However, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also has a plan. It would back up Roe with a federal statute securing abortion rights, enact measures such as the Women’s Health Protection Act with “the mechanism to block these kinds of schemes concocted to deny women access to care” and “repealing the Hyde Amendment, which blocks abortion coverage for women under federally funded health care programs like Medicaid, the VA, and the Indian Health Service.” She’d also “undo the current Administration’s efforts to undermine women’s access to reproductive health care — including ending Trump’s gag rule and fully support Title X family planning funding.”
Beto O’Rourke has a plan. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), now out of the race, had a plan as well. Former vice president Joe Biden, previously in favor of retaining the Hyde Amendment, shifted once it became clear that he’d become the target of women’s groups.
The same thing has happened on climate change. Biden has a plan. Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington had a widely admired plan, so admired in fact that both Warren and Harris based their plans on it. O’Rourke has a plan. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg has a plan. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has a plan.
A few things are going on here.
First, more than a desire to catch up to Warren, the empress of plans, these candidates are responding to advocacy groups that have begun to say it’s not good enough to say “I’m pro-choice” or “I’m pro-Green New Deal.” These groups want specifics, and offer help to candidates developing plans with specifics. (No candidate is going to go to the trouble of having her policy team draft a complicated policy document without getting buy-in from the relevant groups.) That process, policy advocates hope, will not only lock in candidates to act on the plans when elected but also will serve during the campaign to publicize their policy agenda.
Second, because the candidates talk to the same interest groups and, as was the case with Inslee’s green energy plan, may work off the same documents, the plans aren’t that different. Frankly, the difference between a $5 trillion plan and a $10 trillion plan is immaterial when the actual budget will be set by Congress; the numbers are meant to convey conviction.
Third, candidates know that voters do not read these plans. The plans are there for policy aficionados and policy-motivated donors. Voters who care about abortion rights generally want to know a candidate has a pro-choice plan and know that women’s groups have given the stamp of approval. The notion that anyone is going to change his or her vote because of bullet point No. 16 on someone’s plan (or another candidate’s failure to include bullet point No. 16) is ridiculous.
Finally, these same-looking plans should cast doubt on the notion that there is a major divide in the party between center-left and far-left candidates (with the notable exception of health care). These are all progressive candidates who are serious about progressive issues (abortion rights, education, the environment, criminal-justice reform). The race then is less about the details than about the candidates’ perceived dedication to causes and, outweighing all other considerations, the candidates’ perceived electability.
One thing every Democratic contender agrees upon is that unless President Trump is ousted, progress on any of these issues is impossible and regression is inevitable. They’ve got that right.