Joe Biden just announced a long-anticipated run for president. He’s been the undeniable frontrunner in almost every poll, for months before anyone knew for sure he was running.
Cue every progressive Democrat everywhere lashing out in anger, annoyance, or anti-establishment whining about how Biden’s entrance to the primary race will garner the support of a relieved DNC looking to counter the leftward tack in the party, resulting in a repeat of 2016, now as then ignoring the clear grassroots momentum in their own party to nominate a more progressive candidate. Only this time around, Bernie Sanders is not the only other strong candidate in the race to defeat Trump.
I get it. I really do. I consider myself a progressive on most policy items, and I’m a Bernie Ride or Die type. For the first time in a long time — perhaps as far back as JFK — I see the potential for some real progressive change in America, and it’s exciting!
But I will wholeheartedly and unequivocally support any Democratic nominee for president.
And not just for the pragmatic “anyone is better than Trump” reason. I’ll vote for anyone from John Hickenlooper to Amy Klobuchar to Liz Warren for two simple reasons: 1) the last several years have shown us that the Democratic Party movement does not tend to track with that of its standard-bearer, and 2) even the most centrist Democrat will still advance most liberal policy, appointment, and legislation items that come across their desk.
Let me prove it to you. During 8 years of George W. Bush, the Democratic Party moved fairly dramatically from nominating safe, centrist candidates like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Joe Lieberman, and John Kerry — any of whom in another universe could have been run on a ticket with Mitt Romney or Bob Dole — to electing not only the first black president, but a baby-faced black president with a Muslim-sounding name, little experience at the federal level, and a decidedly liberal voting record and stated policy goals.
Likewise, during 8 years of Barack Obama, we might have expected the Democratic Party to find a new equilibrium in the new post-ACA, post-Obergefell v. Hodges America, but it didn’t. For all of Obama’s disappointments as a faithfully progressive change agent, his leadership certainly had the effect of inspiring profound and widespread change, not only in the country, but in his party as well. Sure, the liberal establishment didn’t change so much — they still fought hard in 2016 to push Hillary Clinton over a Bernie Sanders nomination — but in the final year of the Obama administration, Bernie ultimately had his way. Key progressive policy items found their way all the way to core platform planks of the Democratic Party, and though he ultimately endorsed Hillary, it was crystal clear that she was living in Bernie’s world now, taking the reins of leadership for a party that was now decidedly to the left of her preferred personal positions.
In the 3 years since 2016, in spite of the hard-right presidency of Donald Trump — we might even say because of it — we’ve seen the Democratic Party continue to move left. Though familiar names like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer still hold the official power and influence in the party at the national level, it is abundantly clear that a progressive wave is building and ready to wash over the more centrist, pragmatic Democratic old guard. When a 28-year-old no name Latina woman from Staten Island can win a seat in the House and become the second-most talked about politician in the nation, second only to the President — no easy feat! — it becomes very clear that change is afoot. And she is by no means alone. Highly diverse and progressive candidates came in an unprecedented wave to Washington after the 2018 midterms, and that steam is only building with the “Justice Democrats” movement.
Any non-progressive candidate that wins the primaries — which is really every major candidate in the race right now except Sanders, Warren, Andrew Yang, and maybe Cory Booker and Tulsi Gabbard— is going to have to reckon with the reality that their party is leading them, not the other way around, and take the decisive lead on talking points and policy items accordingly.
My point is that over the last 11 years, with national leadership like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and Donald Trump, the Democrats have nevertheless embarked on a decidedly leftward course — led first by Bernie Sanders, and more recently by the newly elected young female Congresswomen — and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. The energy, momentum, and agenda items of the Democratic Party have become distinctively progressive, and it apparently has nothing to do with who is in leadership in the House, Senate, or White House.
For this reason, I will vote for any candidate that wins the Democratic primary, because — hear me out here — they are still a Democrat. No, a President Joe Biden or Beto O’Rourke may not set as aggressively liberal of an agenda as a President Bernie Sanders or Liz Warren would, but they also won’t veto the progressive bills that come across their desk.
When Congresspeople like Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Sanders, Warren, or Gillibrand (assuming none of them win the nomination) introduce progressive legislation like the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, or a $15 minimum wage, the energy and commitment to pass the legislation through Congress is already there. Even a centrist Democrat like Joe Biden will sign it. Our focus as progressives right now should be far less on getting a progressive in the White House and far more on flipping the Senate blue and running more progressive candidates in the House. Even a President Bernie Sanders won’t get much done with a GOP-controlled Senate.
We can’t afford to be divided this time around.
We can’t afford to take our ball and go home if our candidate doesn’t win, even if there is shady business like there was at the DNC in 2016.
There are bigger fish to fry.
Donald Trump and a Republican Senate cannot be allowed to appoint any more justices to any of the federal courts. They cannot be allowed to continue to roll back environmental regulations, LGBTQ+ rights, and health care options for the poorest Americans.
Every candidate has their flaws, and this election cycle is no different. I am convinced that — barring some scandalous revelation — any of the top dozen contenders for the nomination right now 1) has at least a theoretical ability to defeat Donald Trump, 2) would make a fine president, 3) will sign into law progressive legislation that comes across his or her desk, and 4) will preserve the balance on the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary, which should be the biggest consideration we give to our voting process this year.
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