The next president should have a plan to address racial inequities, dismantle structural racism and work meaningfully with our communities to push for racial justice.

The 2020 Racial Justice Presidential Candidate Scorecard summarizes the presidential candidates’ policy proposals through a racial equity lens across key areas including criminal justice reform, education, health care, voting rights, reparations, environmental justice, immigration, indigenous rights, and policies to close the racial wealth gap. We are offering this scorecard to elevate racial equity in the candidate selection process and to help voters who care about racial justice make an informed decision in 2020.

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Scoring

We scored candidates on a 0-10 scale in 10 policy categories. Candidates received points based on the amount of detail in their policy proposals, their on-record support of policies that will further racial equity, and the language they have used in debates and at public events.

Candidates were scored on the following topics:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Voting Rights
  • Racial Wealth Gap/ Housing
  • Indigenous Rights
  • Immigration
  • Environmental Justice
  • Health/ Reproductive Justice
  • Education Equity
  • Reparations
  • Record/ Rhetoric

For more information on the 2020 Racial Justice Presidential Candidate Scorecard, check out the candidate score details and methodology documents and the advocate toolkit. 

Review

Our scorecard underwent a rigorous external review process to ensure that we were scoring candidates fairly and on the right issues. Special thanks to our partners and external reviewers for their critical feedback and review of the scorecard.

Partners

The 2020 Racial Justice Presidential Scorecard was produced by the Center for Urban and Racial Equity, llc, a social change research and consulting collaborative. As racial equity practitioners, we are committed to sharing our skills, resources and revenues through nonprofit activities that elevate racial justice issues and build power with communities of color.

No outside financial assistance or sponsorship was used to produce this resource. We have no financial interests or interests in promoting a specific candidate. Our only agenda is racial justice.

© 2019 Center for Urban and Racial Equity |  Privacy Policy |  Contact Us 

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Elizabeth Warren

Despite the controversy surrounding her claims of Cherokee ancestry, Senator Warren has since emerged as a strong candidate on numerous racial justice issues including Indigenous rights. Warren has proposed the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act which addresses underfunding and barriers to sovereignty in Indigenous communities. Warren’s plan calls for investing in a loan repayment program for rural and Indigenous health professionals. Her plan would meaningfully invest in the education of Native American kids from birth through college. She supports Native Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to fill the gaps in access to capital. She supports the Native American Voting Rights Act which pushes for language justice within Indigenous communities and she acknowledges that shifting the nation’s relationship with Indigenous communities “will require structural change.” Senator Warren has proposed $50 billion in aid to HBCUs. She wants to increase teacher pay and work with HBCUs, non-profit minority serving institutions, and Bureau of Indian Education grantees to increase teacher diversity. She wants to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act. Warren has a set of executive actions to “boost wages for women of color and open up new pathways to the leadership positions they deserve.” She has proposed a $400 billion research fund to look into place-based interventions specifically targeting the communities that need it most. She has plans to address the racial disparities in maternal mortality and she is a co-sponsor of the Affordability is Access Act, which pushes for low-cost access to over-the-counter birth control. She has pledged to accept 6 to 8 times the number of refugees as the Trump administration which would translate to over 200,000. Warren could improve her scores by solidifying her voting rights and immigration platforms.

Bernie Sanders

Senator Sanders has historically led on a few issues with implications for racial equity. He introduced the Medicare for All Act in the Senate. Under Sanders’ Medicare for All the Department of Health and Human Services would be required to conduct an evaluation of health disparities, including racial and geographic disparities, and to submit a plan to Congress for addressing the disparities found in the evaluation. He is the only candidate calling for all people with felony convictions to be allowed to vote while in prison. Sanders has been a leader in pushing for a $15 minimum wage and other labor policies that will promote racial equity.  He has said he wants to remove the profit motive from our criminal justice re-entry system. Senator Sanders wants to move the U.S. away from a relationship of paternalism and control of Indigenous communities towards one of deference and support. His website acknowledges that redlining still exists and says he will work to end redlining practices and other forms of housing and lending discrimination. Sanders co-sponsored the Protect Access to Birth Control Act, which aims to repeal many of Trump’s birth control rules. Sanders has put forth the Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education which seeks to combat racial discrimination and school segregation and provide equitable funding for public schools. While slower to express his support than other candidates, Sanders has said he would sign the bill to study reparations if elected president. Some have looked to Sanders’ role at the University of Chicago chapter of the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) and other Civil Rights era protests that he participated in as an example of his historical support for racial justice. In contrast, others have critiqued him for focusing on class or economic inequality while lacking an analysis on race and racism. He has for example, after the 2016 election, suggested that Democrats should move away from ‘identity politics’ and has struggled at times to articulate an understanding of the issues at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement. Sanders could improve his score by developing policies that build wealth in communities of color, leading on immigration, and clarifying his voting rights platform.  

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor Buttigieg’s Douglass Plan sticks out as one of the strongest comprehensive plans for racial justice in this campaign. Buttigieg says the plan would be enacted alongside direct reparations for slavery, not in place of it. The plan’s stated mission includes “reforming broken criminal justice and health systems, strengthening access to credit and injecting capital into the Black community, and taking bold steps toward fulfilling long-broken promises of true equity.” Buttigieg’s Douglass plan states that he will prioritize funding for programs aimed at pretrial reforms, decarceration, and expansion of alternative to incarceration programs. The Douglass Plan proposes a 21st Century Voting Rights Act that offers to protect the right to vote by using the full power of the federal government to combat voter suppression. Buttigieg’s Homeownership Fund, Walker Lewis Entrepreneurship Fund, high contracting goals, and ‘super credits’ would help to build wealth in communities of color. Buttigieg’s Douglass Plan would revitalize the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services and would help agencies explicitly consider the racial impact in their regulatory decisions and rule-making. His plan promises to designate and fund Health Equity Zones to address the most pressing health disparities. Buttigieg would invest $50 billion with HBCUs and other non-profit MSIs. He has plans to promote greater teacher diversity through methods including strengthening the Every Student Succeeds Act and implementing new guidelines around the use of Title II. Buttigieg’s campaign has been widely criticized for a misleading rollout of the Douglass Plan that falsely claimed that hundreds of Black leaders in South Carolina backed the plan. Many have also criticized Buttigieg’s handling of police shootings as well as a lack of investment in economic development in communities of color during Buttigieg’s tenure as mayor of South Bend. Buttigieg has struggled to gain the support of many in the African American community despite his Douglass Plan. He could improve his score by strengthening his immigration proposals, more fully examining racial disparities in criminal sentencing, and considering universal pre-k or universal childcare. 

Amy Klobuchar

Senator Klobuchar introduced the SAVE VOTERS Act to protect the constitutional rights of Americans from voter purges. She authored a report which found voter ID laws to be a significant barrier to voting for older Americans. Klobuchar co-sponsored the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would repeal state restrictions on abortion access. Her education plans call for investment in HBCUs and other  minority serving institutions through a new Pathways to Student Success initiative. Senator Klobuchar has not released a formal immigration proposal. Klobuchar’s policing platform unfortunately is in line with the 1994 crime bill. As a prosecutor, she did not press charges in more than two dozen cases where people were killed by police. Her office regularly went after low-level offenses like vandalism and pushed for long prison sentences. This disproportionately harmed people of color. Klobuchar could improve her score by supporting repealing Section 1325, rethinking her policing policy platform and providing some clarity to her criminal justice plans, developing policies that will build wealth in communities of color, explaining how she is going to prevent toxins from harming black and brown communities, and better addressing the health needs of people of color. 

Tom Steyer

Steyer’s 5 rights campaign speaks to policies designed to advance health equity, voting rights, environmental justice, education equity, and labor policy. He has stated that he would take executive action to reinstate DACA. His Climate Smart Transformation plan will work to ensure that every American has access to safe and clean drinking water by 2030. It calls for $130 billion for residential water systems, irrigation systems, and water efficiency and monitoring systems and $75 billion for upstream watersheds, groundwater, and green infrastructure. Steyer does not have a specific plan to lower prescription drug prices. Steyer has not spoken out on the issue of Indigenous rights or put forth policy proposals for working with Native American communities. Steyer also has not put forth a housing policy platform. He has released a good jobs creation plan as part of his justice-centered climate proposal. However, the plan is very short on details. He does not have specific plans for HBCUs or teacher diversity. He mildy supports policies that will help K-12 students of color. Steyer could improve his score by working to strengthen his policy plans outside of the 5 rights campaign especially in the areas of Indigenous rights and housing. He could improve his scores by building race and racial inequity more explicitly into all policy proposals. 

Joe Biden

Former Vice President Biden has proposed strong plans for students of color, including student loan forgiveness and making community colleges tuition-free. His education plan would create universal pre-k, support teacher diversity, and “invest in our schools to eliminate the funding gap between white and non-white districts, and rich and poor districts.” However, his plans for HBCUs and other non-profit minority serving institutions are a bit vague. Biden has not yet endorsed HR 40 or articulated support for reparations. Vice President Biden’s criminal justice platform states that he intends on decriminalizing marijuana, however, he supports reclassifying it from a Schedule I to Schedule II drug, which advocates argue is insufficient for addressing the federal-state conflicts in marijuana laws. Biden has not offered a detailed immigration plan. His website does not mention ICE and he has not taken a firm stand on reforming or abolishing the agency. Biden seemed confused by the idea of decriminalization of immigration during the September debate. He also has not released a policy plan for Indigenous communities. Many of Biden’s health care plans do not go far enough in addressing the needs of communities of color. This includes his support for a public option that preserves the existing private health insurance system rather than Medicare for All and his support for following the same blueprint as the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative to address maternal mortality among black women. Unlike most other Democratic candidates, Biden has not taken a position on the Climate Equity Act. Biden was a leader in promoting the War on Drugs and mass incarceration. His civility comments about segregationist senators, stance against school busing, and other questionable comments on race show a misunderstanding of what is needed in the current moment to achieve racial equity. Most of Biden’s plan do not explicitly mention race or racial inequity. The former VP could improve his score by coming out more strongly against ICE, working to repeal Section 1325, recommitting to marijuana legalization, developing policies for Indigenous communities, strengthening his votings rights platform, developing stronger policies to build wealth in communities of color, taking a stand in support of the Climate Equity Act, and strengthening his support for HBCUs, other non-profit MSIs, and reparations.  

Tulsi Gabbard

Representative Gabbard has not released very many policy plans which makes it difficult to discern her real commitment to racial justice. Gabbard has previously supported the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act which aimed to decriminalize marijuana. She has co-sponsored the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed, Safely Transitioning Every Person (FIRST STEP) Act, which authorized $75 million per year for five years to develop new education, vocational training, and mental health counseling programs for former prisoners. Gabbard has cosponsored and supported anti-discrimination legislation including the Fair and Equal Housing Act, Freedom from Discrimination in Credit Act, Juror Non-Discrimination Act, Student Non-Discrimination Act, Safe Schools Improvement Act, Do No Harm Act, and the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act. She has supported the National Nurses Act, which aimed to improve health literacy, decrease health disparities, and increase outreach and education. Gabbard correctly voted against the Native Hawaiian Education Act which sought to cut funding for public schools and target programs for children of color. Gabbard is a cosponsor of HR 40 which would create a commission to study reparations. Gabbard has spoken out about the need to address America’s history of “broken treaties and broken promises” but she has not released a formal policy for working with Indigenous communities. In 2015, she voted in favor of the Security Against Foreign Enemies Act designed to make it harder for Syrian and Iraqi refugees to enter the U.S. Gabbard could improve her score significantly by releasing plans for working with Indigenous communities, strengthening her immigration proposals especially around refugees,  and in general providing more plans and more clarity on exactly what a Gabbard presidency would do to advance racial equity.

Andrew Yang

Yang’s signature proposal, a Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a great and inventive way to build wealth but it’s current construction lacks an analysis around racial equity. Yang is a strong supporter of body cameras for police officers. His website, filled with policy proposals, includes nothing related to Indigenous rights. Most of his democracy and governance platform does not directly address racial justice issues. Yang wants to keep ICE as it is. He is not a strong believer in free college and Yang’s plan for K-12 students of color remain unclear. Yang has showed a willingness to challenge Trump’s rhetoric around immigration. However, he is quick to pivot the conversation away from race and back to issues like automation. Yang’s score would benefit from him rethinking some of his education and immigration proposals, developing more policy plans especially for indigenous communities, and engaging more explicitly around race and racial inequity in the campaign.  

Donald Trump

President Trump’s rhetoric and policies have been detrimental to people of color. Trump has made the pathway to citizenship harder especially for immigrants who may require public assistance. He has tried to end DACA and has decreased the number of refugees accepted into the country each year to a record low of 45,000. Trump has reinforced his decision that the states should decide marijuana legalization. The Administration’s criminal justice approach has generally been in opposition to efforts to address glaring racial inequities. He has spoken out against bail reform and opposes measures that would help those previously incarcerated to find employment. Trump has encouraged voter suppression and supports voter ID laws. He has significantly rolled back labor protections. His tax cut made basic survival harder for many families of color and he has rescinded civil rights and anti-discrimination protections in a wide variety of areas. He has gotten rid of important environmental regulations and his most recent budget significantly reduces funding for early childhood development programs. From calling Mexican immigrants criminals as part of the 2016 campaign, to using profanity to describe Haiti and African nations as places where he’d like to stem immigration, to making racist comments about Congresswomen of color, attacking predominantly Black urban communities, to many other examples, President Trump’s policies and rhetoric around race have stood in clear contrast to a vision for racial justice in the U.S.