Pete what? Andrew who? The first few Democratic debates, which will kick off in June, may be filled with a variety of candidates, both largely known and some largely unknown, in the world of politics.
Thanks to the rules adopted by the DNC which allow for lesser-known candidates to gain access to the debate stage by hitting some fundraising thresholds, we will see more diversity of background on the debate stage, not simply a milquetoast gathering of seasoned politicians with focus-group tested answers.
Let’s look at a few of these candidates you probably never heard of, but will be seeing a lot of in the coming months.
First, Andrew Yang, a businessman originally born in upstate New York, now hailing from New York City, has hit the threshold of donors to score a spot on the June debate stage.
Yang’s claim to fame, so far, has been pushing his plan for his version of the “Universal Basic Income” idea. For Yang, who claims the concept is far from being labeled some form of socialism, the end game is about re-investing in the American working class who will face continued pressure from automation and Artificial Intelligence replacing workers in many parts of the economy.
Axios provides us with the tenets of what Yang has said about some issues while spending time on the 2020 campaign trail:
Universal basic income: Yang’s proposal — “The Freedom Dividend” — would provide every American over 18 years old with $1,000 per month. He contends that this would grow the economy by 13 percent and increase the labor force by 4.5-5 million people. This policy stems from his belief that AI and automation will wipe out millions of jobs, and that UBI is the path to avoiding economic ruin.
Medicare for All: Yang advocates for a single-payer health care system.
Economy: Yang calls his economic philosophy “human-centered capitalism,” advocating for a system that emphasizes metrics that measure “human well-being and fulfillment,” such as standard of living, health-adjusted life expectancy, childhood success rate and social and economic mobility.
Circumcision: In March, Yang came out against circumcision, telling the Daily Beast: “I’m highly aligned with the intactivists. History will prove them even more correct..From what I’ve seen, the evidence on it being a positive health choice for the infant is quite shaky.”
I’m not sure if circumcision will be a big issue in 2020 (it won’t), but I suppose Yang, hailing from the private sector, is not bound up by the traditional walls in which politicians house themselves. He enjoys coming at things from a scientific and mathematical perspective to drive policy decisions by thinking outside of politics.
Next in the lineup is Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, an office he’s held since 2012. Buttigieg recently announced that he was on track to make the first debate in June as well. Here’s some background on Buttigieg’s positions from a write-up at PBS:
Climate change: Thinks climate change is a national security threat. Supports the Paris climate accord. Buttigieg considers climate change a national security threat and a “longterm” problem that will especially impact younger Americans and future generations.
Economy/trade: Supports labor. Thinks NAFTA resulted in significant jobs losses. The Democrat thinks NAFTA caused irreplaceable job losses across the industrial Midwest. He is a strong supporter of labor and union groups, and says Democrats must work harder to advocate for working people and help them achieve economic stability.
Guns: Supports universal background checks. As the mayor of South Bend, Buttigieg is a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group that advocates for gun control legislation at the state and federal level. He also supports universal background checks, and opposed allowing guns in schools and so-called “Stand Your Ground” self-defense gun laws.
Foreign policy: Supports pulling troops out of Afghanistan. Buttigieg says his experience serving as a Navy intelligence officer in Afghanistan helped shaped his views on American policy in the Middle East.
Health care: Supports single-payer system. Buttigieg says he’s “all for” a single-payer health care system. But he has said he wouldn’t immediately jump to single-payer from the current system.
Immigration: Supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Buttigieg supports the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and would like to see Congress pass a law creating pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.
Social issues: Supports a federal non-discrimination amendment. Buttigieg favors passing the Federal Equality Act, an amendment to existing civil rights legislation that would give federal non-discrimination protections to LBGTQ people.
Buttigieg has some fans on both sides of the aisle thanks to his even-keeled brand of politics in which he’s been careful not to demonize his opponents, but rather treat everyone with respect while speaking his views with confidence. Buttigieg is young, at age 37, and would be the only member of the millennial generation running in the 2020 Democratic field.
It would be hard to imagine any politician going from Mayor to President with no other state or national political experience in between. Rudy Giuliani couldn’t do it in 2008 despite his reign as “America’s Mayor” after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in his home city of New York. Buttigieg could, however, end up on the short list for VP depending on the circumstances even if he’s a longshot for the nomination.
Finally, there is one more candidate worth noting who might also make the debate stage coming from a world outside of business or politics altogether. Marianne Williamson, a popular self-help author and “spiritual healer,” is also on the cusp of making the debate stage. Here’s some background on where Williamson stands on the issues of the day:
She [WILLIAMSON] plans to champion issues such as climate change, stating that as president she would re-join the Paris Climate Agreement President Donald Trump exited in June 2017. Williamson also stated she would work to combat crime and Criminal Justice reform by the “establishment of a U.S. Department of Domestic Peace-Building in order to coordinate domestic violence prevention efforts in conjunction with the Department of Justice and other relevant agencies.” She also said she would advocate for better health care and gun safety.
Williamson still has some work to do before she fully qualifies with the proper number of national donors, but she’s been making progress and appears to be on track to hit 65,000 unique donors by the time June rolls around.
From the looks of it, the DNC will be filling each of the available 20 debate slots with these new rules as the internet and social media fundraising make it more possible than ever for candidates to generate a following and garner national attention.