In about six weeks or so we should all have a pretty good idea who is going to be the next Democratic Presidential candidate as most of the important caucuses will be taking place in that time. As a result, a lot of Democrat voters have already decided who they are voting for and are either formally or informally via social media campaigning for their candidate of choice. That’s pretty much how every election is supposed to work. However, I think we are forgetting or, more likely, not even acknowledging, that fanaticism over a candidate betrays the purpose of voting in the first place. I’ve seen an alarming amount of people treat their candidates like sports teams who can do no wrong and that demeans the whole election process. Treating a candidate like they are above reproach is harmful to everyone involved and it really has to stop.
There isn’t a single human being above true, forceful criticism, let alone a presidential candidate. Every person in the primary has a glaring fault that we’d be foolish to ignore. Joe Biden has an absolutely disgraceful criminal justice record and was a determining factor in one of the worst public embarrassments a black woman has had to suffer in American history. Elizabeth Warren’s fabricated Native American heritage was a slap in the face to indigenous communities who faced true American atrocities. Amy Klobuchar has been a staunchly antilock prosecutor. Pete Buttigieg has presided over undeniable racism in his own city’s police department. And Bernie Sanders has shown an inability to separate race from class in any meaningful way. All of these histories are indefensible and most attempts to justify the actions instead of truly reckoning with them are disingenuous at best and blatantly dishonest and hurtful at worst.
Take Thursday night, for instance. Bernie Sanders received an endorsement from Joe Rogan who is a wildly popular and influential podcast host, among other things. Rogan is also unapologetically islamophobic and transphobic, having screamed “you’re a man!” at a trans guest and espoused violent anti-islamic sentiments. He has also used the N-word on multiple occasions. He contributes nothing positive to society.
Bernie Sanders’ Twitter account shared the Rogan endorsement. There is no defense for that move and I expect Sanders to deliver some sort of retraction or apology. Still, his much-publicized “Bernie Bros” – his army of extremely passionate Twitter followers – have defended the Sanders retweet, mostly claiming that Rogan’s endorsement shows how Sanders can appeal to conservatives. The argument is a cognitively dissonant pile of rubbish that is nothing short of mental gymnastics used to defend the indefensible because of a love of Sanders. There is no justifiable reason to see a Joe Rogan endorsement as a positive nor is there a reason to see Sanders celebrating that endorsement as anything but a misstep. I imagine most of Sanders’ supporters would have told you they abhorred Rogan and his followers just 24 hours ago.
And this isn’t a Sanders-only phenomenon. Every candidate has passionate voters who simply refuse to hold them accountable when they need the pushback. Even to the point of compromising their own personal beliefs to appear on the winning team. The opposite should be true. We should push back hardest on candidates we support because they need to know that there will always be a loud, fervent demand to always need to improve as President if they win in November. We should force our candidates to change their values to do what’s necessary for us to live our best lives, not vice versa. I don’t want a President who I feel is infallible because there will never be such a thing. We should look for candidates who listen and respond to our voices, but they can’t do that if we don’t actually speak out against them or are drowned out by fanatics who think their candidates can do no wrong.
If we just blindly follow candidates because we want them to win then we are no better than Trump supporters who will allow him to break every constitutional law because we are just happy he won to own the people who oppose him. Because a line needs to be drawn. At what point do we stop making allowances? Where is the line between support and an intentionally obtuse MAGA-hat wearing fanatic?
The end result of all of this – primaries, debates, elections – isn’t having our candidate win in November. The end result is a presidency that, after four or eight years is up, improved as many lives as possible. We should be prepared to fight even the candidates we love dearly because loving someone means demanding they be their best selves (I don’t understand loving a Presidential candidate anyway because personally that reeks of a sort of imperial subservience that goes against the fabric of my being but that’s for another day). If anything you should challenge the candidate you support more than anyone else so that they can rise to the occasion. Let’s embrace the idea that a candidate winning isn’t as important as the people winning.