Here’s a secret about the state of the Democratic Party: It’s actually going through a period of relative unity.
That fact can be easy to miss, what with all high-profile sniping among both presidential candidates and elected officials. Ahead of tonight’s debate, the pundits are all looking to see whether Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren will try to out-progressive each other, and whether Amy Klobuchar can define herself as a centrist alternative. But the truth is, on matters large and small, most Democrats have rallied around a series of relatively progressive policy goals that lay out a vision for a better America. Despite establishment and right-wing media’s eagerness to exploit narratives of a party disarray, Democratic candidates actually sound quite similar when asked to lay out their long-term goals. Namely, they are focused on leveling the playing field across society through the combination of an improved social safety net, and regulatory actions aimed at combating inequality.
Take disability rights. In June, the Disability Rights Center–New Hampshire posed a series of questions around major disability issues to the presidential candidates. With the exception of Joe Biden (who didn’t respond to the survey), all the major contenders offered consistent — and subtly radical — solutions to issues such as mental health services, special education, and mental health. For example, all respondents sought the termination of the Fair Labor Standards Act, (which effectively legalized sub-minimum wages for people with disabilities), to fully fund special education, and to ensure universal access to mental health care.
A similar pattern has emerged with other, higher-profile issues. Democrats have broadly united around universal healthcare and free college education as end goals — they just disagree about the best path to get there. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders offer competing plans to forgive massive amounts of student debt, whereas Kamala Harris just put forth a plan of debt forgiveness for people who start businesses in economically underdeveloped areas. Cory Booker, on the other hand, wants to use baby bonds to…