American Politics is incredibly toxic, but it doesn’t have to be. We need to reverse our approach to politics & voting.
You can breathe easy, Liberals. The electoral behemoth that was Kanye West has gone back to sleep, according to reports, and he can no longer steal Black votes from Joe Biden. However, the limited polling data that we have from his brief run shows us that he hurts Trump more than Biden. Just a few days ago, Chance The Rapper caused the Twitterverse to explode when he simply asked people why they supported Joe Biden over Kanye in a hypothetical situation where Trump was guaranteed to be ousted. Kanye is clearly unqualified for office, but why is it such a significant issue to ask how Biden would be better? I believe the answer is simple; we approach voting and politics backward.
Waiting on the World to Change
Joe Biden has over a 90% chance to defeat Donald Trump in November. Even with that, he still has incredibly low enthusiasm numbers. How is it that voters are overwhelmingly displeased with their choices, but simultaneously shunning those that voice their displeasure of our options? Especially given the fact that they had a hand in choosing who would ultimately be Trump’s opponent by way of the Democratic Primary Elections. This is a rather strange phenomenon that has a simple explanation. It seems that American voters haven’t quite grasped the concept that they have the power to shape their politics.
Most voters in the Primary just wanted the person that was best equipped to defeat Donald Trump. Given that Biden is the party’s most recent Vice President, has a 40-plus year career in politics, and has high name recognition as a direct result of the two previous points, he was viewed as the ‘most electable’ candidate. This was a title that was bestowed upon him by the Cable News punditry before he had even entered the race. I think the biggest issue that voters are dealing with now is that they just assumed that this was a fact. Not enough people vetted his track record, or bothered to look into what he proposed to do if elected. Not only that, but what kind of standard is ‘we want to beat the opponent’? Donald Trump is a Republican, so of course the Democrats want to beat him. We need to use this to our advantage. We should make the Democrats propose and later enact policies that will help us in exchange for our votes. We should go to the candidates with a list of demands, but instead, the candidates come to us with what they believe is best.
We should have litmus tests. It doesn’t have to be the same for everyone; in fact, it shouldn’t be the same for everyone, but we the people need to set the starting point. If we forced candidates to lay out, in great detail, their vision for America and refused our support when it didn’t pass our test, what would we be capable of? If we hit the ‘skip song feature’ every time a candidate told us a program that our lives depended on implementing just wasn’t possible, would the mainstream consensus in American politics be to say to your voters what they can’t have? If we thought thoroughly and critically about what we needed in our lives and had constructive conversations with our fellow citizens to reach a consensus, would we need the mainstream media to tell us what was and what wasn’t electable? If you’re unsure, take it from someone who’s done all of those things, we’d drastically change how politicians approach politics. I’ve been in the Organizing sphere for a little under a year, and I’ve seen my local school board go from disregarding school meal policy as unimportant, to making it a top priority in their proposed budget. We have to start taking voting and the political process more seriously, for our lives literally depend on it now. Why do we allow politicians to tell us what isn’t possible? It’s our job to tell them what we want and need. It’s their job to make it happen. If they can’t do that, then why do they need to represent us?
What even is electability? Is it heavy; does it smell? In my view, electability is a combination of how enthusiastic a candidate makes voters, how agreeable their vision for America is, and how well known the candidate is to their constituency. Based on my own theory of what electability is, I concluded that the most electable candidate in the Primary was Bernie Sanders. His policy platform was wildly popular, and he had by far the most enthusiastic supporters. His vision for America inspired over 1 million volunteers to sign up to work for free to elect him. He’s consistently polled as the most popular U.S. Senator and became a bit of a political rockstar after running for President in 2016. Now, combine all of those things with consistently strong polling numbers against Donald Trump, and you have the epitome of electability. Apparently, most of America disagrees with my definition of electability. More specifically, the corporate news apparatus denies my interpretation of what electability truly is. Unfortunately for them, the candidates that were all deemed to be the ‘most electable’ candidates in the past several Democratic primaries have all lost their general elections since 2000 (see Gore, Kerry, & Clinton). This begs the question, is electability just a tool for the ruling class to control the narratives around politics? Biden does seem poised to break that losing streak soon. Still, after being aided by Trump’s erratic behavior and complete mishandling of the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s safe to say that the ‘electability’ debate is far from settled.
I fear that far too many Americans just accepted what the Democratic Party and the corporate news media told them about the candidates. Surely, in a field that once had roughly twenty candidates, there was someone there that each voter could find exciting. Elizabeth Warren proposed a wealth tax and put forth a vision that would help working mothers. Andrew Yang championed his Freedom Dividend that would pay every American $1,000 a month. Pete Buttigieg flirted with the idea of drastically altering how the Supreme Court operated. These are just a few examples of the diverse and imaginative visions put forth by the 2020 Primary field, but they all failed so that we could *checks notes* suck it up and vote for Joe?
Is this the best we can do?
Why do we the people refuse to take control of our political process? What in the hell are we afraid of? No politician in this country has power that we don’t give them. Too many of us have refused to question the recycled talking points that we receive from the corporate news media and the politicians themselves. How much longer are we going to be told that we have to run a Moderate to win? How much longer will we accept the people that we put into power telling us that better things aren’t possible? How many more dollars are we going to watch get wasted on war and incarceration while our health care and education funds disappear? When is enough, enough?
We don’t like either of the major political parties but refuse to allow ourselves, or others, to support third parties, fearing an electoral college defeat. However, we also refuse to rally around abolishing the electoral college and instituting ranked-choice voting so that we aren’t perpetually guilted into voting for the lesser of two evils. We clearly don’t like our political process, and we don’t like our major parties, yet we continue to allow them to exist. America, something’s gotta give. We can’t loathe a system, and then perpetuate it. We can’t be ‘unenthusiastic’ about our choices and not push them to be better. James Baldwin once said that “not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” It’s time for us to face the facts, American politics isn’t working. The question now, is what are we going to do about it?