Socialists, Dynastic Candidates, and Longshots, Oh My!

Complete Rundown of 2016 Democratic Field

By Clifford Michel

While the bombastic Donald Trump has been eating up airtime and column inches from the 16 other Republicans running, it may be hard to remember that there’s also a field of candidates running for the Democratic Party.

Bernie Sanders, Independent Vermont Senator

Bernie Sanders is an unabashed liberal filling in the political void left by Elizabeth Warren’s unrealized presidential campaign, orchestrated by grassroots organizers on the left.

Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist and he regularly caucuses with Democrats. Previously he served as the Mayor of Burlington in Vermont, a Congressmen, and finally as a Senator, a position he still holds now.

He is currently on several committee assignments for the U.S. Senate: Committee on the Budget (where he is the ranking member), Committee on Environment and Public Works, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Sanders has taken on the bully pulpit on progressive issues and has spoken extensively on income inequality, universal healthcare, parental leave, climate change, and LGBT rights.

On the campaign trail, Sanders has spoken about raising the minimum wage, expanding Social Security benefits, making public college tuition free, and several other extremely liberal issues.

The Vermont Senator announced his pursuit of the presidency on May 26 and has taken a few steps to distinguish himself from other candidates.

Most pointedly is the fact that Sanders has not pursued the creation of a Super PAC to support his run (Super PACs are independent of campaigns and are not subject to campaign finance laws; every other candidate in the 2016 race has one).

While Sanders is still perceived as an underdog against the might of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, he is no longer considered a long shot for the Democratic Party’s nomination.

Sanders has been drawing huge crowds in early voting states and has, remarkably passed Clinton in the New Hampshire polls.

One of the most important issues to look out for in Sanders pursuit of the presidency is if he will win the support of the labor unions.

The AFL-CIO, the national umbrella organization for the majority of the unions in the United States, usually backs establishment candidates who have a clear path to victory.

But there has been dissent and excitement on the local and state levels for Sanders campaign, leading AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka, to release a memo noting that local unions cannot “endorse a presidential candidate” or “introduce, consider, debate, or pass resolutions or statements that indicate a preference for one candidate over another.”

Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and New York Senator

Hillary Clinton formally launched herself into the 2016 race in April and was almost immediately crowned the front runner.

The former Secretary of State showed signs of adopting liberal tendencies in her conversations as she compared CEO pay to worker pay and criticized hedge fund managers.

“There’s something wrong where CEOs make 300 times the typical worker, there’s something wrong when American workers keep getting more productive,” Clinton told students and educators.

While her policy positions are far from set in stone, Clinton’s patterns thus far show that the long-time politician will slowly unroll her positions and plans for the future if elected.

Thus far, Clinton has announced her position on criminal justice reform.

“There is something wrong when a third of all black men face the prospect of prison in their lifetimes, and an estimated 1.5 million black men are missing from their families and communities because of incarceration and premature death,” said Clinton.

In her first step away from the direction of the Obama administration she advocated for the use of body cameras.

She said that cameras should be “the norm everywhere” and that “this is a common-sense step.”

Clinton has also voiced support for addressing income inequality, voting rights, universal pre-kindergarten, and the tax code.

The impending result will likely push Clinton to the left on certain issues to maintain a liberal base that has been itching for another candidate, especially as Senator Bernie Sanders recently surpassed Clinton in the New Hampshire polls.

Clinton, after more than 25 years in the public spotlight, also has to deal with personal demons that have stuck around over time: the view that she doesn’t understand middle and working class Americans.

The widespread belief among voters, and her need to change their opinions of her, can be seen in her 2008 and 2016 campaign launch videos. (In 2008, she made the announcement from her mansion.)

The recent controversy with Clinton using a private server and email address during her days as Secretary of State draws on a long-held belief about the Clintons—that they believe they are above the system.

This caused TIME to publish a cover with Clinton sporting two devilish horns in silhouette, with the title: “The Clinton Way.”

The email controversy has refused to die down and opponents will likely draw on it later on as the race heats up.

On foreign-policy, the G.O.P. has much to draw from Clinton’s time during the Obama presidency. Everything from the Benghazi controversy to drone strikes is on the table.

Martin O’Malley, former Governor of Maryland

Martin O’Malley’s pitch for the presidency goes something like this: I’m a liberal, but I’m no Sanders. I’m a manager, but I’m no Clinton.

Using his executive experience as Governor, where he achieved a few liberal successes, O’Malley is straddling the line between realistic and idealistic.

O’Malley strongly supported gun control in Maryland as well as criminal justice reform (he closed an abusive maximum-security facility) and same-sex marriage.

He has been extremely outspoken in immigration policy, calling illegal immigrants “new Americans.” He also signed into law a bill that allowed the children of undocumented immigrants to receive financial aid for college.

Lawrence Lessig, Harvard Law School Professor

Lawrence Lessig is literally running on one policy point: campaign finance reform. He calls it a “referendum presidency.”

His ideal presidency would only last a day because he wishes to pass his proposed piece of legislation, the Citizens Equality Act of 2017.

The bill would make Election Day a national holiday (to make it easier for people to go and vote), register individuals to vote at birth, discontinue gerrymandering of congressional districts, and give voters $50 vouchers to incentivize individual donations over special interest.

The proposed bill does not address the impact of Super PACs or the Supreme Court ruling of Citizens United.

If Lessig were to get this bill passed, he said he would sign it into law and resign from office, passing the baton to his Vice President of choice.

“We have an issue with basic corruption that the vast majority of Americans would vote to reform, but which it’s almost impossible to imagine Congress actually addressing,” Lessig told Rolling Stone.

“You have an election where you’re getting two for the price of one. You’re getting the reformer—the person who makes it possible for the next president to actually accomplish something. Then you have a president who gets to enjoy all the benefits of a reformed system.”

Lessig has said his Vice President “might” be Clinton or Sanders.

Lessig has never danced with elected office before, but he did create the Mayday SuperPAC, the SuperPAC to end all Super PACs.

Mayday, with $10 million in funds, was crowd-funded and financed eight campaigns in 2014, but lost six of those eight races.

Lessig has said he will run if he raises $1 million by Labor Day.


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