Elizabeth Warren vs. Bernie Sanders on the Issues

Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have much in common compared to the other candidates in the 2020 race. They both position themselves as progressive candidates who represent the people, not big money. They are both harsh critics of Wall Street. Sanders wants Medicare for All, and Warren has co-signed the idea up to this point.

Both want a $15 minimum wage, to wipe out college debt and tuition, a universal child care program and more taxes on the super wealthy. They have remained unified against criticism from more moderate liberals. Underneath the surface, however, there are key differences between the campaigns of Senator Warren and Senator Sanders.

The most obvious difference is in their ideology. While Senator Warren has said she is a “capitalist to [the] bones,” Sanders has described himself as a Democratic-Socialist who doesn’t shy away from the word “Socialism.” However, the differences between the two do not stop there. Read on to learn some of the biggest differences between these two politicians.

Voting Rights for Incarcerated Individuals

One of the biggest differences between Sanders and Warren is their proposal for voting rights. On this issue, Senator Sanders leans more sharply to the left. Sanders would like to legalize voting for all eligible Americans, including those currently serving time in prison.

“The right to vote is an inalienable and universal principle that applies to all American citizens 18 years and older. Period,” he wrote in an op-ed he published in USA Today advocating that stance. Those who support Bernie Sanders for president admire his desire to stand up for voting rights for all Americans.

However, this position is not necessarily popular in the country at large, and Senator Warren has not followed suit on the issue. Nearly 70 percent of Americans do not want prisoners to have the right to vote, and Warren’s language has reflected this national opinion instead. When she discusses voting rights, she is careful to say they should be restored “once someone pays their debt to society” — in other words, when they complete their sentences.

How to Achieve Racial Justice

Both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have big plans for achieving racial justice in the United States. However, how they want to get there differs significantly. For one thing, Senator Warren wants to repeal the infamous 1994 Law Enforcement Act that many say has led to the increased incarceration of Black Americans. Warren also proposes ending “stop and frisk.” Maybe most significantly, Warren supports direct reparations and restitution for the long-term impacts of slavery.

Senator Sanders does not directly support reparations, instead focusing on policies that would invest in Black communities in America. However, he said he would sign a reparations bill if the House and Senate passed it. Additionally, his racial justice plan also does not directly call for the repeal of the crime bill, although he now says he regrets voting for it in 1994. However, he does propose repealing minimum sentencing laws and expanding presidential clemency.

Plans for Paying for College

Those who support the Sanders 2020 campaign probably prefer his plan for addressing college debt over Warren’s. Sanders has introduced a bill to wipe out all college debt, no strings attached, arguing that student loans keep students tied down with unnecessary expenses. In addition, he supports free college tuition at public schools and has proposed a plan to reintegrate K-12 schools through busing and increased funding for magnet schools.

Senator Warren also supports free tuition for public colleges. However, when it comes to eliminating college debt, she has attached some conditions. Rather than eliminating all debt, Warren has proposed eliminating up to $50,000 for individuals in a household earning less than $100,000 and eliminating smaller amounts for households earning between $100,000 and $250,000 a year. Unlike Senator Sanders, she has not yet come out with a specific plan to address K-12 schools.

Working With Other Democrats

Although he has campaigned under the umbrella of the Democratic party, Bernie Sanders is independent through and through. He has had no issue criticizing the Democratic party’s policies and leadership, at one point calling out the “corporate wing” of the party for hindering his efforts.

Elizabeth Warren has taken a softer approach towards the Democratic party. A recent New York Times article explained that Senator Warren has reached out to numerous key individuals in the party to form alliances and make promises about helping other Democrats get elected in the event that she secures the nomination.

Although Warren has taken a populist stance like Sanders, her actions indicate that she is not interested in turning the Democratic party upside-down, but rather modernizing it to meet progressive demands. Rather than working to upend the system, Warren wants to use the system in place to build alliances and earn endorsements.

Regulating Wall Street

Elizabeth Warren and Wall Street do not have the same hostile relationship that Sanders and Wall Street do. However, one of the main battles for Elizabeth Warren as senator has been to increase financial regulations to protect individual Americans.

She famously created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which helps regulate Wall Street and other financial institutions on behalf of individual Americans. Elizabeth Warren’s CFPB is a concrete example of the kind of regulation she would like to impose on Wall Street. As a result of her policies and history, many claim that Wall Street might be more comfortable with Warren than with Sanders.

This is because unlike Warren, Sanders is considered a wild card whose goals for Wall Street are less clear. Warren has proposed regulations, not a take-down of Wall Street. Sanders, however, has not been as specific and detailed with his proposals. Bernie Sanders’s speeches have regularly cast Wall Street as the enemy of the people, making investors and corporations nervous. Those who support Bernie Sanders on the issues, however, like that his language makes Wall Street nervous.

Which one is more likely to defeat Trump?

For the most part, Sanders and Warren agree on specific policies more than they differ. When it comes to Joe Biden vs. Warren and Sanders, for example, liberal Democrats are more likely to vote for either of the two rather than for the more moderate former vice president. If either of them drops out of the race, the other is likely to pick up liberal votes without a hitch.

Their biggest difference is in ideology, which could make or break the general election. To date, Sanders polls well against Trump, with numerous different polling bodies finding that he has a fairly good shot of defeating him in the general election.

Warren polls well against the president too, but her numbers are not quite as strong. On average, Sanders polls at 49.7 percent against Trump’s 43.4 percent. With Warren, the numbers fall to 48.4 percent versus Trump’s 44.7 percent.

Whether progressives support Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders for president comes down to the details. From a distance, they are two sides of the same coin. Up close, however, one can see how the small differences add up to two potentially very different presidencies.

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