It’s hard to see any path forward now for Bernie Sanders and it’s basically inevitable that Joe Biden is going to be the presidential nominee. While Sanders supporters are freaking out that AOC is a turncoat because she said something nice about Elizabeth Warren’s Saturday Night Live sketch, Biden supporters at least understand that to win the Democratic Party primary, you have to win over Democrats. It’s all terrible but so it is. Nonetheless, Biden doesn’t seem to stand for….anything at all. And it shows. Bryce Covert points out one important piece of this–his lack of a childcare plan.
In her parting remarks to her staff this week, Elizabeth Warren took a moment to talk about the lasting mark her candidacy had left on the race. “You know, a year ago, people weren’t talking about a two-cent wealth tax, universal child care, canceling student loan debt for 43 million Americans while reducing the racial wealth gap or breaking up big tech,” she said. “And now they are.”
She’s right — particularly about child care. Ms. Warren led the pack by putting out a groundbreaking proposal for public child care last February; Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg eventually followed suit. Three candidates with universal child care plans may not sound like all that much — but consider that before this race, no major candidate running for the White House had mentioned universal child care since the 1970s. That three top-tier contenders had competing plans demonstrates that this issue is an increasingly salient one for American voters. Child care is also an increasingly dire crisis facing the country — one that demands an equally aggressive response.
Of course, two of those contenders have left the race; the Democratic primary has essentially narrowed to a two-man contest between Mr. Sanders and Joe Biden. But where is Mr. Biden’s plan for how to address the broken child care system American families face? Without one, he risks being out of step with this historic moment.
Covert goes on to review the history of how we almost had a federal child care bill until Nixon vetoed it after Phyllis Schlafly and Pat Buchanan said it would destroy the American family and then it disappeared even from the liberal radar for a half-century. But now it is back except for Joe Biden.
This is a vast, complicated crisis that is dampening our entire economy. It makes sense for presidential hopefuls to put forward ideas that are bold enough to match the stakes.
But so far, although Mr. Biden has supported universal preschool in the past, he has been more or less silent on what parents of younger children should do. And while today he supports an increased child tax credit that can help families cover the cost, he wrote an op-ed article in 1981 arguing that the credit subsidizes the “deterioration of the family” and “encourages a couple” to “evade full responsibility for their children” by helping them put those children in day care. The article argued against any universal government child care assistance because it would go to well-to-do families, but it also repeated language from Republicans who fearmongered about child care.
The best way for Mr. Biden to disavow any antiquated positions and to assure voters that he is in tune with their most pressing needs would be to release his own universal child care plan. He doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel; he can simply look back at our own history and take inspiration from what we would have had if things had gone slightly differently.
Better late than never.
It’s true enough that any Democratic president isn’t going to be able to get a lot done legislatively so long as Mitch McConnell controls the Senate. Bernie probably would blow the chance by refusing to deal with the “shitlibs,” as his folloers call such massive sellouts as Elizabeth Warren. Meanwhile, Warren actually would have maximized her chances to accomplish quality legislation, whatever that might be. But Biden, it’s just unclear what he even wants to prioritize except for not being Donald Trump and for returning to the days where he could hang out with Jennings Randolph’s flaccid penis in the Senate locker room. For a majority of Democrats, that seems to be plenty. But it isn’t nearly enough and I hope and pray that Biden has good advisers around him who are actually do the things he evidently won’t, including pushing a child care plan.