When asked what the difference between Democrats and Republicans is, former President Bill Clinton said, “In every presidential election, Democrats want to fall in love. Republicans just fall in line.” And as the fog surrounding the 2019 primary clears, this distinction whispers doom for Democrats.
The Democratic Party has repeatedly failed to unite around their nominee, enabling the rise of despicable men including former President Richard Nixon, incompetent men like former President George W. Bush or a mix of both, such as President Donald J. Trump. In 1968, a divided Democratic Party failed to support Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey. Conservative party members opposed his liberal civil rights record while more liberal legislators were angered by his hawkish stance on Vietnam. Nixon eventually defeated Humphrey, and his authoritarianism was later exposed at Watergate, eroding American trust in their government. In 2000, conservative Southern Democrats abandoned the party yet again when a challenge from Green Party nominee Ralph Nader weakened Al Gore’s prospects. Bush further entangled the nation in two grueling wars in the Middle East, which even its architects admit were both terrible errors. Most recently, liberals and progressives who supported then-Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) were disillusioned by the rigged Democratic primary and failed to turn out for the presidential election.
We cannot be sure of the consequences of Trump’s presidency, but it’s not particularly inspiring to see the president accused of sexual assault and harassment, claiming his predecessor is not American-born and stoking anti-immigrant sentiments by alleging that “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners” are mixed in the migrant caravan traveling from Honduras.
Moving forward, Democrats shouldn’t be confident of victory. Less than a month into 2019, many presidential candidates are already marred by controversy. One of the major front-runners, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) fell flat on her face with her Native American heritage DNA Test. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is under scrutiny for calling members of the LGBT community “homosexual extremists.” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is haunted by her career as a prosecutor, alienating both progressives and conservatives. Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro has been accused of incompetence while helping Dallas overcome its racial segregation problems.
Meanwhile, other contenders, who have not yet declared their candidacy, are viewed unfavorably by large wings of the party. Former Vice President Biden’s mishandling of the Anita Hill hearings in the 1980s and his support for Fred Upton (R-Mich.) during the 2018 midterms angered many progressives. Establishment party figures in the party fear Sanders’ populism. As such, whether the Democratic nominee is a moderate liberal or a populist progressive, some faction is bound to lose.
After the 2016 Democratic primary, I volunteered for the Clinton campaign. The entire campaign was marred by the bitterness of Sanders’ supporters and the condescension of Clinton supporters. Current events remind me of these phenomena. I sincerely hope that moving forward, we can have real conversations and much-needed debate about candidates and policies — we shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. We cannot sit out on this upcoming election and let members of the LGBTQ community suffer blatant discrimination. We cannot abandon a nominee for supporting progressive stances such as Medicare-for-all while millions of Americans go without health care. We cannot let ourselves be consumed by hate and despise our nominee for reaching across the aisle when our opponents, as much as we may disagree with them, represent tens of millions of our fellow countrymen.
I’m not asking you to love whomever the winner is, be it a moderate like Biden or a progressive like Sanders, but do not let the brutal primaries cloud your judgment. We have to unite. If the Democrats are defeated again, we have only ourselves, not Russia, to blame.
Sun Woo Park (19Ox, 21C) is from San Jose, Calif.