The Myth of Electability

Amelie Lee ’23

When you ask Democrats who they’ve decided to vote for in the upcoming primaries, often you’ll receive a scrunched expression and begrudging admission that, “while I don’t like Joe Biden, he’s the most likely candidate to beat Donald Trump.” 

Like an increasingly lonely single college student, America is settling — settling for a mediocre candidate that does not have the ability to bring about the change that this country needs.  

Somehow, in our panicked desperation to oust the orange racist in chief, the 2020 election has become more about “electability” than the candidate who would actually make the best president. 

This fear is for good reason—everyone’s focus should be on preventing Trump from winning in 2020. Yet instead of looking for the candidate with the most potential, there have been countless news articles and editorials saying that the majority of Democratic candidates don’t seem “electable” enough to the American people, portraying Biden as the safe, reliable option instead. 

While Biden seems like a phenomenal choice sitting next to Trump on the presidential ballot, America should be pursuing candidates who would effect meaningful change rather than simply settling for “safe.”

As important as it is to prevent the sitting president from taking a second term, voters should not have to sacrifice their values in order to prevent the repetition of Nov. 8th, 2016. The issue of electability is akin to the issue of “likability” thrown at Hilary Clinton four years ago—simply a distraction from political policy and the overwhelming danger of Donald Trump. 

Four years ago, very few people found it plausible that a xenophobic reality TV star was “electable,” and yet American politics proved public opinion wrong. As long as the party base is energized and enthusiastic about voting Trump out of office, the idea of “electability” shouldn’t fuel votes in the primary elections. 

Statistics show that this concern is misplaced, with polls from The Washington Post and ABC News placing Elizabeth Warren above Trump in estimated 2020 election results, proving that even if the perception electability was an issue, we don’t depend on Biden for success. 

Fundamentally, accusations about electability are more about an unwillingness to challenge the status-quo of political representation than they are about a candidate’s probability of becoming president. Democrats’ misplaced investment in Biden is valuing the reliable option of a moderate white man over those who actually align with party beliefs. 

With this unusually large crop of passionate and articulate candidates, every time we talk about Biden’s “electability,” it detracts from discussion about the platforms and ideas of the actual frontrunner in Iowa, the first gay candidate for president and countless other qualified options. 

Democrats need to look to the candidate that aligns most with their stances and one that they feel will best represent the American people.

In the words of Elizabeth Warren, “This dark moment requires more than being ‘not Trump,’  because a country that elects someone like Donald Trump is a country that’s already in serious trouble.” 

Image Credit: Outside the Beltway

10/10, Volume XXIX, Issue 2