Since the presidential election of 2016, protests have erupted across the nation. Americans have united in disparate camps for polarized causes, marching in the streets to stand up for what they believe in. More people joined demonstrations in the first 15 months of Donald Trump’s presidency than ever before in American history. The rise in protests from both liberals and conservatives has been accompanied by hostile divisions between the two American political parties — which will only continue to increase if an extremist from either side of the political spectrum is elected in 2020. To avoid this outcome, Democratic primary voters must choose electability and interest in bipartisanship over ideology at the polls tomorrow.
The sizable support base that far-left Democratic candidates have obtained this election cycle is emblematic of a broad push — by both conservatives and liberals — to the outer edges of the political spectrum. According to the Pew Research Center, the “partisan divide has increased in recent years, (and) hostility between Republicans and Democrats has remained high.” Even more troubling, in 2017 a substantial majority of Republicans and Democrats — around 80 percent for both parties — had an “unfavorable” view of the opposite party. Since then, the animosity has only grown during Trump’s administration, resulting in the government’s inability to execute its everyday functions and respond to issues of greater national concern, such as the coronavirus. While we would expect our government to rise to the occasion in preparing for a potential pandemic, polarization has led our leadership to channel most of its energy into nasty rhetoric and childish attacks rather than creating unity around protecting the American people. Governmental dysfunctionality will continue to escalate — to the detriment of American communities — if we elect a president who adheres to radical ideologies in 2020. This is not to suggest that any Democratic nominee would necessarily respond poorly to a pandemic such as the coronavirus; rather, if a far-left Democrat held office, it is possible that the Republican party would continue to perpetuate divisive rhetoric rather than coalesce around a bipartisan solution — much like we are seeing today.
The animosity between parties in the Federal Government makes it challenging to elicit bipartisan action, without which political progress is inevitably stalled. While some bipartisan bills have been passed under the Trump Administration — such as the First Step Act to reform the criminal justice system — the majority of operations within Congress are not amicable. Statistics presenting the 115th Congress as more legislatively active than its predecessors are deceptive; most of the bipartisan bills passed remain without substance. According to Pew Research, over a third of the bills voted into legislation since 2017 were merely ceremonial in nature. Nominating a candidate who is willing to compromise and reach across party lines is the only way to thwart the increasing difficulties perpetuated by polarization within Congress.
Not only will far-left candidates be unable to manufacture change in the way they, and their supporters, hope due to deep partisan divides — they also will not be successful in the fight against President Trump. While generally I would support the political platforms of far-left candidates such as Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren, their platforms represent a distant pipe dream that the current political climate has made unattainable in the next four years. Voters need to recognize that this is a unique political era.
Nominating a candidate in the primaries who can spark powerful excitement for the majority of the Democratic Party is a crucial step toward winning the 2020 election. While Sanders evokes passion from an extremely loyal support base, this excitement is generated largely among far-left-leaning Democrats. Although a moderate stance is highly criticized within Congress, moderates continue to make up a significant portion of the American public. Perhaps this is why meta-analysis on presidential elections have found that moderate nominees historically perform better in general elections than nominees who are more ideologically extreme.
The Democratic nominee must be able to unite both far-left and moderate Americans while expanding voting participation from its dismal 61.4 percent in 2016. By gaining the support of the moderate American public, the Democratic candidate will not only amplify their chance of winning but will also encourage further political participation from Americans who currently feel excluded from politics. The increasing polarization of the current political climate leaves moderate Americans without representation and without a reason to vote. Thus, the opinions from political minorities of the far left and far right control the majority of power in our government. Arguably, this engenders frustration and a general unwillingness to continue engaging in politics, leaving the bulk of the American public unrepresented in a federal government designed specifically to represent them.
The desire for a radical change in the direction of extreme leftist ideologies is enormously prevalent among Democrats. It can be difficult to accept a more moderate stance in the presence of a president with questionable morals and a far-right-wing stance. Nonetheless, the Democratic Party must set aside their utopian goals for now and get realistic about which candidates have the highest probability of beating Trump in November. While some polls suggest candidates like Sanders may be more likely to beat Trump, the reality is that moderate votes are key to winning the presidency. In a Vox study that polled 40,000 voters, researchers concluded that if Sanders became the Democratic nominee, many Americans who would have otherwise voted for a moderate Democrat would instead vote for Trump.
Both Sanders and Warren stand further left than candidates such as Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar, who generally call for a more bipartisan approach to fixing our governmental issues. The extreme leftist views of Sanders and Warren could potentially transform into the “socialist” label that Americans are so allergic to. Once a candidate is labeled as socialist, they will lose support from moderate Democrats in the election, a side that is vital in the path toward taking office. This election cycle, the Democratic Party must be united and must vote. If a far-left, socialist-labeled candidate is nominated, the chances of moderate Democrats abstaining from voting on Nov. 3 2020 is high. If this happens, Trump will keep his title as President. If this happens, America will fall further into the pit of polarization and emerging far-right populism. Tomorrow, I hope voters will choose wisely.
Lea Brody-Heine ’22.5 can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send responses to this opinion to email@example.com and op-eds to firstname.lastname@example.org.