On Oct. 31, Doug Allen and Mike Howard held a talk titled “Democratic Presidential Candidates on the Issues: Climate Change, Immigration, and Health Care.” The talk took place in the Bangor Room of the Memorial Union. It was the 4th out of seven events in the Socialist and Marxist Studies Series.
Doug Allen and Mike Howard, both professors of philosophy at the University of Maine, introduced the event. They opened up the discussion to three speakers; Robert Glover, a political science professor at the University of Maine, Amanda Bertana, a postdoctoral fellow for the Scholars Strategy Network and Amy Fried, a political science professor at UMaine who joined the talk via video.
The discussion opened up a discourse about some of the biggest issues in the race towards 2020.
Glover was the first to speak. He led the conversation about the Democratic attitudes on immigration, noting that current Democratic presidential candidates do not have very much divergence in their policies on immigration. Glover also noted that one particular immigration-related issue that presidential hopefuls see eye to eye on was the enforcement of regulations and oversight on Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“Bill de Blasio, until he dropped out, was the only candidate that said we should do away with ICE. Biden has not been clear on this, but many other candidates are saying we need oversight, we need reform of the agency. It needs to have a clearer mandate and a tighter leash. There needs to be more … oversight on what ICE is doing,” Glover noted.
After Glover spoke, Bertana began to talk about climate change, and how presidential candidates plan on handling it. Bertana mostly focused on what she saw as “points of convergence” within the climate discourse between candidates. Bertana noted that candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden had a very “international outlook” on climate change — meaning that both candidates understood multiple nations must be involved in solving the climate crisis.
Bertana also noted that all of the Democratic presidential candidates support the Green New Deal, a pro-environmental legislation promoted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Sen. Sanders of Vermont. Overall, she concluded that mostly all of the presidential candidates agreed that the climate crisis is dire and requires urgent action.
Afterward, Fried joined the talk via video chat to speak about health care. She noted that, while presidential hopefuls Sens. Sanders and Warren have publicly supported a single-payer public healthcare plan, it is still very unpopular.
“The public is not sold, at least not right now, on a Medicare for all plan,” Fried commented.
However, Fried did note that the Democratic presidential candidates still supported other progressive healthcare measures, such as reinstating and building upon the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
This event was certainly a timely one. As the first primary approaches in less than four months, it is crucial that voters are educated and aware of the policy stances taken by the candidates. By opening up dialogue, especially on a public university campus, students which currently make up the largest voting population have a much higher chance of casting an educated vote.