With major policy contrasts such as these, lack of unity can be discouraging to Democratic voters. However, I want to note that Sanders may have done the Democratic party an extraordinary favor in leaving Biden as the presumptive nominee.
Similar, yet sharply different. Two elderly, Caucasian Democrats from the Northeast, one common goal: reshape the fabric of American society. While both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders agree that the Trump Administration has been disastrous for American politics, policy divides heavily impede their seeing eye to eye.
For example, ask Biden or Sanders how the Trump administration has played out. You will get a similar answer highlighting crippling byproducts: there has been a tremendous increase in racially-charged violence, a spike in anxiety among citizens due to the growing possibilities of a US-Iran war, and an overwhelming presence of inhumane activity at the border.
However, ask Biden and Sanders how they feel about universal healthcare, and their responses will diverge dramatically—revealing major differences in structural beliefs. Although Sanders recently withdrew from the 2020 race and left Biden as the presumptive nominee, it can still be helpful to compare his policy proposals to Biden’s, especially as Bernie supporters begin to revisit their opinions of Biden’s candidacy heading into November.
First and foremost—healthcare. Healthcare policy proposals are arguably the single largest difference between the two Democrats. While there are suspicions surrounding the exact layout and financing of his plan, it is widely known that Sanders supports Medicare for All. With beliefs grounded in the principle that healthcare is a basic human right, his emphasis on a universal, single-payer system is driven by his own disgust for soaring costs. Conversely, Biden has a more moderate stance on the issue—private insurance with the inclusion of a public option. While Sanders’ clear commitment to universal healthcare made him the most trusted Democratic candidate on the topic, his plan wouldn’t necessarily provide him an edge come November. Biden’s more moderate healthcare plan has greater potential of gaining Republicans beginning to lean left, whereas Sanders’ “socialized” healthcare plan would have virtually no chance of winning over the other side.
Still, there are a breadth of topics that Biden and Sanders concur with—climate change, gun control, and immigration—yet boast drastically different approaches. For example, while the concern of climate change is a pressing matter to both candidates, Sanders’ policies seem much more extreme. Sanders’ $16.3 trillion proposal demands a definitive end to fossil fuels in the United States by 2050, while Biden’s proposal has no similar fossil fuel benchmark laid out. Instead, Biden’s $1.7 trillion proposal aims for net-zero carbon emissions and 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050, whereas Sanders aims to achieve this goal two decades earlier.
Additionally, on the topic of gun control, both candidates support assault weapons bans and buyback programs, but much controversy surrounds the legitimacy of Sanders’ background on the issue. Sanders has consistently been met with suspicion and controversy, especially from Biden, regarding his past decision to vote against federal background checks and manufacturer liability.
Finally, immigration policy proposals strikingly separate the two candidates. While Biden and Sanders both pledge to ease tensions at the border through policy amendments and paths to citizenship, Sanders is committed to completely abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A controversial issue to say the least, Sanders has appeared to be one of the few 2020 candidates to wholly commit to its termination.
With major policy contrasts such as these, lack of unity can be discouraging to Democratic voters. However, I want to note that Sanders may have done the Democratic party an extraordinary favor in leaving Biden as the presumptive nominee. While his background, passion, and loyalty to our country’s politics and people is second to none, Sanders is a Democratic Socialist with far left views lacking potential to grasp any sort of Republican attention. What often is a more substantial difference in Biden and Sanders than their policies is electability over Donald Trump—something Democrats value heavily. Now more than ever, as our country is amid a pandemic and faces more tragedy than imaginable, nominating a Socialist to face a brutally forward Republican could have plagued our country with the exact divisiveness it cannot afford.