Coleman McJessy ’22
We are still six hundred and some odd days away from the next general election and more than a year out from Iowa, and yet already nine Democratic candidates have declared that they are running for President, with approximately another twenty possible contenders. And yet, in traditional Democratic eating-our-own fashion, it seems that the different camps are already declaring war.
Take former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the charismatic Senate candidate from Texas. After a historic and “Kennedy-esque” campaign, some pundits began to mention his name as a possible 2020 contender. Even without any comment from O’Rourke, party insiders began to publicly criticize him with Chicago Mayor and Obama Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel, saying “you don’t usually promote a loser,” and progressives’ op-eds calling him “plainly uninspiring.”
It’s not only liberals that are firing shots. Former New York City Mayor and moderate Democrat Michael Bloomberg attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plan to tax the wealthy mere days after it was released, calling it “probably unconstitutional.” For no apparent reason, he also criticized newly-elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, which has become a rallying cry for the progressive left, saying that it is “pie in the sky” and unaffordable. Both of these comments, made at an event in New Hampshire, invited quick responses from Warren and Ocasio-Cortez.
Of course, all of this infighting makes for easy and alluring media coverage, and outlets were all too happy to comply, providing hours of free media on the conflicts, potentially negatively coloring voters’ impressions in the process,
Primary elections are good. They provide an opportunity for parties to determine the policies that are important to their voters and better examine potential candidates. And we can be sure that the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary will be one of the most competitive in years, with likely a double-digit number of candidates running. None of these candidates are perfect; that expectation is unrealistic. Vice President Biden and Sens. Warren and Sanders, the current front runners, would all be above the age of 70 on inauguration day. Sens. Harris, Gillibrand, and Booker, as well as Rep. Gabbard, all have performed mea cupla’s of some sort in their career, significantly shifting their opinion on important issues from LGBTQ+ rights (Gabbard) to corporate welfare (Booker) to gun control (Gillibrand). Democratic primary voters must and should take all of these issues, and more, into account when choosing our nominee.
Regardless, I can say without hesitation that all of these candidates would be better presidents than Donald J. Trump. Over his two years in office, the President has failed to be a domestic, international, or moral leader. Over and over he has endangered the citizenry and embarrassed our country. He has an abysmal approval rating even while presiding over a booming economy and without any external crises. Defeating him, regardless of the Democratic nominee, must be our singular goal in this election.
To that end, I have one suggestion. Play this round with the gloves on. Constructive policy discussion is necessary, even good, in a primary. Aggressive opposition research and personal attacks are not. Only one of the twenty-some candidates will go on to face President Trump in November, and as a party, we must ensure that she or he looks like a leader, not just the last clown standing.