Politics, The World

This is your cheatsheet for the 2016 Democratic candidates

Get ready to caucus around! With Clinton and Bernie! Democracy's journey! To the nation’s White House!

As you can see, I am clearly a mature, respectable adult, and one of the major perks of being an adult is getting to vote for our country’s president. And other positions, obviously, but let’s be honest, the most exciting thing to vote for is president. But it’s a long journey to the presidential election in November, and in that time there will be plenty of primaries and caucuses for you to get involved with.

For me, the Democratic caucus in Las Vegas is February 20, and it’s finally time for me to seriously consider who I want to support as the Democratic nominee.

Join me on this wonderful experiment in adulting, as I examine the different policy positions between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

1. College financing

Eliminating college debt is a major part of both Clinton and Sanders’ platforms. In a Clinton nation, student loans for public schools will be a thing of the past, although students and their families will be expected to make some financial contributions to their college tuition. Her plans is called the New College Compact, which will provide no-tuition community college and federal grants to state who commit to lowering college costs and investing in higher education.

Sanders, on the other hand, plans to eliminate college tuition completely at public universities, a la Germany. Public universities would also be required to meet all the living costs of low-income students.

Both Clinton and Sanders want to lower interest rates for student loans (for private universities, presumably) and allow today’s graduates to refinance their loans at better rates. One major difference: Clinton’s plan also focuses on making universities and colleges more accountable when it comes to graduation rates and employability for their students. No mention of this in the Sanders plan.

2. The criminal justice system


Sanders addresses the criminal justice system through his program for racial justice. Highlights of his plan include demilitarizing the police, increasing civilian oversight of police departments, and training that “reorients the way we do law enforcement in this country,” including deescalating confrontation and interacting with those who have mental illnesses. He also plans to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences and legalize marijuana.

Clinton’s platform is similar, focusing on training police officers and limiting their access to military weapons. Where Sanders plans to eliminate mandatory minimums, Clinton plans to cut them in half, but she also plans to change the way sentences are applied to nonviolent offenders. While Clinton supports the use of marijuana for medical purposes, she does not support full legalization.

Both candidates would seek to have nonviolent drug offenders sent to rehab, instead of jail, and both plan to end the privatization of prisons.

Side note: Sanders’ plan for racial justice also includes notes on economic violence (think minimum wage, access to daycare and educational opportunities for the working poor) and environmental violence (low-income and minority communities are more likely to be exposed to hazardous levels of pollution.

3. The economy and income inequality


This is probably where there is most overlap between the two Democratic candidates. Both want to raise the federal minimum wage: Sanders to $15/hour and Clinton to $12. Both plan to invest in American infrastructure to stimulate economic growth, and both want the crazy rich to pay their “fair share” in taxes.

The most significant difference between Clinton and Sanders is that Sanders makes specific reference to international trade policies like NAFTA, saying he plans to reverse them to push American industries to manufacture their products here instead of places like China. Clinton makes no mention of this.

Another major difference is their approach to Wall Street. Sanders is well-known for his all-out attack against the big financial institutions that sent our economy down the drain not too long ago, and his platform emphasizes taxes on Wall Street speculators and breaking up “too big to fail” institutions. Clinton’s platform comes off as much less aggressive. She focuses on long-term economic growth, saying that she’ll tax shareholders that focus on short-term profits and that she’ll address risks in the financial sector, but also that capital gains tax will be revamped to “reward farsighted investments.”

4. Immigration

 The battle for immigration reform during the Obama presidency has been exhausting, to say the least. Both Sanders and Clinton support comprehensive immigration reform that will create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, with plans to expand DACA and DAPA, and both will seek to end family detention and close private detention centers.

Sanders’ platform focuses on our border issues, with plans to demilitarize the border and increase the resources of Customs and Border Patrol in order to rebuild infrastructure and increase accountability.

5. Racial inequality


Where Sanders has a whole section on this, Clinton addresses race under specific issues, specifically voter rights and criminal justice reform.

Automatic voter registration for all and undoing the voting restrictions that disproportionately impact young and minority voters is on both candidates’ to-do lists, but as mentioned above, Sanders’ platform is more comprehensive.

6. Women’s rights


Clinton could become our country’s first female president, so it’s no wonder she promotes herself as a champion of women’s rights. Both Sanders and Clinton have the same basic policy plans: promoting equal pay for equal work, defending Roe v. Wade, increasing paid family and sick leave, and creating affordable childcare programs. Clinton’s campaign, though, focuses specifically on expanding paid family leave and the rising issue of campus sexual assault: she plans to ensure transparent campus disciplinary proceedings and increase prevention measures.

7. War and interventionism


To the foreign policy buffs out there, this is for you. This is actually one of the more interesting divergences of the two Democratic candidates, with Clinton seeking to present herself as tough on foreign policy issues, while Sanders touts his anti-war credentials. When it comes to ISIS, both emphasize partnerships with Middle Eastern governments, including Iraq and Afghanistan, but Sanders also wants to “disrupt online radicalization…and support and defend religious freedom.”

Those are the highlights, but of course the devil is in the details. Both candidates have plans to pay for their ambitious platforms, but it’s important to remember that the president doesn’t act alone. If we continue to have a GOP-dominated Senate and House, a lot of these plans could go down the tubes, or at least won’t be implemented exactly as planned.

If you’ve got a primary or caucus coming up, I highly encourage you to do your civic duty and vote! As for me, I don’t vote and tell, but if you’re in Vegas I’ll see you on the 20th.