People keep wrongfully assuming that a moderate (or rather centrist) candidate has a better chance at winning the presidency than a progressive one. It’s a myth.
You see, one of the most important questions that Democratic voters are asking during these primaries is who has the best chance of beating President Donald Trump.
A lot of people are choosing Joe Biden because, in their view, the former vice president has a better chance with swing voters and is therefore more likely to win the election in November. This logic seems reasonable: Many centrist voters who switch from party to party (or rather “swing”) find the center-left Biden more appealing than “socialist” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
However, this logic is incorrect.
During the 2016 election cycle, people were talking about how Democrats should nominate Hillary Clinton because she was more appealing to swing voters. Sanders was just too radical.
But then she lost (although not in the popular vote) to Trump, a man who was deemed too radical for his party, thanks to Midwestern states that were carried by Sanders back in the primaries (many, such as Kansas, by a large margin).
It’s not unreasonable to believe, as some have noted, that had Sanders been chosen instead, he may have been able to connect with working-class voters disaffected by traditional Washington politics in these key states, like he’s been able to in the recent primaries.
This is because Sanders stands to destroy a bloated political system that works for the privileged and not the people — just like Trump did during his campaign — whereas the centrist Hillary Clinton became a symbol of that system.
Over the past half-century, the U.S. has suffered from increasing wealth inequality accompanied by flatlining wages (even as inflation has increased).
Millennials are predicted to not do as well financially as the previous generation and to not fulfill the American dream (being more “successful” than one’s parents), a trend that also affects Generation Z (the generation that most 5C students belong to).
Which means that many current college students, on average, will not live as well as their parents. The house (or apartment) that they lived in as a child will be a distant dream for them as an adult.
Opportunity and mobility have shrunk and people are not happy.
And they blame Washington — the political insiders that have, in their eyes, stood by and enabled the wealthiest individuals to continue accumulating wealth. Politicians make promises, and then nothing happens. The rich get richer; the poor get poorer.
Enter Trump, a non-politician who, among other things (including making racist comments and promises), promised to “shake up the system” and “drain the swamp” that was Washington, doing away with “political correctness” in the process.
During the Republican primaries, conservative pundits said he was crazy, that swing voters would be put off by his shocking comments, that if he were nominated, the GOP would be essentially handing the presidency to Hillary Clinton on a silver platter.
And yet here we are.
In the aftermath of the day, when polls indicated that Hillary was going to win by a landslide, Trump instead took the election in an “upset.”
We cannot afford another 2016.
So here we are again, in 2020, with a choice between a centrist and a progressive.
People are saying that the progressive is too radical, and that a centrist will excite people who want things to “return to normal.”
But we know from history that “normal” was, and is, not good enough for most Americans. Many people didn’t like how Washington operated, which is why Trump was elected.
People are not clamoring for the return of a system that didn’t work for them. Even though people are upset with Trump’s transgressions in the promise of “change,” people still want change — they want to move forward, not backward.
Democrats have an opportunity to offer an alternative to Trump’s divisiveness by voting for a presidential nominee who will change American governance in a constructive way. By solving America’s problems not by deporting Latinos while passing one of the largest tax cuts for the wealthy in fifty years, but through progressive reforms such as minimum wage increases and health care reform that benefits all Americans, not just a few.
But if the Democratic Party stands for a system, or establishment, that doesn’t work for Americans without violating governmental norms, then some Americans may see no choice but to hope that Trump shakes up the system without too much destruction, with others disheartened enough to not turn out for November.
We can’t afford that risk.
John Gibson PO ’22 is a history major from Kayenta, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation. He is wondering why everyone in his classes is coughing. It’s probably just a cold going around.