Nobody likes to be wrong. Nobody dislikes being wrong more than smart people, of whom there are supposedly many here at Yale and across the world of American elites.
But smart people have a problem. You see, smart people like to talk a lot. They like to show others how smart they are. They like to give lectures and presentations, to appear on news programs and podcasts, to write books and op-eds. And in the midst of all that talking and punditing and writing, smart people are bound to get things wrong.
It’s OK to get things wrong, of course. Happens to the best of us. But it’s not right to fail to learn from our mistakes. It’s not right. It’s not OK. (Sorry, Whitney.) And across the country, so-called liberals are on the verge of making some of the biggest political mistakes of their lives. We have apparently learned nothing from the last election or from the last four years. You need look no farther than Yale to see that this is the case.
We are going to make this mistake because of pride. Those who detest Bernie Sanders, who liken him to the left-wing version of Trump — it’s hard to think of a more ridiculous comparison — don’t want to have their lifetimes of conventional political wisdom upended by what they perceive to be a bunch of internet trolls and kids who don’t understand “how the real world works.” For all the talk of how liberal Yale is, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that community members, from professors to students to staff, are actually quite unsettled by Bernie, unsettled to the point of not voting for him in November were he to win the primary. I know in my bones that some would vote for Trump out of spite.
Pride isn’t limited to those on the more technocratic side of things. Those who scorn Joe Biden, who argue that he’s just more of the same — what I wouldn’t give for a return to some semblance of normalcy — don’t want to feel their sense of urgency diminished by what they perceive to be a bunch of crotchety old geezers who, in the words of one Twitter denizen, think anything left of hunting homeless people for sport is socialism. For all the emphasis on helping those who need it most, I wouldn’t be surprised if die-hard supporters of Sanders were to stay home if Joe Biden wins the nomination, or maybe even vote for Trump to give the finger to the Democratic establishment and “the system” on the basis that the normalcy I describe above is a crock.
If only there were someone more moderate than Bernie but more progressive than Biden, someone with decades of experience, someone with a proven track record of standing up to the one percent and fighting for working families. If only there were someone who was down to earth, relatable, approachable, someone who could destroy far greater opponents than Donald Trump on a debate stage, someone with a righteous anger that, when trained on liars, cheats and thieves (Wall Street executives, incompetent Trump appointees and predatory lenders), was awesome to behold. If only there were someone with all of these qualities, and a penis.
At the time of my writing this column, it seems like Warren’s moment has passed. The nomination is Bernie’s or Biden’s, much to the dismay of ardent supporters on the side that will eventually lose. But that dismay shouldn’t be strong enough to keep them from voting for the ultimate nominee. It would be a terrible pity should we misidentify the real enemy here.
It is not novel to say that we should support the nominee, whether it be Biden or Bernie. Underlying this statement, however, is an assumption that does seem quite novel in today’s political climate. This statement assumes that the most fervent supporters on either side of the ideological chasm have the maturity to say “we lost, let’s move forward to defeat the real enemy,” that the most fervent supporters have the maturity to set aside their anger and legitimate grievances in the name of a grander political mission, that the most fervent supporters have the maturity to say “I was wrong” and face the accompanying shame with grace.
Perhaps it is too bold an assumption. It is hard to imagine the members of Chapo Trap House and their devotees being mature about anything; it is equally hard to imagine the elites of the Democratic party having the same maturity after having lost so much face. But I hope for the sake of the country — for the children in cages, for the black and brown people in this country, for foreign- and American-born outsiders, for the sake of those for whom this election isn’t about pride but about life and death — that we’re not assuming too much when we direct people to “vote blue no matter who.”
If we do assume too much, maybe we deserve to lose. Listen to a recording of a child crying after being separated from their mother at the border. I could ask you to read about Charlottesville or El Paso, to think about how close we’ve come to the brink of war with Iran and North Korea, to realize that Trumpism isn’t going away regardless of the outcome of this election, but if those cries — those wretched and haunting cries — can’t convince you to suck it up and vote for the nominee, whoever it might be, we have bigger problems.
Someone once said that in a democracy, people get the leader they deserve. We deserve — or I like to think that we deserve — better than what currently inhabits the White House. Let’s act like it.
ADRIAN J. RIVERA is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College and a staff columnist for the News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .