As the 2020 Democratic presidential primary becomes more crowded, one would think Democrats would be drawing lines in the sand to separate themselves from their competitors so that primary voters will be able to decide which candidate could best represent their political ideas.
Americans have seen more than a dozen highly-scripted campaign rollouts, but primary voters are hard-pressed to find anything more than a donate button and a brief biography on candidates’ websites because most of the 2020 Democratic candidates don’t have a spot on their website that shows where they stand on a single issue.
This point was highlighted by a student during one of former Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s (D-Texas) first campaign events after his entrance to the race.
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) March 19, 2019
“When we look on your website, we don’t really see anything in terms of a solid platform for policies. It’s mostly just platitudes and a merch store. […] When am I going to get an actual policy from you?”
While this wasn’t a good look for O’Rourke, he isn’t alone in withholding his policy views from voters.
Of the 13 Democrats who registered in a recent poll from Emerson Polling, very few lay out the policy positions of the candidate.
Only four candidates have anything that resembles a policy page accessible from the homepage of their website.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who polled at eight percent in the Emerson poll, has been one of the most transparent candidates when it comes to her political ideologies. On her issues page, Warren not only includes her positions on issues but also includes some policy plans to back up her beliefs.
The other three candidates that include policy issues on their website polled at one percent or less, according to Emerson. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang has based his campaign on supporting universal basic income, but his website offers his position on more than 50 separate issues. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has an issues page comparable to Warren’s.
Governor Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) barely makes the cut for including a policy page, including just one issue on his website. Inslee included his position prescriptions for addressing climate change, his main reason for entering the race.
Some candidates are hiding their positions.
While 2020 candidates have been fielding questions on policies ranging from the Green New Deal to “Medicare for All,” they’ve refused to commit their ideas to their website. Curious voters can find fun facts, but they’ll struggle to find how the candidates differ.
With a few clicks, voters will know that Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-Ind.) has two adorable dogs, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) played college football, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minn.) grandpa worked in a coal mine, but they can’t find where they stand on raising taxes.
All of these candidates will likely face President Donald Trump in the 2020 race. The president’s campaign has been gearing up for this race since they won in 2016 — and his website reflects that. In a “Promises Kept” section, the Trump campaign outlines the campaign promises the president followed through on since his election.
Most of the Democrats in the race have accomplished political careers, but most are not going as far as the president did in laying out their vision for America.
There could be several reasons for this. For example, O’Rourke told supporters he wants to be “shaped” into the candidate they want to run, essentially passing the buck to voters to create a build-your-own candidate.
Others may want to wait and see what polls well among likely primary voters as they make their rounds through Iowa and New Hampshire. As Americans have seen, some candidates came out of the gate strong only to back off when voters rejected them — as Harris did shortly after announcing she would get rid of private health insurance providers.
Without strong policy proposals, it looks as though the Democratic candidates are much more confident in running on their story than they are in running on their solutions for America, making the 2020 election one of popularity, not policy.