This Tuesday, Democrats in fourteen states will cast their votes in the party’s election primary. Since California alone provides more than 20 percent of the delegates needed to win the nomination, Tuesday is of monumental importance. The votes cast tomorrow could well determine the outcome of the primary, the November election and consequently the course this country will embark on over the next four years. With so much at stake, is there a better time to look at “electability,” the infamous zombie noun, which has been haunting the Democratic party ever since Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016?
This column is not meant to endorse or criticise a particular candidate. The entire Democratic party has given this issue too much thought. Concerns of electability are nothing more than a technocratic symptom of diseased democracy; they have no place in healthy political discourse. Defeating President Trump in November is certainly an honorable goal, but moderate Democrats and former Republicans have subordinated all policy questions to a conjectured probability.
When the question of Russian interference in Bernie Sanders’ campaign came up during the South Carolina debate last week, Michael Bloomberg did not hesitate to point out that Russia wanted the self-declared democratic socialist to win the primary to guarantee that Trump would win a second term. Now, Russian hackers might think that way, but it would be foolish for us to do the same.
Most general election polling shows that Sanders or Warren — along with all the more moderate Democratic candidates — would win against the President in a direct contest. Granted, Biden’s lead might be a tiny bit larger, but I would argue these differences are negligible.
Now, let us, for the sake of argument, assume that projections really did show progressive candidates losing to President Trump. Four years ago, almost all polls failed to predict the head-to-head result of one presidential matchup on the night of the election. Yet, we are to base our voting today, more than eight months before the election, on the results of polls tracking four different possible presidential matchups? That seems ludicrous to say the least.
Notwithstanding difficulties of projecting results with the electoral college system, there are few countries on Earth in which election polling is as frequent and extensive as in the United States. Therefore, the margins of error for these types of polls are considerable and we would be foolish to change our preferred candidate on the whim of a percentage point. Your voting should influence the polls, not the other way around.
But the argument against electability is not only statistical; it is fundamentally political. This country is as polarized as it has ever been and hopefully will never be again. However, that does not mean that now is the time to look for moderation and cross-party alliances. As the scathing Republican criticism and the cries of treason following Mitt Romney’s vote to impeach the President have shown, compromise and moderation are dead. There might be Republicans who would vote for Biden or Bloomberg instead of Trump but would vote Republican if Sanders won the nomination; there might also be young voters and minorities supporting Sanders who would not vote for moderates. None of that matters.
For all its many ills, political polarization also presents a great opportunity. Namely, there are swaths of voters that will vote Democratic no matter what; they will vote for any candidate whose name is not Donald Trump. An opportunity for what, you ask? It’s an opportunity for political utopianism.
In 1968 student protests, Parisians chanted “Be realistic, demand the impossible.” Today, we should do the same. Cozying up to the other side of the aisle is unlikely to make a true difference in this election, so dare to dream and stand up for the change you never thought was possible. That does not necessarily mean vote for the progressives. It means vote for the candidate you think will bring this country closest to your vision of utopia. For too long, being on the Left meant being against something, be that the status quo, the banking sector or Trump’s erosion of political guardrails and moral decency. Enough of that! Stop basking in your moral superiority, get out there and enact change! The only way you will do that is if you stand for something.
By subordinating your dreams of what this country could be to your fears of a Trumpian victory, you are casting your aspirations on the losing side. The President has shifted political discourse in this country both to the right and a decade backwards. Are you going to sit there and accept this shift, or will you do something about it? If you do, do not let electability fool you. Politics should not be only about numbers and probabilities. It should be about visions, dreams and changing the world for the better.
If you are voting in the primary — or any election for that matter — never let someone else tell you who to vote for. Not your parents, not your friends and especially not that oddly opinionated uncle. Vote for your dreams. Yes, politics is about compromise, but that compromise will be a lot closer to your utopia if you do not give too much thought to moderation when casting your ballot.
This year, close your eyes, be realistic and demand the impossible. Who knows, you might well get it.
HENRI CORNEC is a first year in Silliman College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .