Democrats are all over the map this year.
They’ve got a Wall Street billionaire, an anti-Wall Street crusader, a California prosecutor, a Midwestern populist, a New England socialist and a guy from Texas on a road trip.
They’ve got populists and capitalists and progressives and moderates. They’ve got former Republicans and established statesmen.
Some want a single-payer health care system. Some want a private system. Some want both.
Elizabeth Warren is going to tax the rich. Michael Bloomberg doesn’t think that’s constitutional. Howard Schultz left the party to run as an independent. Bernie Sanders is still an independent, but his effort to drag the party more toward his progressive priorities has paid off.
These people who either are or may run in a primary against each other share little other than a D next to their name and the urgent desire to defeat Donald Trump on Election Day next year.
No matter who stands to accept the nomination, it will disenfranchise someone taking an interest in the primary this year.
Even Trump-hating conservatives like George Will are picking favorites. (His is Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota senator thinking about running, who is “liberal enough to soothe other liberals without annoying everyone else.)
Parties that sustain a wealth of ideas make for successful majorities. But the breadth of opinion represented among people who might run as Democrats represents almost the entire political spectrum. Here’s an effort to sort them by what we know. Note: We don’t know a lot yet since many of these people have said they support universal health care, for instance, but haven’t said how they’ll get there.
Capitalist vs. socialist
Bernie Sanders is the only card-carrying democratic socialist of the bunch running so far.
“Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little by which Wall Street’s greed and recklessness wrecked this economy?” he asked rhetorically in 2015 during a Democratic debate. “No, I don’t.”
Elizabeth Warren claims to be a capitalist to her core, but she’s made a career of holding Wall Street to account.
“I am a capitalist. Come on. I believe in markets,” said said on CNBC. “But only fair markets, markets with rules. Markets without rules is about the rich take it all, it’s about the powerful get all of it. And that’s what’s gone wrong in America.”
Square those two with Michael Bloomberg, who won big in the casino capitalist process and is worth many billions of dollars.
“We need a healthy economy, and we shouldn’t be embarrassed about our system,” he said this week.
Then there’s Schultz (not running as a Democrat!) but worth noting he said this week on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that it’s partially Warren’s policies that make him think the US is veering toward socialism.
“I don’t believe the country should be heading to socialism,” he said. “I think she believes in programs that will lead to a level of socialism in America.”
Or Sherrod Brown, who was running on a populist message long before Donald Trump and wants to bring the term back for Democrats.
“He uses his phony populism to distract from the fact that he has used the White House to enrich billionaires like himself. Real populism is not racist,” Brown has said.
Or Cory Booker, the New Jersey senator now in the race who employed a message of shared sacrifice and shared benefit in launching his campaign Friday.
“Together, we will channel our common pain back into our common purpose,” Booker said in his kickoff message.
Somewhere in the middle is the rest of the potential field, including the likes of Kamala Harris, the prosecutor, and Kirsten Gillibrand, who has ties to Wall Street but has signed on to some progressive policy proposals as a senator.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, for instance, is certainly a capitalist, but he might be somewhere to the left of Bloomberg and he’s spoken about inequality.
“I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason we’re in trouble,” Biden has said. “The folks at the top aren’t bad guys. But this gap is yawning, and it’s having the effect of pulling us apart. You see the politics of it.”
Medicare-for-all vs. Medicare for all vs. Something else entirely
A more specific policy debate will come as Democrats try to find a coherent message on health care. Most of the senators thinking about runs have signed on to Sanders’ Medicare-for-all proposal. But there’s a difference between supporting his bill, which would end the private health insurance system as we know it, and the idea of Medicare for all, which suggests something people can opt into or buy is different than the specific bill, which would put everyone on a Medicare-type system. Sen. Kamala Harris learned those intricacies after her appearance at a CNN town hall.
Senators who haven’t signed onto the proposal include Brown, although he’s long been an advocate for a single-payer health care system, but would rather allow people to buy into it.
Harder to pin down are people like former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who never signed on to a Medicare-for-all bill, but during his failed Senate campaign posted his support for Medicare for all. He’s said he opposes the Sanders-style plan. So does Klobuchar.
Biden hasn’t definitively taken a position on Medicare for all either. He’ll have an interest in defending the Affordable Care Act, passed on his watch as vice president, if he enters the race.
Rep. John Delaney, a wealthy businessman and dark horse candidate out of Maryland, has his own idea to guarantee basic minimum health care but then let the market provide everything else.
There will be similar debates over social programs Sanders has proposed like free college education.
Booker has a proposal to direct the Labor Department to test federal jobs guarantee programs. Several senators, including Kirsten Gillibrand, Harris and Warren, are cosponsors of that bill.
The businessman and activist Andrew Yang, another dark horse, wants to give everyone a universal basic income of $1,000 per month.
The Bloombergs and Delaneys of the field are concerned about the national debt. The Sanders and Warrens aren’t so much.
Populists like Brown and progressives like Sanders and Warren are unlikely to look favorably on trade deals. They all opposed the TPP, the Obama-era trade agreement Trump killed. But Biden, as vice president, was solidly in favor.
Illustrations by CNN’s Will Mullery
Update: This piece does not analyze the platform of every declared or possible Democratic candidate.