By Peter Finaldi
If the 2016 presidential election proved anything, it’s that options matter. The Republican primary had over 20 candidates, many of which are forgotten today. Bobby Jindal? George Pataki? Jim Gilmore? Some consider the plethora of candidates to be a downside of a major election since the most polarizing candidate, Donald Trump, won the most electoral votes, granting him the presidency. Due to Trump being the Democratic Party’s biggest adversary, much like Obama was to the Republicans in 2016, the candidates running to replace him are already almost at the double digits, with many more reportedly preparing to announce their campaign. Some candidates from previous elections would return to the spotlight if they choose to run, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Political pundits in the mainstream media confidently choose a few candidates as their frontrunners, but it’s important to wait until the primaries actually begin before we make that judgment.
Having seen the one of the most populated races in election history, some would naturally feel apprehensive about a similar situation occurring once again. Trump had no experience in public office prior to his presidential victory, so would something like that happen again? Would the Democrats elect a billionaire with no political history other than tweeting raunchy criticisms about the sitting president? That’s very unlikely. All the big names in the 2020 presidential race are current members of Congress. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, and, if he decides to run, Bernie Sanders are all sitting senators.
We also have to consider what made Trump popular amongst the political right. While he is criticized for frequently lying, he won the primaries repeating the same phrases repeatedly: “Build the wall,” “Drain the swamp,” etc. That foundation earned him a lot of respect due to his commitment to those policies of eliminating illegal immigration, renewing job growth in the midwest and stopping the outsourcing of jobs overseas by withdrawing from TPP and NAFTA, and corruption in Washington. It’s questionable if he delivered those promises being in public office for two years, but that’s a debate for another day. What will shape the Democratic Party? Who will be the last one standing after this onslaught of campaign announcements? Time will tell, but given how American democracy functions, it’s only up to you, the voter, to decide which policies matter to you most.
Investigate the backgrounds of candidates you’re interested in. What wins you over? What crosses the line for you? Do you want universal healthcare? Tuition-free college? Reformation of criminal justice? Reduction of income inequality? Financial security? Pay attention to what these candidates say and determine if they dial back or double down on the policies important to you. Consider their history and which bills they supported and passed. Do those bills contradict with what they are advocating, or do they solidify their integrity even further? If so, let your voice be heard and personally contact the candidates. Pressure them to advocate for a policy that you support. These politicians shouldn’t serve themselves; they’re meant to serve the Americans that support them. Being an inactive voter would only result in an outcome you would be unsatisfied with.
2020 will be a transformative election if the voters refuse to let the spotlights shine away from their interests. Watch the debates and the town hall Q&A’s, follow the candidates on social media and speak up, do anything within your power to drive the discussion. The race has only just begun, and it won’t stop until next November. It will be a rough ride, but don’t let that deter you from exercising your civic rights. You might not get the results you wanted, but that’s okay. This election matters and it is not something you should sleep on.