What makes a good presidential candidate? Someone who is honest and keeps their promises? A person who is constantly seeking the best for this country? There are a lot of factors that come to mind when deciding if someone will be successful in the race for president. But in this particular election, where the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has a clear, common goal, the best Democratic nominee must be a candidate that can take the presidency from U.S. President Donald Trump.
Over the past year, it has become clear to me that the Democratic candidates are grossly selfish. The amount of Democrats vying for the presidential nomination is ridiculous, especially since the Democratic electorate mocked the Republicans for doing this in the 2016 election! How can the DNC heroically proclaim that the party must unite and put all effort into making Trump a one term president, and at the same time allow 20 candidates to run for president? This only divides the Democratic party.
Consider the 2016 election. Only two Democratic candidates, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, were in the running during most primaries and caucuses. Yet the race divided Democrats around the country. And when Clinton did secure the Democratic nomination, some Bernie supporters refused to vote in the general election, announcing “Bernie or bust!” Though this was not the sole reason that Trump became president, it surely had an effect.
So let’s return to the question of what makes a good presidential candidate. First of all, it has to be someone moderate. Typical campaigning strategy is to run to the left or right during the primaries, and then sprint back to the center for the general election. And given how extreme Trump supporters can be these days, this is more necessary than ever. The Democratic nominee must be able to honor liberal values, but at the same time be able to appeal to conservatives. Trump won many swing states in the 2016 election, and the Democratic nominee, ideally, would turn these states blue. Yes, I commend Bernie for being straight forward in his policies. Yes, I believe that Elizabeth Warren is very smart, and that her words are very well thought out. But can you really imagine a conservative voting for such leftist candidates? While I, a college student in Baltimore, do agree with some of the extreme liberal policies, I’m not a middle aged moderate living in Pennsylvania, or Ohio. The real goal in the 2020 election should be to sway moderate voters who disliked Hillary enough to vote for Trump. We will get nowhere trying to force liberal ideals onto Republicans.
According to the Cornell University Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, the majority of voters in the 2016 general election were between the ages of 45 and 64. So what kind of candidate can appeal to this age demographic? Even with liberals, older generations tend to be more traditional in ideology, and in some cases, traditional does equate with more moderate, and even conservative-leaning.
This particular election has many young candidates who plan to make major changes within the country. I can definitely agree that this country needs major change, and fast. But it is the sad truth that appealing to college students and millenials does not win elections. I personally am intrigued by the ideas of Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke, and I appreciate the fact that they are younger candidates. They have a lot of modern proposals, having grown up in different times than their older competitors. But looking at recent polls, it is clear that many of the higher polling candidates are older, in comparison to some of their younger competitors who are barely polling enough to qualify for the debates. This is most likely due to the fact that many of these modern proposals involve scrapping current policies and rebuilding from the ground up, and people don’t generally like such extreme change. Unfortunately, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, providing a significant challenge for these candidates to convince an older electorate of their new ideas.
If I, a 19 year old college student, can realize that this is what we need in a Democratic candidate, I am sure that the DNC and the Democratic candidates themselves know this. All the candidates claim that the most important goal is to defeat Trump, but they are unable to consolidate. If we really want to make Trump a one term president, we need to approach the election more holistically. The candidates need to be willing to suck up their pride and compromise for the sake of the country!
It became obvious at the Houston debate on Sept. 12 that none of the candidates are willing to give a little. When asked if he would be willing to give up certain policies to compromise with the Republicans, Castro blatantly stated, “I’m not going to pretend like I don’t have my own vision for immigration,” and that he refuses to give up any of his ideals. He is magically assuming that we will have not only a Democratic president, but a Democratic House and Senate come 2021.
The worst part is that the candidates themselves are self aware. Cory Booker said it best in his opening statement: “The differences amongst us Democrats on the stage are not as great as the urgency for us to unite as a party to not just beat Donald Trump but to unite America in common cause and common purpose.”
I don’t know who I’m going to vote for yet in the Democratic primary. I plan to watch the debates and polls very closely. But you can be sure that I will be voting for a moderate candidate willing to work across the aisle, a candidate that polls well with older generations, a candidate who will be able to take the presidency back from Donald Trump.
Jillian Ngo is a sophomore majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Los Angeles, Calif.