I can’t vote for Kirsten Gillibrand because she once advocated the adoption of an English-only policy.
I can’t vote for Elizabeth Warren because she made the horrifically misguided decision to have a DNA test to “prove” her American Indian heritage.
I can’t vote for Cory Booker because he couldn’t be more wrong in his support for charter schools.
I can’t vote for Kamala Harris because she locked up too many people of color while she was a prosecutor in California.
I can’t vote for Sherrod Brown because he sent me roughly 12,539 e-mails begging for money during the last campaign.
I can’t vote for Bernie Sanders because his record on guns is incredibly problematic and the behavior of some of his supporters during the 2016 still stings.
It’s the easiest game in American politics, especially Democratic politics. While Republicans still support the worst and most corrupt American President since Warren Harding at overwhelming numbers, Democrats are already beginning the ritual dance of deciding which candidates they simply CANNOT support because of a flawed position or value from the past.
It seems like there is nothing more satisfying for Democrats than preëmptively deciding that one or more candidate for office simply cannot be the Democratic nominee because she held or holds a viewpoint that is somehow an absolute litmus test for a candidate.
In the 2020 elections, whether for governor of Montana, President of the United States, or city commissioner, I’d like to challenge Democrats to move away from the politics of exclusion and embrace the idea that our job in the primaries is to choose the best candidate, not a perfect one. We should absolutely choose candidates who hold progressive values and we should even consider the dirty word “electability,” but in this cycle, let’s use our collective and personal voices to find the candidates we need to take back control of Washington and protect the gains we’ve made in Montana.
And the best path to do that is to focus our energy on asking candidates to explain problematic votes and positions, not to assume the worst. I’d remind Democratic voters who close the door on candidates because they once took a problematic position on immigration in 2008 that Barack Obama and Steve Bullock weren’t exactly champions on LGBT issues then, nor were 60% of our friends and neighbors in Montana in 2006.
People—including politicians—can grow, change, and even improve over time. Let’s spend our energy sussing out whether they’ve grown from earlier bad votes or, even, stunning as it might seem, whether we can accept that a person can be an excellent President even if we don’t agree with all of her views.
Instead of spending our energy tearing down candidates we don’t agree with on our Facebook and Twitter feeds, maybe we should spend our energy asking those candidates and the people who support them what we have in common.
And we, as Democrats, absolutely must have common goals in 2020: to never let the divisiveness that rocked our party in 2016 lead to Donald Trump assuming a second term and to fight like hell to make sure that Greg Gianforte doesn’t assume the governor’s chair to destroy reproductive freedom for women, public schools for our children, unions for our workers, and public lands for all Montanans.
I—we—can’t let that happen. Let’s try to remember that as campaign season gets off to an even earlier start than usual.