The Hotchkiss Record

Get Out of the Weeds

Poll after poll, a majority of Democratic voters say they are looking for a candidate with “electability” – someone who can run against President Trump and win – even if the candidate in question disagrees with them on policies. They would be senseless not to. After a rigged primary election in 2016, incessant media coverage about Secretary Clinton’s emails, and an electoral wake-up call with Trump’s victory, the Democratic Party is moving mountains to make sure they never lose to a candidate like President Trump ever again.

The undemocratic superdelegates? Gone. Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz? Gone and replaced with President Obama’s Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. President – I mean Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton? Far, far away, where she belongs. The Democrats are opening up the field. Instead of the primary being between Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and two dudes you never even heard of, we now have over a dozen men and women vying for the nomination. The main problem, however, is how the race has devolved into a race towards uniformity.

We have a Rhodes Scholar veteran mayor of South Bend, Indiana contemplating a Supreme Court shake-up; a Harvard-academic-turned-Massachusetts-Senator suggesting universal childcare; a New Jersey Senator in touch with his heart advocating for a commission to investigate the case for reparations; and a bird-loving, Brooklyn-born Senator from Vermont calling (once more) for a single-payer healthcare system.

While these candidates may seem wildly different from one another, no matter where they are from, when one advocates for a policy, all of the other candidates we are swiftly finding that every other candidate clamors to agree. It was easy to distinguish Hillary Clinton from Bernie Sanders. The former was the embodiment of the establishment, an incrementalist, and – while liberal – definitely gravitated towards the center. The latter was rebellious, anti-establishment, and undeniably liberal – so much so that he redefined what it means to be a Democrat.

The majority of the Democratic Party is now calling for the exact same policies that made Bernie Sanders “too radical” just three years ago. And to tell you the truth, I do not think that is a bad thing. I myself have called for universal healthcare, marijuana legalization, and dismantling Citizens United in the past. The issue now is that, with a dozen or so serious contenders (sorry, but I cannot take Julián Castro and Tulsi Gabbard seriously), the candidates are hard to distinguish from one another. If that continues, we will never have a strong debate on the Democratic Party’s platform and policies.

That is sure to change as time goes on, however. Candidates will thin out, and we may (finally) know if Vice President Joe Biden is actually going to run. However, instead of talking about specifics – debating whether abolishing private insurance is better than creating an enhanced Medicare buy-in, whether nuclear energy will play a role in the eventual nominee’s Green New Deal – we can only latch on to the candidates themselves.

Bernie Sanders is a known quantity, Beto O’Rourke is leveraging his rise to fame as a result of his failed Texas Senate campaign, and Kamala Harris is a prosecutorial liberal firebrand who could bring a new face to the party. However, many Democrats are debating whether Sanders is too old for the party of the country’s youth. Biden is having to answer for his record on crime, busing, and being too “hands-on.” Warren is trying to leave her claiming Native American “heritage” fiasco in the past. And Harris’ time as California’s Attorney General is making voters question whether she really is for enacting criminal justice reform.

I am not asking for the candidates to become less liberal, nor do I want them to become more liberal. I do, however, want them to narrow their vision – highlight the five or so policies that would be central to their presidency. Get out of the weeds, take a stance, and keep a consistent theme, because if their identity is the only thing that distinguishes them from one another, that is all anyone will ever talk about.

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