medicare for all system that would enroll all Americans in a government-run health plan, the task force supports a government-run insurance option that would be offered to all Americans on a sliding scale according to income — and automatically provided to low-income Americans free.
The task force also recommends special insurance options for people during the coronavirus pandemic. For those who lost coverage because they became unemployed, the task force suggests that the federal government pay the full cost of continuing that·coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation, otherwise known as COBRA.
People without previous coverage would be allowed to buy a new plan with no deductible, at a price determined by their income, or an existing plan under the Affordable Care Act.
As for climate change, the task force wants planet-warming emissions declared a national emergency, and ties future efforts at reducing the use of fossil fuels to the need to address racial injustices and employment disparities in low-income communities.
The recommendations set a number of specific near-term benchmarks that Democrats could promise to reach. They include moving all electric power off fossil fuels by 2035; achieving carbon-neutrality in all new buildings by 2030; and installing 500 million solar panels in the next five years.
Regarding criminal justice reform, the task force calls for eliminating private prisons, ending cash bail and eliminating mandatory minimum sentences.
The task force also suggested a federal standard for police departments’ use of force, a national database of police officers who commit misconduct and an end to sentences of life without parole for juvenile offenders.
The task force did not call on Biden to support legalizing marijuana at the federal level, which has wide support in the party. Biden has said he supports decriminalizing marijuana, but would leave its legality for recreational use up to the states.
The recommendations for Biden’s criminal justice platform make no mention of defunding the police, a movement that calls for the diversion of funding from police departments across the U.S. to other public services that have grown amid racial justice protests following the police killing of George Floyd in May.
The immigration task force generally promotes undoing controversial Trump-era policies, actions that Biden generally supports.
Specifically, it calls for maintaining protections for undocumented residents brought to the country as children.
It also suggests ending Trump’s so-called “remain in Mexico policy,” which forces those seeking asylum in the U.S. to await their court proceedings in Mexico.
The recommendations do not call for abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The economy task force emphasized creating increased oversight to assure racial equality in workplaces, housing and lending, while calling for “New Deal style” initiatives to create jobs following the coronavirus pandemic.
Among other things, the proposed platform promises a massive investment in repairing highways, roads, bridges, ports, and airports, and “to launch our country’s second great railroad revolution by investing in high-speed rail.”
The platform also includes a promise to make sure that every community in America has access to clean, reliable drinking water and safe wastewater systems in their homes.
And it calls for an end to the “digital divide” that deprives more than 20 million Americans of access to broadband internet.
The unity task force also calls for ending policies that incentivize offshoring, “and instead accelerate onshoring of critical supply chains, including in medical supplies and pharmaceuticals.”
The platform also includes the promise that a Biden administration will invest in innovation hubs and government programs to provide small manufacturers with technical and business expertise.
It will provide substantially higher levels of support for programs and institutions that boost economic development in America’s most impoverished communities, including through Community Development Financial Institutions.
The proposed platform also includes assurances that a Biden administration will significantly boost funding for state small business grant and lending initiatives.
“We will increase access to credit for small businesses in low-income and rural areas, including for unbanked or underbanked businesses and minority-owned businesses. And we will increase funding for programs supporting minority-owned businesses,” the proposal says.
The education task force rejected free public university for all, a policy championed by Sanders. It does say that public universities should be free for families earning less than $125,000 per year and that community college should be free for all. Biden’s current platform contains similar policy points, although only calls for two years of free community college.
Recommendations for student debt reduction, as well as universal pre-kindergarten for three- and four-year-olds, also align closely with Biden’s current platform.
The task force also calls for the banning of for-profit charter schools, which Biden also favors.
Though changes to the party platform are expected once the Democrats convene in Milwaukee, Wis., for their convention Aug 17-20, Pougiales said he believes the unity task force document will provide a firm grounding for the discussions.
“I think what the development of this document says, beyond what’s in its pages, is that we recognize it is important not to come out of the convention with a laundry list of fringe ideas that the Republicans could grasp onto in the final weeks of the campaign — things like defunding the police, or totally unrealistic benchmarks for achieving progress on climate change or Medicare for All.
“It’s really hard not to include things in a party platform that will give the Republicans ammunition in the campaign, but I think the existence of this document speaks to a certain trajectory of thought — that at no time did the Biden team give a thought to pursuing a far left agenda in the Democratic platform.”
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