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“Elizabeth Warren has a plan for that.”
This is the rallying cry that has fueled Sen. Warren’s (D-Mass.) surge in the polls. You can find “Warren Has A Plan For That” shirts for sale in her store. Journalists eagerly used the phrase in their headlines.
And of course, Warren’s Twitter supporters have had a lot of fun with it.
I just saw a str8 couple k*ss in West Hollywood and I KNOW Elizabeth Warren has a plan for that— Sam Stryker (@sbstryker) September 21, 2019
Sex is great but have you ever heard Elizabeth Warren say, “I have a plan for that?”— Ellen O'Connell Whittet (@oconnellwhittet) June 27, 2019
But, are there actually any issues that Warren has a plan for and other candidates don’t?
If by plan we mean a concrete set of proposals and policy goals, most of the major candidates have released plans on the major issues at this point in the contest. There are certainly issues that some candidates have focused on more than others, but almost every candidate has policies out there.
So are there really issues that justify the perception that Elizabeth Warren has plans and the other candidates don’t?
Or is “has a plan” just a brand?
Healthcare is the big one this election cycle, and all the candidates have a plan for that. Even Beto O’Rourke and Joe Biden, who tried their best not to, have a plan for this one. The Democratic field runs the gamut from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) single-payer plan to Biden’s proposal to more or less maintain the Affordable Care Act with the addition of a public option.
At Jacobin, Tim Higginbottom has carefully followed Warren’s movement on the issue. To date, she supports something between Sanders’ plan and the rest of the field. The role of private insurance, co-pays, and premiums under Warren’s plan remains unclear.
On this issue, a number of candidates have a concrete plan for that. Except Kamala.
Thanks to the dedicated activism of groups like the Sunrise Movement and the viral fame of Greta Thunberg yelling at the world’s adults, everyone seems to have a plan for that when it comes to climate.
Data for Progress maintains a scorecard that keeps track of candidate commitment to the various principles of the Green New Deal. Every candidate has at least made some commitments on climate.
While it is fair to say that more moderate candidates like John Delaney (who has a 7 out of 48 according to their metrics) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) (21 out of 48) have less expansive plans, Warren ranks behind Bernie Sanders, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and even Tom Steyer by their rubric.
Even if John Delaney’s plan includes a “climate corps,” which would “provide opportunities for recent high school graduates to … support communities transition to a green economy,” he does technically have a plan for that.
Elizabeth Warren takes a cautiously hawkish international stance on her 2020 campaign site, where she says, “A strong military should act as a deterrent so that most of the time, we won’t have to use it.” This echoes her detailed essay published earlier this year at Foreign Affairs.
A number of candidates have equally detailed plans on foreign policy. Some, like Sanders and Marianne Williamson, are more dovish. Williamson has a plan to create a “Department of Peace.”
Pete Buttigieg who, as a veteran and former consultant, likes to brandish his foreign policy bonafides, has outlined his foreign policy in greater detail than Warren.
Here, more aggressive foreign policy minds have the advantage because, well, they would do more stuff. In June, Mayor Pete gave a comprehensive foreign policy speech detailing a number of major international priorities.
Warren may well have the most expansive gun control plan of any of the candidates. Her lengthy proposal calls for a variety of changes to the way guns function in America, including requiring background checks, revoking licenses of gun dealers who break the rules, and closing the “boyfriend loophole.”
A number of other candidates including Beto O’Rourke have detailed and ambitious plans on gun control. Some of the changes O’Rourke calls for include universal background checks, an assault weapons ban, and making gun trafficking a federal crime.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), who dropped out of the race, was only in the race in the first place because he had a plan for that.
Financial regulation and accountability are cornerstones of Warren’s candidacy, as the creator of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Warren has called for a wealth tax, increased regulation of Wall Street, a tax on real corporate profits, and to crack down on private equity.
Of course, Sanders has introduced many comparable proposals, including a wealth tax, fair banking, and the elimination of student and medical debt. Even bank-loving Joe Biden is reportedly considering a wealth tax.
There are different mechanisms in each sweeping economic proposal. While there is room to debate Warren’s regulatory approach versus Sanders’ anti-capitalist agenda, but they are both plans. For that.
Ending Washington corruption
On her site, Warren lays out a fairly expansive plan to end corruption as one of her key plans. This section serves as an umbrella to criticize tax giveaways to the rich, foreign influence in Washington, self-dealing cabinet members, the power of lobbying, and other Beltway excesses
A number of candidates have similar criticisms. Andrew Yang, one candidate who absolutely has a number policy positions no other candidate holds, is just one example. Yang has proposals like “Prevent Corruption in the Federal Government,” “Campaign Finance Reform,” and “12-year Congressional Term Limits.”
No one else has plans for that.
Those are the big ones. Let’s dig into the plans that don’t get talked about on the debate stage to see if there is anything where Warren is truly the only one with “a plan for that.”
One of the more robust infrastructure investments proposed by Warren is her “plan to invest in Rural America,” released in early August. Sanders announced an equally robust plan in three months earlier.
Klobuchar also has an interesting and expansive plan for rural America, which includes very specific proposals like strengthening the animal vaccine bank, expanding rural hospitals, and improving soil health.
Here again, Warren is joined by a number of other candidates by articulating a plan to expand indigenous rights.
In July, Julián Castro became the first candidate in the field to put out a comprehensive plan on the subject. The former HUD secretary’s proposal includes a number of compelling strategies for strengthening tribal sovereignty, honoring treaty commitments, and ensuring the survival of indigenous cultures and languages.
Ending private prisons
Again, here, Warren has an impressive and comprehensive plan that calls for raising billions to combat bad actors and care for impacted communities. Numerous candidates have put forth a plan on the opioid crisis, though only a handful, including Warren, support measures like needle exchanges and supervised consumption sites.
Like Warren, the recently bowed out Bill de Blasio explicitly backed safe sites where people can use drugs under medical supervision.
De Blasio, of course, did not have a plan for staying in the race. Warren has him there.
Warren and Sanders lead the way on this issue, though most of the candidates have proposals involving public land use rolled into their climate plans. A number of candidates also have proposals for protecting national parks and monuments, particularly in the wake of President Donald Trump’s concerted efforts to shrink protected lands.
Debt relief for Puerto Rico
Candidates like Cory Booker and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) have supported debt relief measures, while Warren and Sanders have released comprehensive plans around the issue.
Universal child care
Believe it or not, even Amy Klobuchar has a plan for that!
Warren calls her trade policy, “economic patriotism.” This new phrase is more or less a form of protectionism, a trade approach favored by most labor-backed candidates, as is the case in this contest. Trade is complicated, but it is useful to broadly define trade approaches as “free trade” or “protectionist.” This is a contrast Warren herself makes on her site.
Both traditions are long. William McKinley once had a plan for that.
The one issue where only Warren has a plan
After looking at the nearly 50 plans highlighted on her website, we only found one that we could definitively say that she is the only one with a plan for that, and it is…
Breaking up Big Tech
Here is the one issue on which Warren is the only candidate to put forth a plan on the issue. You could argue that other candidates would pursue this by virtue of their other proposals, but Warren is the only candidate with a concrete proposal to break up big tech.
Both Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Bernie Sanders have expressed their support, but Warren is the only one with a plan for that.
So, if you’re a single-issue voter and that issue is breaking up tech conglomerates, Elizabeth Warren has a plan for that.
Disclosure: Brenden Gallagher supports Bernie Sanders for president
Brenden Gallagher is a politics reporter and cultural commentator. His work has been published by Motherboard, Complex, and VH1. He’s the co-founder of Beer Money Films, an indie production company. Based in Los Angeles, he works in television drama as a writers assistant.