Ever since Donald Trump’s shocking win in the heated 2016 election, Democrats, Independents, and Republicans with a conscience — have all found themselves increasingly alarmed by the foolishness taking place in the Oval office, and set their eyes on 2020.
As for who the Democratic candidate will be still remains to be seen, but many of us hoped that it would be a woman and/or a person of color. Given the president’s penchant for normalizing white supremacist rhetoric it only made sense that this story would culminate in a minority coming forward to save the day.
But with just over 18 months left before America casts its ballot, some of us are having to come to terms with the reality that we may not end up having the fairytale happy ending that we’d hoped. And that the person who gets us out of this mess may end up looking eerily similar to the jackhole who got us into it.
The Booker and Harris conundrum
It’s clear to anyone following politics that Sen. Cory Booker has not only welcomed, but at times perhaps even courted, the perception that he’s been a rising star in the Democratic party the last few years.
At 50, Booker looks a good ten years younger than his age, is a masterful wordsmith, and despite not having a Michelle equivalent by his side, used to be touted pretty shamelessly as, “the next Obama.”
But over time the public started to see his mask slip a bit, and just as quickly as he gained favor in the Black community, his veneer cracked. And in recent months, Booker has been met with accusations of being disingenuous and dare I say it — corny. And I don’t mean corny in the endearing way either, but more so in the, “You’re trying too hard, relax homie” kind of way.
Then there was Sen. Kamala Harris, the quick witted, former D.A whose bravery in the face of bigotry and meme worthy side-eyes made her a viral sensation amongst older Black people and millennials alike. For many of us, her strength and grace under fire made her seem like the perfect candidate.
Unfortunately for Harris, soon after she announced her candidacy (on Martin Luther King Day no less), Black Twitter started pulling up receipts about her track record as a lawmaker in California and quickly surmised that while her campaign relied heavily on our community’s support, her policies weren’t always kind to our community itself.
And just like that, her approval ratings (understandably) took a hit, with misogynists everywhere seizing this as a chance to unleash their disdain for Harris’ gender while hiding behind those of us who actually had legitimate reservations about her politics.
To be fair, both Booker and Harris have confronted those who slam them for being inauthentic and/or problematic opportunists pandering to the Black vote. But like most things these days, perception is still reality. And with each day, their chances of beating the Trump seem slimmer and slimmer.
In fact, according to MSNBC, despite the public’s rallying cry for more diversity in politics, Joe Biden, Beto O’Rourke and Bernie Sanders are all leading in polls ahead of their Black and/or female opponents.
Just another old white guy
After months of refusing to confirm the obvious, last week the former vice president Joe Biden, finally announced his candidacy for President. In his first official campaign video “Uncle Joe” looked healthy, rosy cheeked and earnest as he called out Trump’s tyranny and vowed to bring this country back to the values it once held dear.
Some people saw this and applauded, while others rolled their eyes and made snarky comments about the mini scandal that erupted weeks earlier about women coming forward to complain about how touchy feely the former veep was.
In response to the backlash Biden addressed the critics, said he took full accountability for his missteps, vowed to do better, and even issued yet another apology to Anita Hill for the way he epically failed her during her battle against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
BIDENS ADDRESS ALLEGATIONS: Joe and Dr. Jill Biden responded to allegations of inappropriate touching against the former vice president in an exclusive interview with @GMA’s @RobinRoberts — the co-hosts discuss. https://t.co/eGi7sFchs6 pic.twitter.com/AdxoZqp3kY
— The View (@TheView) April 30, 2019
Whether you like the man or not, his response was exactly what we often say we want from our politicians. Yet the unwavering dismissal from many in the Black community felt almost akin to the “I guess I’m with her,” sentiments directed to Hillary Clinton in 2016. And while those memes were funny, and I even personally agreed with the sentiment at times, in retrospect I find myself asking, “What did that really accomplish?”
Sure we called out Hilary for being a career politician, but our quick wit and wig snatching digs still got us Trump. And so now, two years, and a ton of crimes against humanity later, I am no longer laughing at the Biden jokes and instead find myself grappled with fear that Democrats — Black voters in particular — will be too busy calling Booker corny, cussing out Harris for her track record, and making jokes about Biden being a creepy old grandpa to actually get us the win we so desperately need.
This isn’t the time to be funny or impress your timeline with droll observations about how, if we vote for Biden, we’d just be switching out one “old white guy” for another. It also isn’t the time to vote symbolically for people who look like you but don’t stand a chance in hell of winning on your behalf.
Instead, what we more intelligently could be focused on is strategy, laser focus, and unshakable execution — the very things that helped the GOP win last time, even though they were pushing a candidate whose intelligence is questionable and who many suspect only ran for president for bragging rights and a tax write-off.
So what’s the answer?
In a world where the women and Black people running for office are slipping in the polls and white men of varying qualifications are getting much more press than some of them deserve (or know what to do with) it may feel to many people of color that we’re already screwed and doomed to a repeat of 2016.
But I’m here to tell you that’s not the case. Instead of basing your decision on optics or familiarity, I would wholeheartedly encourage everyone to put aside their emotional allegiances and approach this objectively. If you’re not sure how to do that, no worries. I made you a list.
- First ask yourself whose platform speaks most to what you care about. And please note I said “most” because it’s highly unlikely that any candidate will make you completely happy.
- Then keep an eye on the polls, candidate profiles (both televised and written), upcoming debates, and campaign rally videos. Use these data points to assess who is gaining momentum versus who is starting to slip.
- Also be willing to honestly admit who you — even if begrudgingly — think has the best chance of not only winning the primaries but also beating Trump in the election.
- And once you’ve done this intelligent analysis of the landscape before you, then cast your vote for who you feel is the wisest investment. Even if it’s someone you wouldn’t personally invite over your house for dinner.
What I just outlined above is a completely accessible way for just about anyone to be engaged and do their part this election season. But the days of casting uninformed/emotional ballots, or choosing not to vote at all, are behind us. Quiet as it’s kept, a lot of Republicans cannot stand Trump, yet because their party — at times unscrupulously — is more focused on victory than clever banter, they still successfully got him over the finish line.
And as much as I hate to admit it, if we stand any chance of beating this man child who lied his way into the White House, we’re gonna have to beat his base at their own game.
Before I end this, I also want to point out, while Biden and Sanders are currently in the lead, I think it is irresponsible to speak in absolutes about who we plan to, (or refuse to), vote for this early in the game. Because the truth is, many liberals and independents who are civically engaged, are gonna vote for whoever isn’t Trump anyways.
So I’m not personally invested in pushing anyone in a direction they’re uncomfortable with. All I’m asking is that we stop undermining the efforts of those seeking to dethrone #45, chill out on the snark against our own, and instead amp up the information sharing and advocacy to get people to the polls.
This election is not a joke. We can all laugh after we win.
Follow writer Blue Telusma on Instagram at @bluecentric