Home Election 2020 The Counter Opinion: Analyzing more Democratic presidential candidates

The Counter Opinion: Analyzing more Democratic presidential candidates

19 min read

The number of people running for President is greater than ever before in modern history, but that hasn’t dissuaded our opinion writers from analyzing their platforms. This piece focuses on Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

Contributing in this week’s counter opinion are Charlotte Caldwell, a freshman journalism major, Maddie Kramer, a sophomore political science major, and Tim Zelina, a junior journalism major. 



Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Charlotte: Bernie Sanders is currently the early frontrunner for the Democratic nomination and has a strong, unwavering base that has followed him from the 2016 election, similar to the base that elected Donald Trump. Also similar to Donald Trump is the fact that he hasn’t released his tax returns.

Victoria Defrancesco, an MSNBC contributor, put it best when she said, “you can’t throw rocks from a glass house” — meaning that Sanders shouldn’t be criticizing the President about releasing his returns when he hasn’t done so yet. It has also been speculated that he is worried about releasing them because he will be labeled as a rich white man, which is just the thing his platform is trying to tear down.

Sanders being the frontrunner of the Democratic Party might mean that the party is headed in a new direction that was considered radical a couple of years ago. If this is the case, then other voters outside of his diehard fan base might decide his views are becoming more and more reasonable, especially in the wake of the Trump administration. Many may not even care about his financial status if it means getting Trump out of office. Sanders may be popular among democratic millennials. His intentions are good, but others aren’t yet sure if socialism is right for this country.

Maddie: Bernie was an invigorating and fresh figure in 2016. His call for a $15 minimum wage, free college tuition, and campaign finance reform shook young voters to the core. This 74-year-old white Jewish man who called himself a democratic socalist was running for president of the United States. It was different, and voters were excited about it.

However, following his primary loss to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s election, Bernie seemed to lose some steam. The primary itself was a controversy, as there were rumors that the Democratic National Committee conspired against him. Although it is only April, this primary has a much different tone than that of 2016.

This being said, there are many young political upstarts who are seeking the Oval Office. It is important to get new, young ideas in elected office. Bernie has done important work during his time as an elected official, the most notable being his advocacy regarding civil rights that started during his time as a student. It is important that his legacy does not go down as the old man who kept running for president.

Tim: Bernie is a conflicting figure in this primary. On one hand, I supported Sen. Sanders from day one of his 2016 campaign, and my vote for him in the Ohio primary was the first vote I ever cast. I deeply respect Sanders’ commitment to empowering unions and dismantling money’s influence in politics. The disintegration of unions and the proliferation of dark money has deeply diluted the average American’s political power, endangering the health of our democracy. We need a pro-union, anti-capitalist politician in the White House.

It’s possible, however, that Sanders may not be the one to carry this mantle. He is a deeply divisive figure in the Democratic Party, due to his damaging candidacy against Hillary Clinton. His age is also a major issue: at 77 years old, it’s unlikely he could stand for re-election in 2024 should he win.

Furthermore, while Sanders is a fantastic messenger for progressive politics, he lacks depths in key areas, particularly foreign policy. Sanders went the entire 2016 primary almost never addressing any area of foreign policy. I want to know where my President stands on global issues as much as domestic ones, and Sanders needs to start talking about where he will stand.

I wanted Bernie to win in 2016, and I want him to win now, but I’m worried that his time has passed. He’s still one of my top choices, but I’m keeping my eyes open for alternatives.


Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX)

Charlotte: Beto O’Rourke narrowly lost to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the last election, which is impressive for anyone going up against an incumbent. However, he has seen little movement in the polls and needs to work hard to expand his base to people other than Texans.

O’Rourke’s views are a little more left-leaning than those of some of the other candidates — like ensuring income equality for all, investing in our ports of entry for national security instead of walls and militarization of the border, and universal healthcare. These views are also shared by Democratic frontrunner Bernie Sanders, who is much more well known and has a stronger support system than O’Rourke.

O’Rourke has quality democratic views, but he is no match against more well-known candidates. While all hope is not completely lost for O’Rourke’s campaign, he is definitely not the voters’ first choice for president-elect and will have to do things that no other candidate is doing to get ahead of the pack.

Maddie: Beto O’Rourke went from a Texan congressman to a Blue Wave hopeful when he ran against incumbent senator Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterms. This propelled O’Rourke to become a common household name for Democrats. Although he lost the midterm election by a narrow 3% margin, his name stuck in Democrats’ heads for 2020.

However, Beto has caused some problems for himself, as he got into some legal trouble as a young adult. O’Rourke’s mugshot was released during his senate race and gained some steam on social media. He has lost many followers because of his DWI and burglary charges in the late 1990s. This, along with strange behavior at campaign stops, causing many Democrats to look over him.

The problem with O’Rourke’s campaign presence so far is that he is very ambiguous outside of the fact that he is from Texas and ran against Cruz. Many average Democrats do not know what his policy stances are, other than that of an average Democrat. While many were excited for his possible campaign, it seems disappointing.

Tim: Beto O’Rourke’s rock-star campaign against Ted Cruz in 2019 catapulted him to national fame. The former three-term congressman sought to capitalize on his unlikely fame by launching a bid to take the White House.

Unfortunately, Beto has only embarrassed himself on the campaign trail. His youthful hijinks, like standing on counters, come across as more bizarre and awkward than they do relatable. Worse, Beto has focused his campaign on pretty generalities, talking about the beauty of liberalism and American progress without really expanding on what that means.

Beto has real potential as a candidate, but only if he takes a real stand on the issues and cuts the ‘cool dad’ shtick. He’s running for president, not band club president, and he needs to treat the position with the seriousness it deserves.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

Charlotte: Kirsten Gillibrand’s platform seems to revolve around families and the issues they face. When you look at her Senate website, there is a separate section dedicated to “supporting our families.” While a Senator, she introduced the FAMILY Act, which would create a national paid leave program for all American workers. She is also dedicated to education, including policies like creating a universal pre-K.

Unlike some Democrats, Gillibrand doesn’t push for a free, universal college education, but one that reduces student debt. She supports an act that lets students refinance their loans, reducing loan interest rates by almost 3%. This act would be more realistic than trying to offer every young American a free education.

Gillibrand’s policies are different than the other candidates because she is talking about issues that the other candidates aren’t really focused on. These issues could be appealing to many American families who are struggling to make ends meet, or to any voter who wants a more moderate candidate.

Maddie: To a voter researching Gillibrand, it appears that she is very policy focused and advocacy based. The New York senator and former representative’s work primarily features social issues. While GIllibrand holds typical Democrat values, her policy work centers on family and gender issues.

A big issue Gillibrand tackles is paid family leave. This is an important issue to voters with families, as around 75% of women in the labor force work full time with children under 18. Gillibrand has called for 12 weeks of paid family leave in her platform, and has introduced bills regarding paid family leave every year she has served in office since 2013.

Gillibrand also made headlines in 2018 when calling for Senator Al Franken’s removal from the senate in result of sexual assault allegations made against him. Her advocacy work reflects her dedication to the #MeToo movement and other women’s rights issues, such as sexual assault in the military.

Kristen Gillibrand is a candidate who has very refined, but still important, work. Her platform does include typical information regarding Medicare for all and campaign finance reform, however, her work with family and gender issues speaks for itself. It is refreshing to see a candidate talking about these issues, but it is important to have a more well rounded candidate.

Tim: Gillibrand was a name floated around a lot as a potential contender, but her candidacy has failed to gain much traction. She’s virtually unknown across the country, and doesn’t even poll well in her home state.

Gillibrand has more than poor polling to deal with. She also has real credibility issues. In her time as congresswoman in New York, Gillibrand was among the most conservative of Democrats. When she was appointed to fill the senate seat of Hillary Clinton, who herself had been appointed to Secretary of State, she transformed into one of the most liberal senators. This lack of consistency might bother some voters.

Gillibrand has, however, worked like no other to address the sexual assault crisis. Most strikingly, she commented that Bill Clinton should have resigned due to his sexual harassment scandals. Some saw this as backstabbing to a man whose wife was key in Gillibrand’s appointment to the senate, but we should praise this demonstration of morality over loyalty, not condemn it as opportunism.


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