The first night of the second round of Democratic debates revealed one very clear point: there are two separate wings of the party.
The progressive wing, consisting of candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, seeks to win the 2020 election by promoting big changes. Medicare-for-All and plans to end or eliminate massive student debt across the country are proposals that would take an enormous amount of energy, but certainly are doable, too, if the right Congress is selected alongside a Democratic president.
Others on the debate stage were more pragmatic, pushing a centrist method of fixing things rather than creating bold agendas. Candidates like John Delaney wanted to get everyone in America insurance, to be sure, but he didn’t want to go the Medicare-for-All route — he didn’t want to see people lose private insurance that they worked hard to get.
"Elizabeth Warren gave Bernie Sanders a side hug and an enthusiastic 'good to see you!' at the start of Tuesday’s Democratic debate. And for more than 2 1/2 hours, the nonaggression pact between the progressive standard-bearers held steady." https://t.co/G5iJRq7uY9
— Matt Pearce 🦅 (@mattdpearce) July 31, 2019
That’s a reasonable position to take by some people standards, but not one that most Americans support. Although a recent poll shows a drop in support, a majority of the citizenry still believes that a single-payer model of healthcare would be best. And according to data collected by the Kaiser Family Foundation, that’s been a consistent attitude since February 2016.
This is the way the Democratic Party is trending — but beyond that, it’s also the direction in which American voters, in general, want to move.
Beyond this disagreement and others, however, there is a silver lining that should be recognized. While some may say the split is indicative of a problem within the party, it actually demonstrates a positive: the Democratic Party is a “big tent” party, which is helpful during big election years.
In principle, the candidates on the state Tuesday night (and presumably, on Wednesday night as well) all agree on one point: more has to be done to help create a more prosperous America for everyone, not just the wealthy. All agree in the general direction that needs to be taken — it’s the details that have people disagreeing, and in the end, that’s not really a big deal.
We’ve seen this before, and it worked out just fine. Democratic candidates for president Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, too, disagreed strongly in 2008 with each other’s minute details in their healthcare plans. Both plans from the candidates were almost identical, except for a few small differences.
Those disagreements took center stage back then, too, but ultimately we saw a Democrat win the White House in the general election that year. It may be the case that, in spite of the differences noted on the debate stage this week, the same may hold true this year as well…if the progressive-moderate split doesn’t go any further than the fine print.