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2020 Democrats: 5 outsiders who could challenge President Donald Trump

Image: Election Central

Recently I wrote an article covering the top five Democratic favourites to challenge Donald Drumpf in the 2020 Presidential election. Now, the second instalment will take a look at some of the ‘outsider’ candidates and some of the proposals they will bring to the race, specifically: Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, Julian Castro, Senator Cory Booker and Representative Eric Swalwell. Now you may be wondering why anyone would bother looking at ‘outsiders,’ but it is worth bearing in mind at around this stage in 2015 Donald Drumpf was polling at around 1% and sat 11th favourite in the Republican primary so, anything can happen yet!

  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg

If any ‘outsider’ is to have a shot at winning the primaries the one key factor they need is momentum and Mayor Pete Buttigieg definitely has that in spades. Buttigieg was until recently in the “exploratory committee” stage of his candidacy, but as expected he soon announced via Twitter that he would be officially joining the race. Having already raised $7 million in the first quarter of this year and with some polls showing him rising even as high as third in the race for the Democratic nomination it is definitely worth taking the man the citizens of South Bend, Indiana call “Mayor Pete” seriously.

For a brief rundown of his character, Buttigieg is a 37 year old, openly gay, Afghanistan war veteran with seven years of experience as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. If that sounds impressive then just wait… He can also talk proficiently in seven different languages (including Norwegian, which he learned just to read a book he loved), he is a Harvard and Oxford graduate, a Rhodes scholar and he recently served as an impromptu officiant for a couple whose first child was born not 45 minutes later that same morning.

Buttigieg has recently gained traction from all sections of the media as he has generally come across as well-spoken, approachable and intelligent. Now, this is not to say other candidates cannot stand up to Buttigieg in an intellectual arena. Elizabeth Warren for instance has a Bachelor of Science degree in speech pathology and audiology, and she passed the bar exam at Rutgers Law School soon after. However, what makes Buttigieg different is a distinct lack of negative attributes. Trevor Noah on The Daily Show recently described Buttigieg as having even the skeletons in his closet “singing his praises.”

Buttigieg is also a devout Christian, which, as an openly gay public figure is clearly at odds with the religious interpretations of some evangelicals. This was shown recently as protestors followed Buttigieg around Iowa chanting about Sodom and Gomorra. However, to his credit Buttigieg has addressed this by challenging the conception that the political right owns the Christian faith. In fact, he recently called out the “hypocrisy” of such evangelicals for supporting a man who has acted in a way that Buttigieg deemed wholly inconsistent with scripture teachings.

Now, despite all of this Buttigieg is still very much an outsider candidate for the moment. But, with the primary debates coming up soon and considering the number of positive soundbites Buttigieg has already managed to generate from his media appearances thus far, it is definitely worth keeping an eye on his every move.

  • Andrew Yang

Head of the ‘Yang Gang,’ Andrew Yang has proved a popular candidate for certain sections of young voters, particularly those who frequent online sites such as 4chan. Opting for a ‘humanity first’ approach, Yang’s campaign will focus on putting people at the centre of his policy ideas, with none emphasising this more so than his flagship proposal: The introduction of universal basic income. Or as Yang himself calls it, a $1000 a month “freedom dividend.” This would provide every single American between the ages of 18 and 64 with a monthly instalment of $1000. This would be free of any strings attached, in cash, for everyone.

Now, if this sounds crazy, its actually not. In fact, this policy came incredibly close to reality 50 years ago when Richard Nixon of all people proposed reforming the welfare system to include a provision of universal basic income.

Beyond this, Yang has an incredibly detailed set of policy proposals available on his campaign website here. The policies range from the relatively mainstream Democratic proposals such as automatic voter registration and medicare for all, to the more innovative, such as the creation of a “Local Journalism Fund,” and forcing airlines to stop removing paying customers.

A general theme of Yang’s policy proposals is the development of a human-centred form of capitalism, of which the unit of measurement should be focussed on “each person, not each dollar.” This fits nicely in line with his belief that automation is one of the greatest threats facing the American workforce, which the universal basic income and other measures would attempt to combat.

Yang’s background comes from business, having been the creator of Venture for America, which he founded in 2011. Venture for America worked to help other entrepreneurs start businesses in cities hurt by economic downturns, as part of Yang’s initial belief that new job creation would help offset job losses as a result of automation. However, with that shown to be insufficient Yang decided to run for President in order to tackle the issue of job loss on a larger scale.

However, if Yang wants a shot at the White House he has one massive problem to overcome – racism. As I started this section by saying, Yang’s “freedom dividend” proposal has attracted a lot of interest from fringe internet groups such as 4chan, but this has caused problems. Recently, leaked chats from rooms on similar sites have shown the struggle that moderators have faced to silence and delete extreme posts and views. Yang – to his credit – has publicly disavowed all support from these individuals but if this trend continues then they could very easily drag his name down with them.

  • Julian Castro

A former Obama cabinet member, who served as the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro has entered the race for President on a platform of “People First Immigration.” Drawing on his Mexican roots Castro will present a platform in stark contrast to the current administration, in his attempt to become the first Latino President of the United States.

Castro’s campaign website – Julian for the Future – currently only provides in-depth details of his plans for immigration reform, a hot topic in America to say the least. The plan itself has three main focuses: Reforming the immigration system; Creating a new, humane border policy; Positive intervention in Central America. Quite the opposite to the Trump administration, this plan would certainly be welcomed by undocumented individuals, “Dreamers,” refugees and people of all different faiths, as the plan specifically details Castro’s wish to rescind Trump’s “discriminatory Muslim and Refugee ban.”

In his bid to become President Castro will no doubt attempt to corner the Latino vote and build his base from that section. On paper this sounds like a solid plan, especially given that Latinos have recently edged past African Americans to become America’s largest minority group. However, per 538, Latino voters tend to be more divided than other minorities, with only 60% siding with the Democrats, as opposed to 90% of African Americans. 538’s estimates place the Latino vote as a proportion of the whole Democratic vote at around 10-20%, which is no doubt an important chunk, but one must question if it will be sufficient to base a campaign off of.

Castro himself is doubtless a skilled politician, having become the youngest member of President Obama’s cabinet back in 2014, and having even been talked about as a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton back in 2016. However, this will prove to be the toughest challenge of his political career. Castro is currently polling in the low single digits and struggling to rise above the rest of the candidates in a very crowded field. Therefore, if he wants a shot at President he will have to find a way to rally the Latino vote in a way few have before and then look to the rest of the Democratic voting base to build a true campaign that could defeat President Trump.

  • Senator Cory Booker

Senator Cory Booker officially announced his campaign for President via YouTube on the 1st February, 2019, quite intentionally on the first day of black history month this year. Arguably the closest to a ‘mainstream’ candidate out of the ones listed in this article Booker is a relatively well known figure in US politics and is currently polling around 3.5%, just behind the tail end of the favourites.

Booker’s announcement video played heavily on the themes of racial injustice, and collective action, both stemming from his personal experiences through childhood. This sense of community and togetherness is further emphasised by stating that Booker still lives in the same low-income, inner-city community that he grew up in decades ago, never having forgotten his roots.

However, as with many candidates thus far in the election cycle, his campaign platform is currently very light on specific policy matters. His official website, Cory2020, is quick to recruit, solicit donations and it effectively tells the life story of the candidate – as most do – but unfortunately it contains no clear policy stances.

This being said, Booker did sign on as a co-sponsor for both Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal bill and Senator Bernie Sander’s Medicare For All bill. Booker also introduced a bill that would have legalized marijuana nationwide.

Fundamentally, on the political spectrum Booker falls somewhere between the most ‘progressive’ Democratic candidates such as Senators Sanders and Warren, and the more ‘centrist’ candidates such as Klobuchar. Definitely left of centre, yet not fully committed to a total re-haul of the system of government.

However, it is worth noting that during the last election cycle in 2014 Booker was the top recipient of Wall Street money, receiving just shy of $2 million from the securities and investment industry. This election cycle Booker has denounced Wall Street and corporate PAC money. But, if Booker wants a shot at the White House he will have to first develop some concrete policy positions and second, convince the public that his intentions are genuine.

  • Representative Eric Swalwell

The first candidate to focus his campaign specifically at the issue of gun control, Representative Eric Swalwell is currently only polling around 1% of the vote but he did only officially announce his bid for the presidency a couple of weeks ago.

As well as gun control, Swalwell’s campaign will focus on both healthcare and student debt reforms. Currently, details on specifically how Swalwell intends to tackle these issues are lacking but all three already clearly important issues for almost all Americans. For some context, students in America alone currently own a collective total of $1.5 trillion, with the average student in 2016 in debt to the tune of around $37,000 according to Forbes. Similarly, a recent study in America has found that medical bills, at least in part, contributed to around two thirds of all bankruptcies. Finally, per the gun violence archive there have been 96 mass shootings (define as at least four people being injured) in America in the four months of 2019 alone.

So, while Swalwell is far from a frontrunner in this race he’s certainly worth paying attention to. He is an experienced Congressman, well versed in politics, and judging by his recent Twitter history he is certainly unafraid to call out the powers that be in the NRA. In fact, refusing to be satisfied trading shots over the internet with the NRA spokeswomen, Dana Loesch, Swalwell has repeatedly called for an audience with their President, Oliver North. So far his calls have gone unanswered but it does show a determination to take the NRA to task where many politicians previously have simply accepted their influence over the political system.

Finally, like most Democratic candidates Swalwell has fallen in line in refusing to accepted corporate PAC (political action committee) money. However, per 538, Swalwell has not yet accumulated the 65,000 unique individual donors or 1% support in three different polls required to secure a place on the debate stage in June.

This may yet change, of course, and Swalwell may yet accrue a good deal of support from young voters, with them having no doubt either lived through the horror of actual school shooters scenarios or drills practiced in case of such a scenario. But, even if this does not materialise I maintain that Swalwell running is objectively a good thing for America as a whole, given it will no doubt ensure that the issue of gun reform stays on the agenda.