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On this slate, no simple platform for Democrats

Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

In 1992, Bill Clinton won the White House focused on a message so elegantly simple the slogan became campaign legend: It's the economy, stupid.

In this presidential race, it's a lot of things.

Abolishing the Electoral College. Ending the Senate filibuster. Refashioning the Supreme Court. Paying reparations for slavery.

A whole raft of issues that were little noted, if not wholly overlooked, in previous presidential campaigns have assumed a significant role in this early phase of the Democratic nominating contest, reflecting the party's leftward shift, the power of social media and, perhaps above all, a field of contenders the size of a small platoon.

"The pressure on all the candidates to figure out how to differentiate themselves from the other candidates is intense," said Anna Greenberg, a pollster working for former Colorado governor and presidential hopeful John Hickenlooper, one of more than 20 Democrats running or deciding whether to do so.

Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., launched his upstart campaign with a push to eliminate the Electoral College and was one of the first to propose expanding the Supreme Court from nine to 15 justices. He suggests five members appointed by a Democratic president, five by a Republican president and the remainder coming from the appellate bench, subject to unanimous consent from the 10 other justices.

 

Other Democratic hopefuls, including Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, have said they are open to both ideas.

"Every vote matters, and the way we can make that happen is ... get rid of the Electoral College," Warren said, amplifying the issue by pitching it during a recent CNN town hall.

Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker have discussed the issue of reparations, which has largely been consigned to academic and theoretical debate, in the context of their broader proposals to help the poor.

Several rival candidates, including Buttigieg, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, have said they too support ways of compensating victims of systemic racism.

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