What's The Difference Between Progressive And Establishment Democrats
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Politics and Activism

Not All Democrats Are Created Equal, And The Gap Between The Party Establishment And Progressives Is Bigger Than Ever

Progressive versus establishment: What is the difference?

Not All Democrats Are Created Equal, And The Gap Between The Party Establishment And Progressives Is Bigger Than Ever

What? Not all Democrats think the same way? You heard it here first, folks. Or, not really.

More than any other time period in America's history, the Democratic Party has two distinct wings that represent and stand for very different things. They are often referred to as "progressive" Democrats and "establishment" Democrats.

So, when you watch the debates (or evaluate them if you were not able to catch them live), try to keep these things in mind when evaluating them.


Most progressives believe that the current private insurance system is incredibly corrupt. It takes the care that people need (including access to a doctor and prescription drugs) and solicits it for profit. Progressives contend that this system is not working for those who cannot afford these services, and propose that everyone is guaranteed healthcare through a system called Medicare for all, or M4A.

Establishment Democrats believe that a proposal such as M4A is impossible to implement and would cost too much money and believe America's current private healthcare system works essentially as-is with incremental changes or tweaks.

College Affordability/Access

Progressives believe that college should be guaranteed to all. Progressives believe that student debt must be forgiven (Bernie Sanders, for example, thinks that all student debt should be erased.)

Establishment Democrats believe this is not at all feasible but have not really proposed a solution other than increased funding for Pell grants.

Campaign Finance

Progressives believe that the campaign finance system that involves corporations spending infinite amounts of money on political campaigns. We are talking billions of dollars. Starting with Bernie Sanders, many candidates of the progressive wing have sworn off PAC and corporate money completely.

Many establishment Democrats have sworn off PAC and corporate money as well, but many have not. Also, when considering establishment democratic candidates such as Biden, their average donations are higher than that of the progressive wing due to the fact that wealthy maxed out donors frequently contribute to those campaigns.


Both wings of the democratic party seem particularly concerned about climate change, but the way they want to go about it is different. Progressives, for example, are for aggressive proposals such as the "Green New Deal."

Economic Inequality

Recently, both wings have spoken to the drastic income inequality that has plagued America. However, Bernie Sanders of the progressive wing spoke to it first in terms of "the one percent" capturing tons more wealth than everyone in the bottom 99%. Establishment Democrats have started talking about this issue, but it hasn't been at the table for too long.

Minimum Wage

Pretty simple, progressives are for a $15 minimum wage. Fifteen dollars represents a living wage that can provide one's basic necessities for life: housing, food, water, transportation. Establishment Democrats believe the minimum wage should go up, but not by as much. Around $10 to $11 is a good estimate for the establishment of Democrats.

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