Amy’s a mean boss.
Elizabeth checked Native American on an application.
Pete’s got problems with African Americans.
Joe voted for a war.
Bernie’s a socialist.
No candidate is perfect.
And each of the “problems” listed above is far more complicated and nuanced than it appears. For example…
If Sen. Klobuchar was a man, her management style would be common, expected…and unremarkable. But because she’s a woman, she’s viewed as “nasty,” and “hard to work with.” This country still has a massive gender problem, as is evidenced by the number of intelligent, thoughtful, and otherwise well-informed persons who still believe that “a woman can’t win.” (Narrator: “A woman can win if you vote for her.”)
Should Sen. Warren have identified as Native American on law school and job applications over the years? Perhaps not, although plenty of Americans have been told similar stories of distant relatives with Native American ancestry, and these stories have become a part of family lore for many of us.
Did doing so give Warren a “leg up,” or any sort of advantage in the job market, or with admission to universities? The answer here is much more clear: No. The Boston Globe conducted an exhaustive examination of public records and spoke with every one of Warren’s colleagues in her previous academic positions, and the verdict was clear. At every step of her journey Warren was seen as a “white woman” by those in positions to hire her, and at no point was her supposed Native American heritage perceived as giving her an “advantage” in the hiring process.
While Pete Buttigieg has not attracted much in the way of support from African American voters, it’s not for lack of trying. His campaign has made serious attempts to build a diverse staff, and while their efforts have not been without missteps, their intentions appear to be sincere. In the last month, Buttigieg has picked up endorsements from prominent African American elected officials in Maryland and Iowa, exhibiting some progress, while acknowledging that skepticism still remains among some in the African American community regarding his candidacy.
In October of 2002, Sen. Joe Biden was one of 77 US Senators who voted to authorize President George W. Bush’s use of force in Iraq. He was joined by 28 other Democrats, including current senators Chuck Schumer and Diane Feinstein.
By 2005, Sen. Biden was calling that vote a “mistake,” as evidence mounted that the push for war was based on faulty or misleading intelligence. Was Biden “wrong” to vote for the Iraq war? In hindsight, of course. But if Biden was wrong, so was a good percentage of the US public, terrified in the wake of 9/11, and misled by conflicting and inaccurate intelligence.
“We’re going to defeat the radical socialist Democrats who are right down the street…The Democrats will lose because America will never be a socialist country.” These are quotes from president Trump at his rally last night in Iowa, abandoning his usual dog whistles for air raid sirens as his impeachment trial in the Senate appears headed for a quick and tidy conclusion, thanks to a complicit GOP and a chief justice unwilling to intervene in the proceedings.
To be clear, Sen. Sanders identifies as a “democratic socialist,” not a “socialist.” But this is a difference without a distinction for an astute political scientist like Mr. Trump, who knows that his base can’t be bothered with such subtleties. The irony here is especially rich given that the real “socialism” happening in this country at present is in the form of massive tax cuts for big corporations and the uber wealthy.
So Now What?
In the face of an explosion of memes and bots, “deep fake” videos, and a social media landscape that’s become a toxic wasteland of anger and hatred, what are concerned citizens to do? In the spirit of positivity, here are a few suggestions for navigating the choppy waters of this turbulent political moment:
Support your candidate with enthusiasm.
Raise legitimate points about all of them. A vigorous public vetting process and primary will result in a stronger eventual nominee for the general election, so have at it.
Just don’t be a jerk when doing so.
No personal attacks. No ad hominem nonsense. Respect that others may have different priorities for choosing a candidate, and that their intentions are as valid as your own.
Listen to all points of view, and be intellectually honest and consistent. If you discover that your candidate has said or done something you disagree with, say so. It doesn’t mean you no longer support that person–it means that you value honesty and transparency. No candidate is perfect.
Be vigilant in making sure your arguments are fact based, and don’t share articles, memes, or other information that hasn’t been confirmed and fact-checked. Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.
And most importantly, please remember that none of these candidates put kids in cages, mocked a reporter with a disability, banned Muslims from entering our country, or withheld military aid from an ally while they were at war to get dirt on their opponent.
Any of the Democratic candidates above would be light years better than what we have now.
Voting is both a moral and strategic act.
Choosing one’s candidate involves a process through which we determine who best aligns with and supports our core principles.
Casting one’s vote involves a process in which we make the best strategic choice between our final options.
No candidate is perfect.
Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.
The stakes are simply too high.
[CC Vote Badge image credit: BadgeMonkey | Flickr].