November 6, 2018

VALDETARO | Job Opening: 2020 Democratic Nominee

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Tonight, when election results start rolling in, professional pundits and party power-players will descend upon their studio desks and bleak backrooms to opine on and debate the implications of this election for the one that will take place just under two years from now. Attempts to divine the electorate’s views on President Trump will be especially earnest within the Democratic Party, still recovering from a 2016 election in which Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly three million votes but lost the electoral college by fewer than 80,000 aggregate votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

From the moment polls close, the varying successes and failures of unabashed liberals running in traditionally-red states (such as Beto O’Rourke, Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum) and the staying power of their moderate counterparts in increasingly-red states (namely Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.)) will be compared and contrasted in an attempt to divine which type of candidate would have the best chance to defeat President Trump.

In the face of these inevitable electability prognostications, though, I want to offer my fellow Democrats my view on what what characteristics the party’s nominee in 2020 should have. In an election in which it feels like the fate of the country, not to mention the fate of the millions whose lives have already been negatively affected by a Trump presidency, the Democratic nominee for president of the United States in 2020 should have the courage to be bold and the willingness to acknowledge nuance.

Bold is a fairly ambiguous adjective. According to dictionary.com, its definition is, “not hesitating or fearful in the face of actual or possible danger or rebuff; courageous and daring.” When I use this to describe a potential nominee though, I specifically mean having the courage to acknowledge not only the systemic inequalities which currently plague society, but the fact that they reveal that the United States has not lived up to the values it purportedly champions. It means connecting the lack of economic mobility, the continued disadvantages of racial minorities, and the continued inaccessibility of our democracy to the facts that the United States has never had equal economic opportunity in anything more than name, that the effects of the nation’s founding document valuing racial minorities as three-fifths or less of a person did not disappear when we elected our first African-American president, and that the chorus of the masses has always and still does sing with a distinctly upper-class accent.

More than this, it is the recognition that the flaws of the United States are not irredeemable, but that recognizing the nation’s wrongs is not the same thing as righting them. It is a sincere belief that shining a light on injustices only discredits the Union if it is not used as an opportunity to make that union more perfect.
Nuance can be a similarly ambiguous noun, defined as, “a subtle difference or distinction in expression, meaning, response, etc.” In this context, I mean the willingness to accept that campaign-trail poetry will, and can, never perfectly translate into governing prose. This means acknowledging that progressive policies and ideas will have drawbacks in their conception, much less their passage and implementation, but that this doesn’t render them obsolete or irrelevant. It means recognizing that single-payer healthcare could lead to higher wait times, and that it will need higher revenue. It means taking into account that paid maternity leave being too generous could actually reinforce sexist traditional family arrangements. It means addressing that while guilt may be a productive emotion that prompts self-introspection, the shame often foisted on those accused of being racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or any other -ism or -obia may not be the best way to rid our nation of those views.

Together, boldness and nuance mean acknowledging a fact of life that politics has tried to ignore for too long: imperfection. They mean recognizing that both candidates and the country they run to represent have imperfect pasts and imperfect presents, and will certainly have an imperfect future, but that futility only lies in attempts to ignore these truths. They mean stating clearly and plainly that every policy will have winners and losers, and that asking for anything else is simply asking to be misled. They mean accepting that there are few clear-cut answers in life, and even fewer in politics, and that this is why we should embrace uncertainty, not run from it. They mean trying to split hairs, seek out differing opinions, and have difficult conversations more often, not less often.

There is no guarantee that a Democrat that runs a bold campaign infused with nuance will beat President Trump in 2020. Then again, as we found out two years ago, there is no such thing as a guaranteed outcome in electoral politics, unless only one person is on the ballot. That’s why, the next time Democratic voters go to the polls for a national election, beginning on Feb. 3, 2020, in Iowa, they should demand a new type of candidate.

Not one who will speak of the future as if it’s detached from the past, but one who realizes that our nation’s past flaws are its current flaws and will be its future flaws if we continue to recognize but not right them. For too long, the United States has run from its past; it’s time that we elected a leader who will finally help us face it.

Giancarlo Valdetaro is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. Setting the Temperature runs every other Tuesday this semester. He can be reached at gvaldetaro@cornellsun.com