The race for the Democratic presidential nomination is starting to take form, so I want to share my thoughts on how I will be approaching the process of picking a candidate to support. 

When I am looking for a candidate to vote for, the bundle of policies that the candidate endorses is much less important than what those policies communicate about a candidate’s philosophy, what is important to the candidate and the way that they solve problems. 

I’m going to walk through some issues that candidates should pay attention to and the types of solutions that they should offer to earn my vote in the 2020 Democratic primary.

Climate Change

Image courtesy of the Center for Global Development.


Climate change is an imminent doom bearing down on mankind. To get my vote, a candidate needs to have a feasible, global solution to climate change. The Green New Deal is not this. Trying to tie climate change legislation to radical economic legislation is wrong and impractical. A candidate’s climate change plan must be global. If the United States went carbon-neutral tomorrow, climate change would still be a huge problem. Rapidly industrializing nations such as China and India are polluting more each year as a byproduct of their economic growth. A climate plan needs to involve the development of green energy technologies that will allow developing countries to continue to industrialize without high levels of pollution.

Criminal Justice Reform

A candidate should propose a few changes to the criminal justice system to earn my vote. These changes should be based on the innate value of people, their ability to contribute to society and their freedom to build a meaningful life. A candidate should propose restoring civil rights, such as voting rights and driver’s licenses, to those who have left the criminal justice system, creating a shift towards a criminal justice system that is restorative rather than punitive. 

A restorative system understands that punishment of those who commit crimes has no inherent value. With this in mind, restorative justice focuses on developing value in people who have committed crimes to allow them to return to society and build meaningful lives. This usually looks something like rehabilitation for those addicted to drugs, treatment for the mentally ill and education and job training for the under-educated.

Minimum Wage

Image courtesy of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.

Wages for all but the upper echelons continue to lag behind productivity gains, which lag behind wage increases for the top. This indicates some monopsony power on the side of employers. This means that employers have the power to pay workers less than they are worth to the firm. In a system with monopsony power, an increase in the minimum wage is a market correction that leads to a more efficient employment and wage level. A popular argument against raising the minimum wage is that it would decrease employment and hurt the group we are trying to help. However, if we believe that employers do in fact have monopsony power, an increase in the minimum wage will increase employment.  

Image via Cal Pringle.

To illustrate, the graph to the left shows a wage market. Without monopsony power, the equilibrium wage would be W1 and the employment would be E1. With monopsony power, the wage is lowered to W3 and the employment is lowered to E2. If we set the minimum wage at W1, or even some value between W1 and W3, employment will increase. It is important to me that candidates not only address the economic justice aspect of an increased minimum wage but also the fact that it will increase employment. This shows that they are thinking about the broad effects of policy as well as their ability to message effectively on economic issues.

Baby Bonds

Baby bonds are a policy proposed by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., as a way to address the wealth gap. In this plan, every child is given an account of government bonds at birth, to which more money is added each year based on family income. By the time the bonds mature, children from low-income families could have a sizable savings account to spend on education or a home. The burden of poverty is disproportionately felt by African Americans, so this has an element of racial justice and will move toward closing the black-white race gap. However, the policy is also race-blind and will help all poor people. 

Gun Control

I don’t really need to dive deep into this issue; there has been plenty of discourse about it. Nevertheless, I do think that it’s something that still matters and that the candidates ought to state their positions on it. I don't believe any candidate has addressed gun control, but the first candidate to bring it back into the conversation will tell me that they are going to set the agenda rather than have it set for them, and that they are unwilling to allow support for gun control to ebb and flow with the occurrence of national tragedies.

Conclusion

This is not a hard-and-fast recipe for a specific policy platform for Democrats, and no matter what, the Democratic nominee will have my vote in the general election. However, a candidate communicating these types of goals and philosophies will have me excited to vote for them in the primary.

Contact columns editor Cal Pringle at cal.pringle@richmond.edu. 

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