The race to become the next president has been unprecedented in the history of American politics. It’s chaotic; it’s overcrowded; it’s confusing. But it’s also an exciting time in our country, with candidates proposing bold initiatives asking us to rethink the very foundations of our society. Are we ready for guaranteed healthcare? Paid parental leave? Subsidized childcare for all? To help you sort out how those questions will affect working parents in the years to come, Working Mother asked the candidates for their positions on a host of issues. Here’s who they are, how they answered, and who’s worth parents’ contributions and votes.
Working Mother editors and the Working Mother Research Institute joined forces to create a questionnaire that solicited candidates’ positions on issues that matter to working parents. Their answers were scored based on how much of a positive impact enacting new or changing existing policies would make on working parents’ lives.
The seven candidates profiled below, appearing in alphabetical order, earned scores high enough to make our index.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
No word on whether the handsome senator from New Jersey and his glam girlfriend, actress and mom of one, Rosario Dawson, are planning to welcome children together anytime soon. But Booker has offered up one of the more-innovative ideas among the candidates when it comes to evening out the economic inequalities facing kids in America today: Baby Bonds.
In Booker’s proposal, every child born in the United States would be given $1,000 in an interest-bearing account managed by the U.S. government. Each year, the government would add up to $2,000. Poor children would receive the maximum, while well-off children would receive less. By the time they are 18, the poorest children would have almost $50,000 in their account. Not a bad way to start adulthood. For Booker, the bond is a way to channel help to disadvantaged communities such as Newark, New Jersey, where he once served as mayor, until more-sweeping changes, including reparations for slaves’ descendants, come through. As he says: “I’m not going to wait. My community urgently needs a change now.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
Until she became a mom, Klobuchar was just your average corporate lawyer representing business as usual. But when the hospital where she gave birth insisted she leave within 24 hours, despite the fact that her child was unable to swallow, an activist was born. Through her efforts Minnesota became one of the first states to guarantee new mothers a 48-hour hospital stay. Eventually, President Clinton made it a federal mandate. Pretty good for your first time out.
Raised mostly by her mother, a school-teacher, while her dad worked out his battles with alcohol, healthcare reform is a pillar of her campaign. But, pragmatist that she is, she believes in tweaking, rather than overhauling, Obamacare, enhancing it and attaching a public option. She has also pledged to prioritize mental health by expanding access to treatment, upping the number of available hospital beds, launching a national suicide-prevention program and instituting early-intervention programs in schools.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.)
The longtime senator’s first job out of college was as a teacher for Head Start, the federally funded childcare program, where he saw firsthand how early, quality intervention in a child’s life can have a lasting impact on their future. Never one to mince words, the democratic socialist and grandfather to seven has called our current childcare system an “unmitigated disaster.” “We are still operating like we were in the 1950s, when Dad went to work and Mom stayed home with the kids. That is not the reality anymore.”
With his staunch support for universal healthcare, fixing income equality, and admiration for the Nordic model of parental benefits, Sanders has undoubtedly pulled the debate among Democrats further to the left.
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio)
The Rust Belt native has spent the past 17 years in Congress, rallying around workers’ rights, education reform and gun control.
Married to an elementary school teacher, the father of three is focused on improving the education system. His key proposal: investing $50 billion to put every public school in the country on the path to becoming a public community school, like LeBron James’ I Promise School, located in Ryan’s district. It provides students with meals, social services, before-and after-school enrichment, and supports programs such as housing assistance and healthcare. He’s also a co-sponsor of the proposed Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, Universal Childcare and Early Learning Act, Protecting LGBTQ Youth Act, and Child Care for Working Families Act, to name a few.
Former Pennsylvania congressman and three-star Admiral Joe Sestak joined the presidential race late for good reason. His only child, 14-year-old Alex, was battling a second occurrence of brain cancer 10 years after her first. Before throwing his hat in the ring, Sestak waited to make sure she was in remission. Watching the care his daughter received through the Veterans Health Administration convinced Sestak that a national healthcare system modeled on the VHA is America’s best hope for quality, affordable healthcare.
In addition, he has pledged to pave the way for Americans to legally buy their prescription drugs from Canada. In a further nod to his military background, Sestak supports an education program called Training for a Lifetime, in which the government would continually train people for new careers throughout their working life.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
By now, most of us have heard the story of Aunt Bee. As a young mother trying to hold down a full- time job teaching law, Elizabeth Warren tearfully told her Aunt Bee that she was so overwhelmed, she was thinking about quitting her job. A week later, Aunt Bee arrived with seven suitcases and a Pekingese dog. She stayed for 16 years. Wouldn’t it be nice if all working moms had an Aunt Bee in their lives?
From the beginning, Warren has been the candidate to beat, with the most detailed and comprehensive plan for addressing the childcare problem (or, as she has put it, “the boulder that almost crushed me”). In her Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act, the federal government would scale up existing Head Start childhood centers so all families, regardless of income, would receive subsidized childcare. Poor families would benefit the most, but even middle-class families’ childcare costs would decline by 17 percent to less than $6,000 a year, according to a Moody’s analysis. Under her plan, childcare would become an entitlement, like social security, paid for with a 2 percent tax on households with a net worth over $50 million.
By any measure, spiritual guru Marianne Williamson—a bestselling author and mom of one grown daughter—is the dark horse in this race. Her unconventionality charms some and enrages others. One thing is for sure: If all the candidates start to sound alike, you can be certain that Williamson won’t.
Case in point: Williamson has proposed creating a cabinet-level Department of Children and Youth. As she says: “The chronic trauma of millions of American children should be seen as a humanitarian crisis for them, and a moral crisis for our country. We should rescue them no differently than we would from any other disaster.”
The above might be an overstatement, but creating a department to address childhood issues such as infant mortality, homelessness, immigration and early education sounds like a winner. She’s certainly original!
The following Democratic candidates with active campaigns as of press time either didn’t respond to repeated requests to complete our survey:
- Sen. Michael Bennet
- Former Vice President
- Gov. Steve Bullock
- Former U.S. Sec.
- Mayor Bill de Blasio
- Former U.S. Rep.
John Delaney (D-Md.)
- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
- Andrew Yang
Where are the Republicans?
Bill Weld, one of three Republican challengers to President Donald Trump, did not respond to our repeated requests; the others, Joe Walsh and Mark Sanford, announced their candidacies as/after we went to press with the issue in which this story originally appeared. President Trump’s campaign would not complete our survey, but National Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany submitted a statement*: “President Trump has done more for working parents than any president in modern history… Female unemployment has hit a 65-year low, while the unemployment rate for black Americans and Hispanic Americans is at an all-time low.** Paychecks are growing at the fastest pace in a decade,*** and twice as fast for low- and middle-income Americans****… President Trump…became the first president to include nationwide paid family leave in his budget. As both a candidate and a nominee, [he] advocated for paid family leave from the debate stage and on the campaign trail… [He has] doubled the child tax credit, reskilled the American workforce, and put thousands back into the average American family’s paycheck through tax cuts and wage growth. On healthcare, because President Trump has rescinded onerous Obamacare restrictions and opened up the free market, prescription drug costs and the cost of exchange premiums are declining, while Americans have more healthcare choice to pursue plans that best fit their needs.”
This statement was condensed for space, clarity and accuracy.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: **The record-low unemployment rate for Hispanic Americans was 4.2 percent in April. It rose to 4.5 percent in July 2019.
***For rank-and-file production and nonsupervisory workers, real weekly earnings have gone up 2.7 percent so far under Trump as of June 2019, after rising 4.9 percent during Obama’s last four years in office.
****The average weekly earnings of all private-sector workers, adjusted to inflation, rose 2.5 percent during Trump’s first 29 months (ending in June 2019), after going up 3.9 percent during the previous four years.