Democrats, act like you care

Illustration courtesy of Margot Heron

The next presidential election needs a fresh voice to stand out among the homogenous crowd of Democratic Washington veterans. Our country deserves someone untainted by the money of the capital — someone who will not concede or give up on their ideals to get more supporters. I don’t think I can make it through another cycle of hearing “I voted for _____ because Trump was my other option.” I don’t want to give up my morals and have to vote for someone just because they’re the “good candidate.” Look where that got us in 2016. Let’s fight the cynicism of politics and get behind idealism. Together, we can create a base for a new Democratic Party that will produce the next president of the United States.

If you’re a Democrat and you didn’t know it already, I hate to be the one to break it to you: There is hypocrisy, dishonesty and misdirection on both sides of the political spectrum. This includes Democratic candidates for the presidential election. Joe Biden praised Republican Fred Upton, who was central in attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, at a Michigan event in 2018. The speech earned him a cool $200,000. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Biden said, “The younger generation now tells me how tough things are. Give me a break. No, no, I have no empathy for it.”

Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has switched her position on multiple issues recently. In 2007, Gillibrand was a self-labeled conservative Democrat; she had a 100 percent rating from the NRA and did not support amnesty for undocumented immigrants. She has now started campaigning for immigrant rights, and the NRA has moved her score from an A to an F. This flip-flopping of ideals seems disingenuous and forced.

Cory Booker, who has accepted $158,871 from pro-Israel organization NorPAC, recently co-sponsored a bill that attempts to block American companies from boycotting Israel. Booker also famously voted against a bill that proposed lowering pharmaceutical prices in 2017. This evidence wouldn’t be too damning — except he’s accepted more than $200,000 in campaign donations from pharmaceutical political action committees (PACs) since 2016. When confronted with facts like these, it’s hard to distinguish whether Booker’s decisions are made from his heart or from his pocket.

These facts might be a lot to take in, but take them in and learn from them. These issues are not going away anytime soon, and they’re not going to go away without voter participation. Democrats have to face the problems in the party, and fix them before they can move forward in the next election cycle. How can we expect to beat Trump if we don’t believe in the candidate we’re putting forward to defeat him?

Democrats today should prioritize genuine support over political experience. In the next election, I don’t want to vote for someone because they’re the lesser of two evils, and I don’t want any of the idealistic young people around me to be forced to do the same. Look at Hillary Clinton — she was supposed to win the 2016 election on rally cries of “Anyone but Trump!” and a sense of general common decency, but we all know how well that strategy worked. Some attribute her failure to sexism, but I think sexism is a pretty weak excuse for the loss of a candidate who had been widely unpopular among the public for years. Clinton lost because the Democratic Party is changing; its members want more than the old status quo.

Clinton represents everything that the old Democratic Party stands for and everything that I want the new Democratic Party not to be. I want a candidate in 2020 who I can stand for wholeheartedly: someone who is honest, consistent and unaffected by money. Of course, I want someone to beat Trump just as much as anyone among the 54 percent of Americans who disapprove of him, but I want a candidate that Americans will feel good about voting for.

We don’t have to concede our morals to beat Trump. Democrats won 43 House seats in the last midterm elections, many of them women and people of color. The diversification of the results shows us that the American people are capable of getting out to vote and electing people they want to see in government that haven’t been there in the past. By researching candidates, supporting honest ones and increasing political enthusiasm and awareness, we can direct the power flow of this country. If we mobilize, we can change our nominee choices for the better, and ensure that the person on the ballot next year will be worth getting behind.

Oona Milliken is an undeclared first year. She can be reached at