Though Donald Trump has only been in office for two years, it has seemed excruciatingly longer than that. The election cycle for 2016 was brutal as Trump eliminated a whole group of Republicans, one by one, though he was considered a candidate to write off as a joke, his victory in the primaries ensuring a win for the democrats. That did not happen, and now it is the liberal side of the spectrum struggling to achieve unity within an overcrowded field of democratic presidential hopefuls, debating and arguing over not only who will defeat Trump, but who also represents the diversity of the party’s constituents. The presidential election is 20 months away, and this dynamic of a seemingly endless parade of candidates is already proving contentious.
Like almost everyone on the planet, I was shocked when Trump won the 2016 election. After that, I took a step back and began researching what happened. I read nearly a dozen books, countless editorials, and monitored social media trends to try to find an answer in hopes of getting closure. All this information about Russian meddling, third party candidates, poor campaigning, and so much more, it was a lot to take and made me feel really uneasy how everything fit together to create this perfect storm that engulfed all Americans.
What I had noticed was the complete lack of accountability from the left. Hillary not winning was because it was someone else’s fault. It was the Russians for weaponizing social media to undermine our democratic institution. It was the Bernie Bros for being so militant in their support that they would refuse to vote for Hillary. It was the Trump supporters who are so comfortable with their racism. Never mind the fact the democratic party had no platform other than the virtue of not being Trump, it was not their fault.
I was left with the impression that the democratic party has a unity problem. And the reason behind that is that they suffer from the narcissism of small differences; where the left spends more time tearing each other down over minutiae than they do targeting our ideologically opposed enemies on the fascist right. It is interesting that lately I have been social media campaigns suggesting “Vote blue, no matter who.” It leaves me feeling rather cynical, which is a feeling I despise, because my thought oscillate between “where were you last time” and “people will throw a tantrum if their candidate doesn’t win.”
This is why the primaries are so important. This whole “vote blue, no matter who” mentality really only works in the general election, and only if you’re willing to lick your wounds and support the candidate that may have defeated your original choice in the primaries. And it is the importance we place on the primaries that has made the whole affair so ugly, with people arguing endlessly online over the minutiae between democratic hopefuls. I applaud their passion and support of their candidate, but you must realize that there is a strong chance you may have to vote for someone else when it comes to the final showdown against Trump.
This primary season has been fascinating to me. We are still seeing people announcing their candidacy for the presidency, and people being vocal for why they support their preferred candidate. It can be quite inspiring to see people advocate for their candidate, but it can be downright ugly as well.
I voted for Bernie in the 2016 primaries but voted for Hillary in the general election. Sanders supporters were upset at perceived corruption within the Democratic National Convention and vocalized that support. It fueled this public conception of the archetype Berne Bro, a Sanders supporter who is so militant in their advocacy that they negatively affected the election after Sanders’ candidacy ended in concession. Regardless that the Bernie Bro phenomenon is an exaggerated misconception, an idea supported by experts including Malcolm Nance, it seems that the admiration that surrounded Sanders in 2016 is being met with a lot more resistance in 2020 election cycle. And there’s an explanation for that.
In 2016, Sanders was the outlier. Someone on the fringes who had managed to achieve a lot of momentum through grass roots efforts, and really rattled the cages of the democratic establishment. Sanders was fresh and exciting, and top brass in the party took note. Now, as we enter the 2020 election cycle, presidential hopefuls are looking to capitalize on that Bernie momentum from 2016 which has shifted the establishment party to the left. Now, you have a whole bunch of candidates who are campaigning on the platforms and ideas that have become popular since Sanders’ run in 2016.
This ideologically shift in the democratic party has ignited a peculiar debate, one exacerbated by the coverage on both traditional and social media; that people just don’t want Bernie Sanders anymore that that we have so many other candidates to choose from who share the same ideals. I’m now seeing editorials and posts from friends to support candidates who are younger, ethnically diverse, and not a man. Now that there are candidates who are not old white men who say the same things as Sanders, an actual old white man, we can now find a candidate who reflects America’s growing diversity.
I think that kind of thinking is valid, and some of the candidates are admirable, but I’m not going to risk Trump getting a second term by playing identity politics with my vote in 2020. In the primaries, Sanders will have my vote. And he’ll have my vote purely on the facts that he has been consistent in his views for several decades. I like many of the candidates who are campaigning right now, and I find it inspiring that we have more women and people of color running for the highest office in the land. However, many of these candidates have taken millions in corporate dollars and have sketchy voting histories. If push comes to shove and one of these candidates become the democratic party’s nominee, I’ll vote for them. However, in the primaries, I’m not letting identity politics stop me from supporting the old white guy candidate who has been consistent throughout his entire career.
Last night, I attended a presidential rally for Bernie Sanders at Navy Pier. Thousands of people were there, and the energy was absolutely fantastic. The guest speakers were passionate, inspiring, and reflected the diversity of Sanders’ supporters. Speakers included a renowned West Chicago poet, a young organizer from a Logan Square youth organization, one of Bernie’s former classmates, and one of the co-founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
When Sanders spoke, he reflected on his life’s work fighting for racial, income, and environmental equality. Specifically advocating for things like an end to police violence, a $15/hour federal minimum wage, and real initiatives to slow down and reverse the devastating effects of climate change. I was certainly inspired by his words, and I cannot believe that people can be so cynical about a candidate just because he is older and white, especially when they support the ideals he campaigns on. I know we want someone who looks and sounds different. However, we are in the midst of an existential crisis in this country, and our biggest goal is to defeat Donald Trump. And Sanders has garnered more money ad support than any other candidate, and that’s why his opponents are so loud and vocal. They’re afraid he will succeed.
The music at campaign rallies can be kind of monotonous. They are powerful in their messaging and what they represent, but tend to lose meaning when you hear them all the time and they become nothing more than an election trope. “Power to the People” by John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” is one of those songs. Released as a single in 1971 during the sessions that would produce Lennon’s Imagine album (though this song would not be included), Sanders walked onto the stage to this liberal anthem. And I really felt excited by that. Sure, it has been overplayed a lot of places. Much of Lennon’s music is overplayed. However, I really felt moved by the song last night, and that is a reflection of the context in which I heard the song. It felt powerful because when it comes to Bernie, it isn’t just a trope. The song means what it says, because Bernie means what he says.