At the start of the Democratic primary season, the contest for the 2020 presidential nomination was certain to be an unpredictable showdown, featuring a slew of candidates with either no record or questionable judgment. But the crowded field of candidates has, paradoxically, made the Democratic Party’s struggle with economic inequality more relevant than ever.
The party’s liberal base has spent the past three years arguing that the nation’s policies have failed the poor and marginalized, helping to drive a longstanding slide in economic mobility, which has left many Americans stuck at the bottom of the income distribution.
Republicans are working overtime to make that case, with 2016 nominee Donald J. Trump looking like the main threat to Democrats’ efforts to regain the White House next year. Mr. Trump has played up divisions within the Democratic Party on how to fight his economic agenda and earned praise from the likes of House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who has been urging Republicans to take on President Obama’s signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act.
But a competition among Democrats to claim the mantle of champion of the working class raises the stakes for all the candidates. Already a host of lawmakers are expressing support for a Medicare-for-all system, which they argue would make health insurance available to Americans regardless of where they were born. A slew of high-profile Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, have made income inequality a centerpiece of their messages. Other candidates, including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, are pledging that they will vote to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has proposed removing lobbying loopholes that benefit an exclusive group of corporate CEOs.
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