A 10 Point Progressive Platform That Democrats and Independents Can Embrace in 2020 [Updated]
Democrats need to plan for a very difficult election against an individual who will abuse every lever of power to stay in office. Despite his botched Covid-19 response, 40% of the electorate is still caught up in Donald Trump's cult of personality despite overwhelming evidence that he is both incompetent and corrupt, often simultaneously.
Trump will run his 2020 re-election campaign on some form of his pro-business, white nationalist, Christian conservative, anti-immigrant platform that he used in 2016. He will hint at some new tax breaks and further measures to reduce immigration, but without much specificity about new legislation. To date, his only legislative achievement is a regressive and unpopular tax bill, and his foreign policy has been an unmitigated disaster that even Republicans have a hard time defending. So, he and right-wing media outlets will spend most of their energy over the next several months painting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as radical open borders socialists, itching to throw the nation's doors open to drug dealers and rapists and eager to raise taxes on the middle class. In other words, the President will spend the next year attempting to scare voters into giving him four more years.
It's wise to remember that the President will still have the biggest megaphone, so Biden and Harris need to define themselves now before Trump, Talk Radio and Fox News does it for them. The platform they need to re-capture the White House must be tailored to excite the broad coalition of voters that allowed them to win back the House of Representatives. However, if Democrats move too far to the left they will alienate many of the independents and college educated suburban voters that embraced the party in 2018.
Below is a platform that will allow Biden and Harris to recapture the White House by embracing "progressive capitalism". It's not as far reaching as Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren proposed during the Democratic primaries, but it would be the most progressive agenda ever offered by a major party's nominees. And each proposal is supported, to one extent or another, by the majority of Americans and wouldn't require large tax increases.
1. Expand Health Care Options: "Medicare For All" is a great slogan and would be a fine idea if the majority of Americans didn't already have tax free health care insurance provided or subsidized by their employer. Most folks, especially college educated suburban voters, are quite happy with that arrangement and really have no desire to pay additional taxes to pay for Medicare For All. However, they will support expanding Medicare to allow older Americans, starting at 50 or 55, to buy into the program, as Sen. Amy Klobuchar proposed during the campaign. Additionally, Biden must again put forward an affordable "public option" [through Medicaid or Medicare] that younger people can buy into through the health care exchanges. The combination would greatly reduce the number of uninsured in America.
2. Legalize Pot: Almost two-thirds of Americans now support legalization and it would also be an important step in fixing our criminal justice system. Too many young people, especially in highly policed urban areas, have their future options limited by possession convictions that serve no rational public policy. It's the first step in real criminal justice reform. And, as we have documented before, studies have shown that legalization doesn't lead to greater use by young people.
3. Raise the Minimum Wage: Raise it nationally to $15.00, implemented incrementally over 4-6 years and index it to inflation thereafter. It's broadly supported by economists and the public. Moreover, recent studies have debunked claims that it will result in substantial job losses.
Illuminate: "Economist Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, a leading expert on the economic impact of the minimum wage, led a group of economic scholars in examining 138 minimum-wage hikes across the US between 1979 and 2016. They found that workers saw wage increases of 7% on average with with no reduction in low-wage employment five years out. And, the authors found that the higher minimum wages they studied had a positive spillover effect for workers who made up to $5 more than the new minimum wage. They also saw an increase in wage rates, without a reduction in jobs or damage to the overall economy."
4. Clean up the corruption ushered in by the Trump administration: Washington has not seen this level of corruption since the Teapot Dome Scandal during the Harding Administration of the 1920s. Democratic candidates must remind voters that the President who promised to clean up the swamp has expanded it into an ocean of corruption, influence peddling, and ethics violations. Bloomberg News has established a website to keep track of all the various ways this administration has debased the Presidency.
Bloomberg: "Donald Trump promised to drain the Washington swamp. Instead, he has surrounded himself with family members, appointees and advisers who’ve been accused of conflicts of interest, misuse of public funds, influence peddling, self-enrichment, working for foreign governments, failure to disclose information and violating ethics rules. Some are under investigation or facing lawsuits, others have resigned and five have either been convicted or pleaded guilty, including three for lying to government officials.
5. Propose Comprehensive immigration reform that America needs in the 21st Century: Polls show that the majority of Americans aren't radically anti-immigrant, but they do want an orderly immigration system that is tailored to the nation's need for foreign workers. So, Democrats should "go big" on immigration and show they have a plan to deal responsibly with all aspects of the issue. Specifically, they should propose;
a. measures to strengthen border security which rely on new technologies rather than Trump's wall.
b. a path to legal status for the approx. 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US, including about 8 million who have jobs and have lived here for years.
c. a streamlined temporary worker visa program to provide the workers needed in agriculture, construction, hospitality and other sectors of the economy.
d. a path to citizenship for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors, and for holders of temporary protected status (TPS), those who have been displaced by natural disasters and armed conflicts.
e. an expansion of our legal immigration “preference” system to provide America a highly educated 21st century workforce, especially as birthrates continue to decline in the United States.
f. addressing the per-country ceilings in the legal immigration system which make it difficult for individuals from some nations to ever immigrate legally.
g. measures to alleviate the backlog in our immigration courts including many more judges and court staff.
h. a plan to humanely address the thousands of Central American families seeking asylum in America.
6. Expand Voter Participation: Democrats should continue to hammer Republicans on their efforts to make voting more difficult. HR 1, which Democrats passed in the House of Representatives is the perfect starting place. It "would make it easier to register and vote, reforms gerrymandering, and requires Super PACs to disclose the names of their donors."
7. Embrace President Obama's Environmental Agenda: With all due respect to the Green New Deal, Democrats should first focus their energy on getting America back on track to meet our Paris Climate Agreement goals and roll back Trump's pro-coal policies.
Moreover, Democrats must remind voters of the dozens of Trump administration policies which undermine clean air and water in America in service to energy and chemical companies.
Illuminate: "One of the promises that Donald Trump made to his Republican base was that he would roll back environmental regulation in America. Unfortunately, it's one area in which he has been successful because he can do much of the damage through executive branch policy and without having to go through congress. So, much of it can be done quietly, without a public debate. And unlike foreign policy or trade policy, the negative results from his actions on the environment are generally incremental and show-up years after the new policy has been implemented. But when the harm does appear it can take decades to fix, or, in the case of climate change or protecting endangered species, it can be irreparable."
8. Expand [and reform] the Earned Income Tax Credit: This is a solution to poverty and income inequality that has been embraced by both Democrats and Republicans like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, wants to double the Earned Income Tax Credit. The EITC has proved to be an efficient and useful tool to pull families out of poverty. It's time to expand it with some modest reforms.
Sherrod Brown and House Sponsors via CNN: "It's the most effective tool we have to put more money in the pockets of ordinary Americans. It's simple to administer, it's repeatedly demonstrated its success, and it gives families what they need most -- extra dollars. We worked to expand the credit and make it permanent in 2015, and the following year, it lifted nearly 6 million Americans out of poverty."
9. Rebuild our International Alliances to Strengthen our National Defense: Democratic candidates must lay out to voters how President Trump's "America first" go-it-alone foreign policies have made the world a more dangerous place and weakened our hand internationally. And, they must also reassure our allies that we will never again so casually abandon our friends as Trump did with the Kurds in Syria.
Our alliances have always amplified our strength and expanded our reach internationally. longtime Pentagon official Michele Flournoy said it best:
NPR: ..."America's interests and values are not well-served when we try to go it alone or impose our will through threats and intimidation. Our strength is when we build coalitions and alliances of like-minded states who share interests, or sometimes values, and we go after problems together."
10. Institute An Affordable College Plan: In the 21st century, with a declining birth rate, and growing global competition, America must ensure that every young person has the chance to reach their potential. The time has come for a tuition-free college plan, and not just for the first two years. Since 1980 the average tuition at four-year public universities has jumped 260 percent, more than twice the rate of inflation, putting college out of reach for more young people or saddling them with mountains of debt.
The Federal Government should work with the states to cover the cost of tuition to public universities, on a sliding scale according to income, for all four years of a bachelor's degree. Some students from affluent families would just receive a partial subsidy, but most students would only have to pay for books and housing.
The price tag for these proposals would be minimal compared to the agenda proposed by Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. It could be paid for by rolling back part of the corporate tax cuts of 2017, reinstating the old inheritance tax rates and bumping the highest personal bracket back up to 39.6%. Some very affluent voters would oppose the platform because of the tax increases, but it would be very difficult to claim that they were the work of radical socialists. They are progressive, but within the mainstream of voter sentiment.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content [updated 8/12/20]