EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
On Tuesday night, the two leading progressive candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), will appear on the same debate stage for the first time in the 2020 campaign. After a rocky rollout, Warren has risen in the polls on the strength of her bold proposals and detailed plans to achieve them. Yet, while the Massachusetts senator’s influence on the Democratic “ideas primary” is undeniable, Sanders is shaping the race in ways that are often underappreciated by a media that often marginalizes and misrepresents him.
Sanders’s impact is most readily apparent in the domestic-policy sphere. The Democratic field is collectively running well to the left of where Hillary Clinton started her 2016 campaign. That is a credit to Sanders, whose insurgent primary challenge against Clinton forced ideas such as Medicare-for-all and debt-free college into the mainstream. In the wake of Clinton’s loss, Warren and Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) signed on to both Sanders proposals, all but ensuring they would get a hearing in the presidential campaign. (Warren has since introduced her own higher-education and student debt-relief plan, and Harris unveiled an alternative Medicare for All proposal Monday.) Even as former vice president Joe Biden has started echoing dishonest Republican attacks on Medicare for All, Sanders remains its fiercest champion in the race.
Willingness to venture beyond political caution is distinguishing the Sanders campaign. He regularly denounces institutional racism in many forms, but Sanders also goes further, challenging bias in systemic as well as specific terms. “Structural problems require structural solutions,” he wrote in The Washington Post three weeks ago, “and promises of mere ‘access’ have never guaranteed black Americans equality in this country.”
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.