You would think that, having spent five decades on this planet, and all of that time as an American citizen, and most of my adult life as a Democrat, I would have, by now, purposely drowned in a bathtub any remaining vestiges of my political optimism and idealism, but here we are.
I had hoped since 2017 that Kamala Harris would be our next president, and I remained fervently optimistic that she would be … right up until the moment she announced she was suspending her campaign.
In my previous post, I presented with as much logic and passion as I could muster all of the reasons why I believed she was our best hope not only to beat Trump, but to show the world that America is, in fact, better than the disgracefully racist, xenophobic, misogynistic country we currently appear to be. Turns out I was wrong about that last part — or, at the very least, far less right than I had hoped.
The extent to which we are “better than this” is not as great as I’ve heretofore convinced myself — which, clearly, I should have realized long before now, given that Donald Trump not only was elected in the first place, but that he remains president thanks to the cult-like support and protection of a sycophantic, blatantly racist and misogynistic party whose members have surrendered any and all pretense of caring more about America than their own personal and political fortunes — but that realization has been further driven home for me by way of Kamala Harris’s (and Julian Castro’s and Cory Booker’s) erasure from the Democratic-primary field.
Did Senator Harris and her team run a perfect campaign? Certainly not. Do you know who else hasn’t? Every single candidate against whom she was running. The difference between her and just about everyone else, however, was the margin of error she was afforded, and the coverage and attention her candidacy was given … and if you don’t think she was unfairly hamstrung because she is both Black and female, I wish to either congratulate you on your good fortune in leading a privileged and sheltered life, or admonish you for being in a woeful state of denial, or both.
I didn’t have a backup plan for this scenario. I was all-in on Kamala, and now that she has dropped out of the race, I don’t know who I’m pulling for. To be clear: I will wholeheartedly support whomever is the eventual Democratic nominee … but as to who, if anyone, I now am genuinely excited to get behind, I don’t have an answer.
As I’ve said all along, I despise the primary process — and never have I despised it more than I do this time around, when the good guys are fighting each other while we all remain subjected to a sitting president who not only is the singularly worst and most unfit human being ever to hold the office, but who is an ongoing threat to both national and global security.
I know the primary serves as a vetting process for the candidates, but there’s an argument to be made that, in the battle to defeat Trump, it would have been best for Democrats to meet behind closed doors, pick a presidential and vice-presidential nominee, announce a predetermined ticket, and then spend the entire campaign season helping that ticket run head-on against Trump/Pence instead of making us watch a gaggle of candidates try to sabotage each other while their respective supporters claw out each other’s eyeballs, all to the bemusement and aid of the Republican party.
“That’s ridiculous, Jon. That would never work.” Hi. I’m Jon. I live in a world where Donald Trump is president of the United States, so please don’t deign to lecture me about what’s ridiculous, OK? (Also, PS: There was a time when party insiders selected the nominees.) But, alright, no one asked me how to handle the selection of the 2020 Democratic presidential ticket, so I’m stuck with what I’m stuck with.
Which brings me to a conversation I recently had with a close childhood friend whose politics largely mirror my own. As I was lamenting the fact that Kamala had dropped out of the race, and that two old white dudes were leading the pack, he turned to me and asked, “What is the lesson of the 2016 election?” I took a long moment to think about my answer.
“America is far more racist than I realized,” I finally replied. “And I already thought it was pretty fucking racist.”
“Correct,” he said.
We then acknowledged that, based on poll results, an overwhelming majority of Black voters are supporting former Vice President Biden. We further acknowledged that, as two middle-aged white guys who both have decent jobs, health insurance, and live in our own respective, affluent, lily-white suburban bubbles, we probably should pay more attention to the input of those who have lost far more than we by way of Donald Trump’s 2016 victory, and who have far more to lose than we in the event he is elected to a second term.
People on the receiving end of Trump’s racist policies and rhetoric are scared … and I don’t blame them.
I had hoped that, in order to help repair the damage done by Trump’s first term, America would make a major course correction by electing a Black woman to the presidency. I had hoped that we could, in one fell swoop, reclaim the ground we’ve lost since Trump took office — ground we had gained by electing Barack Obama. But perhaps that was too hopeful and idealistic of me. Perhaps that was a gamble I was making with someone else’s currency — and, compared to those who will suffer most if Trump is reelected, it most likely was a gamble that, if it failed to pan out, held far less risk for me than for others.
Perhaps the best way for me to be an ally in 2020 is to support the candidate whom those who have the most to lose under four more years of Trump believe is the person most capable of beating him.
And perhaps the best way to pave an eventual path to the Oval Office for Kamala Harris is by helping her become the first female vice president of the United States. Any nominee who offers her that chance — as Biden seems to have indicated he is likely to do — will have not only my vote, but my enthusiastic support.
As I was putting the finishing touches on everything I’ve written above, Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capeheart — who, while Senator Harris was still in the race, was one of the few journalists to give her candidacy the attention it deserved — published a column titled “Biden leads among black voters for a reason,” in which he says the following:
“At the family barbecue, I asked [my Aunt Gloria] why she thought Biden was the person to take on Trump. Her answer left me slack-jawed and remains the best explanation for Biden’s continued strength. ‘The way the system is set up now, there is so much racism that it’s going to have to be an old white person to go after an old white person,’ Aunt Gloria said. ‘Old-school against old-school.’”
Speaking as someone who has spent the past five decades living in a world where I’ve had an undeniable advantage simply by being born white and male, and as someone who now lives in a world where racists elected a racist to be the president of the United States, I am in no position to tell Mr. Capeheart’s aunt that she’s wrong, nor that I know what is best for the Black community as a whole.
I’m not yet ready to say I’m supporting Joe Biden … but I am ready to pay attention to the input of those who will find themselves in far greater peril than I if Donald Trump is reelected.