Only two candidates – Marianne Williamson and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. – are challenging incumbent President Joe Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination, as opposed to nearly a dozen Republicans vying for their party’s spot.
As conservatism rises in America, with more voters taking conservative stances and stringent measures reflecting traditionalist ideals sweeping some state legislatures, all eyes are on how these three candidates would tackle such pressing issues.
A June 8 poll from Gallup found 38% of survey respondents said they are conservative on social issues, up from 33% in 2022. The 2022 overturn of Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed reproductive rights and slew of anti-LGBTQ+ bills in a number of states have undoubtedly contributed to the rise of right-wing ideals.
Regardless, social issues – namely abortion, immigration and LGBTQ+ rights – will likely dominate the discussion, as Williamson and Kennedy Jr. share starkly contrasted views on the matters.
All three candidates have been vocal on their stances, though Kennedy Jr.’s positions have some experts wondering if he’d fare better running in the GOP primary.
President Joe Biden
Biden’s commitment to the three decisive issues have been apparent throughout his political career.
Two weeks after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Biden signed executive orders to protect reproductive health services, including access to contraception and medication abortion. Despite his Catholic faith and personal views on the procedure, Biden has remained firm in his pro-choice stance and said he would veto any attempted national abortion ban.
One promise Biden has yet to fulfill, however, is the codification of Roe v. Wade. He pledged to petition legislators to do so last October, but said a month later there weren’t enough votes in Congress.
Biden has faced criticism of his immigration policies, namely the use of Title 42, an emergency health measure passed by former President Donald Trump at the start of the pandemic. Biden initially kept it in place but eventually tried to overturn it – to no avail after a number of legal challenges.
After Title 42 expired in May, the president announced its replacement would be Title 8, which was used prior to the pandemic and increases penalties for migrants who attempt to cross the border illegally.
Additionally, Biden’s border security budget, released March 9, included nearly $25 billion for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), $865 million for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and $4.7 billion to aid the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in “migration surges.”
At a Pride event in June, Biden condemned the Republican-backed legislation and referred to the measures as “civil rights violations.” He also called on Congress to advance the Equality Act, which would protect LGBTQ+ citizens from discrimination in the workplace, healthcare, housing and service industries.
The self-help author and spiritual advisor has thoroughly built out her campaign website, outlining how her administration would specifically tackle key issues. In regards to abortion and reproductive rights, Williamson is “one hundred percent pro choice.”
As president, Williamson’s administration would codify Roe v. Wade into law and appoint Supreme Court justices who acknowledge it “as the law of the land.” She would also restore and expand Planned Parenthood funding, create a federal program for contraception resources and expand funding for sexual education in schools, in addition to a number of other measures.
When it comes to immigration, Williamson’s administration would support sweeping reforms that include a “full path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who do not have serious criminal background issues.”
Williamson was vocal about her disdain for Trump-era immigration policies – calling familial separation at the border “state-sponsored crimes.” Her administration would immediately end the practice and work to locate displaced children and reunite them with their families.
She would also reduce the “record number” of DHS and ICE detainees. ICE would also be abolished and the administration would establish an Office of Citizenship, Refugees, and Immigration Services under the Department of Labor, according to her campaign website.
Williamson is also very vocal about her support of the LGBTQ+ community. “Every American deserves to live free from fear of discrimination, regardless of who they are and whom they love,” she said.
Her administration would back the Equality Act, create a LGBTQ+ portion in the census and declare transgender homicide and suicide rates as a national emergency.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
He reaffirmed his pro-choice stance in a June 23 townhall with WMUR-TV – but referred to every abortion procedure as “a tragedy.” Aside from that, little is known about his stances on reproductive rights. A campaign spokesperson told Newsweek that Kennedy Jr. “believes strongly in the principle of bodily autonomy, whether the issue is abortion or medical mandates.”
When it comes to immigration, his views on the issue are less clear-cut. “Is it possible to be pro-immigration AND pro closing the border? Yes,” he tweeted on May 3.
On Aug. 3, Kennedy Jr. unveiled his plans for immigration policy if elected alongside a 19-minute documentary on his visit to the Arizona-California border with Mexico. The foundation of his platform is intertwined with criticism of President Biden’s policies and emphasis of an “out of control” border.
If elected, his administration would implement technology to patrol the border and establish a “new kind of Good Neighbor policy,” though he did not go into detail of what the revised policy would entail. Kennedy Jr. would also appoint “hundreds more judges” to reduce asylum claim backlogs and collaborate with the Mexican government to “to stem the flow of transit migration” through the country.
Unlike his opponents, Kennedy Jr. has a confusing track record with LGBTQ+ rights that ultimately pose him as conservative on the matter. While he spoke up for marriage equality in 2011, Kennedy Jr. recently spoke out against transgender females participating in women’s sports.
Consistent with other conspiracy theories in his platform, he falsely claimed that the early years of the AIDS epidemic “were mainly because of poppers.” In a June podcast episode with Jordan Peterson, a known conservative media commentator, Kennedy Jr. claimed chemicals in water systems were causing “disruptions” in children’s gender and sexuality, a theory which has been debunked by numerous researchers.
The latest polls show Kennedy Jr. currently enjoys 15% support for the Democratic nomination, compared to nearly 64% for Biden.
Edited by: James Sutton