Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 22, 2024

Liberals must prioritize political power over individual candidates

By BINYAMIN NOVETSKY | April 23, 2020


BECKER1999/CC BY 2.0

Novetsky argues that liberal voters must prioritize winning elections above candidate flaws.

I am by no means the most liberal person that I know. However, despite going to a very politically conservative high school and growing up in a pretty conservative community, I was raised in a liberal family with liberal siblings. I am proud to say that I am a registered Democrat. 

It is especially because of my background that I have never been more frustrated by the absolutely absurd and foolish way in which many liberals have reacted to the Democratic presidential primary race that is just now wrapping up after starting what feels like years ago.

A common critique of liberals (especially young ones) is that we are too idealistic, too disconnected from reality. For years, I wore that criticism as a badge of honor.

Yes, I am idealistic. I believe in the ideals of equality and freedom that I was taught the founding fathers of America fought and died for. While those stories aren't as straightforward as I once thought, and in truth the history of equality is long, complicated and still evolving, I still feel the same way.

I’m not here to tell you that the current president is racist, or sexist, or just generally boorish and despicable. I’m also not here to proclaim the moral purity of Joe Biden, a candidate whose flaws have been covered. What I want to say is something far more accusatory — that somehow, liberals still haven’t managed to figure out that when it comes to the world of politics, none of these problems matter.

Politics isn’t about personal expression: it’s about power. Republicans realized this last century, as is evidenced by their disproportionate domination in Congress and in state governments across the nation. But for the life of them, Democrats just can’t seem to figure it out.

Now, should this be the case? I don’t know, and I don’t care. Liberals may unapologetically be idealists, but if we let our ideals blind us to reality entirely, then we lose the ability to help anyone at all. So, as Facebook posts from college students complaining about this election cycle pile up, and as people cry out online and in real life about the injustice of the nomination process, I have to say that I have no sympathy. 

Was Joe Biden my favorite candidate? Absolutely not, though admittedly I did prefer him over Bernie Sanders. However, what matters is not who the presidential nominee is or what specifically made you prefer one 78-year-old white man over a 77-year-old white man. What matters, in fact the only thing that matters, is attaining power.

If this sounds overly harsh, allow me to make a few things clear. Currently, the Supreme Court is at a 5-4 split leaning conservative, with a couple of those four liberal justices likely to retire in the next four years. If you consider yourself liberal, then the absolutely horrifying reality of having the highest court in America split 7-2, with four Trump appointees on the bench, should be enough to convince you to vote Democrat. 

America is also dealing with a crumbling health infrastructure that Republicans show no interest in fixing, a tax structure increasingly favoring the wealthy and corporations and, perhaps most importantly, a planet with a dramatically and dangerously uncertain future due to climate change.

Do your views line up perfectly with Joe Biden on all of these causes? Probably not, but to have expected that to be the case is irrational. There is no such thing as a perfect candidate.

Maybe you were hoping for universal health care, which Biden doesn’t support. Maybe you want stronger taxes on the wealthy than Biden plans on instituting. Maybe you feel that Biden doesn’t care about the climate enough to meet your standards. 

I sincerely hope you had the opportunity to voice those concerns at the polls during our exceedingly elongated primary process. If (like me) you now feel dissatisfied, then (like me) you lost. Though it hurts to admit, in the end, it wasn’t even that close — Biden beat every other candidate by miles.

Unless a historically unprecedented event occurs, the president of the United States on January 20, 2021 will either be Joe Biden or Donald Trump. That’s a fact we all ought to take to heart sooner rather than later, no matter how upsetting and disappointing it may be. A choice remains, only it is no longer one of personality: Which party would you rather have power?

If your answer is Trump, I strongly disagree with you, but I respect your right to make such a choice. If your choice is neither simply because you don’t like either candidate enough, though, that is a choice that I believe to be fundamentally unrespectable.

Feelings matter, but they won’t determine who gets to be the most powerful person in the world. This is a binary choice, a black-or-white selection.

You may not like Joe Biden’s health-care plans very much, but do you like them less than Trump’s? Biden may not be environmentally progressive enough for you, but isn’t rejoining the Paris Climate Accord better than doing nothing? Most important, won’t whoever Biden ends up nominating to the Supreme Court almost inevitably be better than Brett Kavanaugh? Don’t underestimate the importance of that decision, as it may genuinely be the most important political piece up for grabs in this election.

This isn’t about if Biden is “liberal enough,” or if you wanted to vote for him months ago. There is simply too much at stake this year for liberals to be so self-centered as to reject a candidate for being imperfect, however old or flawed the man may be. You don’t have to like him, and even if you do, it doesn’t matter. We saw the effects of choosing not to vote based on dissatisfaction in 2016, when the Bernie-or-Bust movement was one critical piece in sinking Hillary Clinton’s campaign. 

The question is one of power, and there are only two options. Mourn that reality all you want, but it is reality. Please choose wisely, and pick with your head, not your heart.

Binyamin Novetsky is a sophomore majoring in Writing Seminars from Teaneck, N.J. He is a Staff Writer for The News-Letter.

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