The 2020 presidential election is already sparking political debate with 15 Democratic candidates announcing they’re running and more expected to soon.
As we slowly move into this behemoth of a primary season, there is already an abundance of discussion on whether progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren can beat more establishment candidates, like Joe Biden or Sherrod Brown.
The logic is that we need establishment candidates because they are ‘moderate progressive reformists who can work across the aisle and fix our political divide to bring the country to prosperity.’ As great as that sounds, the idea that only moderates can save our country is only logical if you believe that saving our country is only possible by keeping in place the broken systems we already have.
The main argument made by supporters of moderate candidates is that ‘radical’ ideas, like Medicare for All, will never appeal to middle-American Democrats, who live in ‘fly-over states’ in the midwest or elsewhere, decreasing the likelihood that a Democrat will win in 2020.
This logic is inconsistent with reality. When people talk about the need to win Middle America back, they point to states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio. Moderates ignore the fact that Sanders won the primaries in Michigan and Wisconsin. In Ohio, Bernie lost by 14%. This is a comfortable lead in the realm of politics but by no means shows an indication that everyone in Ohio is on board with a moderate agenda.
If you look at other states that Bernie won in the primary and Clinton won in the general, the numbers also suggest a discontent with moderates. In Minnesota, Sanders won with 61% of the primary votes. In the general election, Clinton only won by 1.6% of the vote. In Colorado, Sanders won with 58.9% of the primary votes. In the general election, Clinton only won by 5%. These numbers show us that people are not buying into the moderate Democrat anymore. This is especially shown by the statistic that 1 in 10 Sanders primary voters voted for Trump in the general.
The issue here becomes a lack of political imagination in the United States. Moderate Democrats look at these numbers and somehow think that moderate candidates will stop Republicans from taking office. This also asserts the claim that having better things is not possible, so we should be content with the broken system we live in. A broken system where people still do not have healthcare despite the Affordable Care Act, where people with college degrees still have trouble finding jobs and where prisons incarcerate people of color at a percentage that does not match the population statistics.
The moderate Democrat wants us to hope that through reforms coming from deals with Republicans, the broken system will somehow fix itself. When people lack the courage to support anything further left than moderate Democratic politics, we are essentially saying it’s fine with living in a country that does not work for me or anyone else.
This is not where people should be when we imagine what is possible with our politics. So many people in Middle America are tired of things as they are and moderate Democrats are not putting forth solutions that speak to them.
We need to start having a political imagination that is not afraid of being radical if we wish to fix this country. When we dare to imagine that a better world is possible through radical means, we inspire those who have been beaten down by the systems of oppression we find so prevalent in our country.
When we inspire those who have been beaten down, they come out and join the struggle for change. When more people struggle for change, we build better relationships with our neighbors and community.
When we build better relationships, we win and create that better world that so many moderates have said would take too long for it to be viable. Writing piece after piece about how only moderate Democrats can win Middle America will not win Middle America. Actually engaging in Middle America and giving them hope will win Middle America.