Now that we’re officially in the 2020 Presidential Election year, we should probably take a moment to seriously reflect on an issue that hasn’t so much been lingering on the periphery, as standing in the middle of the room, sucking up all the air and shrieking like the squeaky, troublemaking wheel it is.
Since the end of the 2018 Midterm Election cycle, we’ve been beaten over the head with this blunt object of a word by every political pundit, both amateur and professional. We’ve had to watch as they frantically and repeatedly consider the viability of every black, Hispanic, and female candidate that bought a ticket to ride the nonstop crazy train that is the Democratic Presidential Primary. This hysteria quickly bled from TV screens and print media to the streets, where everyday voters continued the circular conversation, becoming more agitated with each trip around the roundabout, never noticing they weren’t actually getting anywhere (Look, kids. Big Ben. Parliament).
This level of fanatical public interrogation on the matter almost made this philosophy major wonder if there’s a platonic form out there labeled Electability that I just never saw mentioned in any of the Socratic Dialogues, and we’re all stuck in a frenzied search for earthly manifestations of it in every presidential candidate. And, sadly, it seems none of the brown, black, Asian, and female folks running are able to measure up to the heavenly ideal.
Look, I get it. This election is massively important. And not just in the way that every presidential election is called the most important election of our lives. This one is critical in a way that we can understand viscerally, not just academically. Four more years with this tweet crazy madman at the helm will surely lead us straight into the deadly (and melting) iceberg lingering not-so-distantly on the horizon. We can’t afford to lose in November, which means no one wants to go all in for a candidate that can’t ultimately win big on Election Day.
Given these legitimate and albeit somewhat hysterical concerns, I’ve talked to many dozens of people who demand to know who can win against Trump, because that’s who they want to support in the Primary. They never mention who they like. They might not like anyone, not really. They’re much more interested in the odds. They want me to whisper the name of the person that will win, as though I know such a thing simply because I work in politics.
I tell everyone who asks the same thing: vote for the person you love in the Primary and then vote for the Democrat on the ballot in November. If luck exists as something more than our crossed fingers and anxious entreaties, it’ll be the same candidate.
But this advice isn’t good enough. These people are desperate to keep from making the ‘wrong’ choice. And they look to me as an authority (how did we get here, America?!) that can ensure they make the ‘right’ choice. These folks don’t have time to waste. The Primary’s coming. They need to know who’s going to win big. They need to know who’s electable. They want me to tell them the name of the person guaranteed to deliver us from this ever worsening nightmare.
Okay, I lied before. But I’m ready to come clean now. I do know who can win in November, and I’m willing to tell you, provided you really want to know. Lean in close…
The candidate that can win is the one for whom we vote.
Mind blowing, right?
But it’s true. And I tell people this too, even though very few actually want to hear it. They want a silver bullet that will slay the were-asshole currently occupying the White House, but all we have is our votes, our sweat equity, and our enthusiasm. The candidate we believe in, the one we’re willing to work for, to put in volunteer hours for, to eventually cast a ballot for, is the one that can win.
The field of Democratic candidates has already been culled of the black, Hispanic, and Asian hopefuls, each a victim of the cult of electability. And what does that word even mean, anyway? If we’re being real, electability is code for white male. And why wouldn’t it be? Besides one solitary individual, all of the other 44 presidents have been white and male. And because white supremacy and misogyny are deeply ingrained in our culture, no matter your race, your sex, your level of self-identified wokeness, when we look at that office, too many of us see it as the sole territory of white men. Throughout history, they’ve always led at the highest levels. Why shouldn’t they keep leading? And, no, Obama’s election didn’t fix this situation, or we wouldn’t still be having this conversation. He’s the exception that proves the rule, not the outlier that breaks it down.
We can’t identify this as a problem until we say it out loud. And we can’t fix it until we hold ourselves, those around us, and the punditry class accountable. Electability just means who we vote for. And no one is unelectable simply by virtue of their race or gender. No one ever says that part out loud, but why has no one asked about the electability of the white male candidates, including one that’s not even out of his thirties? Imagine a 38 year old woman running for president having never held statewide office. She’d have been laughed off the stage and then eaten alive for her ostentatiousness alone…
Electability is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So, here’s my advice, if you still care to hear it. Vote for the candidate you believe in. The candidate that lights a fire under your ass and makes you want to donate, knock doors, make phone calls, or just bother the hell out of your friends and family because you can’t stop talking about how great the person is. That’s who can win, if more of us commit to putting in the hard work, the donations, and the votes. Don’t fall victim to the bullshit myth of electability. That’s just a way of keeping diverse candidates from daring to imagine they could one day ascend to the White House.
Electability is what our votes say it is.
When it comes time to cast my ballot in the Primary, I plan to vote for the candidate I believe is best suited to be president, the one I want to see in the White House in 2021. There’s no magic to it. Just votes. So, vote.