Modern Musings: We can’t settle for mediocrity in 2020

The race for the Democrats’ 2020 nomination has become a bit of a joke recently as more and more politicians have jumped on the bandwagon. All of them proclaim to be the one person capable of defeating President Donald Trump next fall.

We’re still well over a year out, and the race has already been filled with controversies, such as sexual misconduct allegations against former U.S. vice president Joe Biden. There is also U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris’ claim that she was a “progressive prosecutor” as California’s attorney general, even though she did not investigate some police shootings.

Still, no candidate has yet to unite the party or capture most voters’ attention, and the search for the ideal candidate continues. We also seem to be getting sidetracked by trivial issues, and it shows that we haven’t learned much since 2016.

The same gender bias that we saw essentially destroy Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election seems to already be cropping up in the race to 2020. “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah pointed this out in a segment on his show early last week.

He compared the buzz surrounding candidate Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, to the mostly lukewarm responses to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts, who has been consistently rolling out policies since she announced her run in February.

In a clip from a CNN Town Hall, Warren articulated her plan to tax people with fortunes over $50 million. At the end of every year, they will pay a 2-cent tax on every dollar they make over $50 million.

Noah juxtaposed Warren’s detailed plan with a clip in which Anderson Cooper questioned Buttigieg about the lack of concrete policies on his campaign website.

Buttigieg deflected, saying he doesn’t believe in “drown people in minutia before we’ve vindicated the values that animate our policies.” Yet even with this garbled response that basically translates to “policies aren’t that important to me,” Warren is still polling behind Buttigieg.

The fact that competent women with carefully-considered policies still trail behind men with no clear stance on anything or, worse, who are embroiled in decades-old scandals shows that we have learned next to nothing from the 2016 election and the Trump presidency.

That’s not to say Warren and other female candidates are without their problems — we can hardly forget the Native American heritage scandal — but it’s hard to blame anything but a gender bias for the way the polls are shaping up.

We should constantly be checking ourselves for that bias and making sure that we don’t find a candidate appealing just because he’s the same gender as our previous 45 presidents.

It is especially concerning that Biden, despite all the allegations against him, is still leading the polls. What exactly does this say besides the fact that no sexual harassment allegations, no matter how plentiful or legitimate they are, will ever tarnish a man’s reputation or change how he’s viewed in the public eye?

Weren’t we supposed to stop letting that fly after Trump, Brett Kavanaugh and countless others? And yet we obviously haven’t, considering Biden is continuing his run with little pushback. It’s unacceptable to have a presidential candidate who has alienated an entire gender and who has barely apologized or acknowledged wrongdoing.

Perhaps we haven’t found the right candidate yet, and that’s why we’re settling for mediocrity. But we need someone better than average to face Trump in 2020. And of course, nothing could be as bad as Trump, who’s on his entirely own level of mediocrity.

However, the bar should still be set much higher, especially when the Democratic nominee will have to confront Trump head-on.

The stakes in 2020 are going to be especially high. We will have to confront life-changing issues such as climate change, gun control, voter suppression and inequality — issues that affect basically everyone in America. These problems are too critical to the future of our country for us to throw just anyone in the ring with Trump.

The perfect candidate probably doesn’t exist, but we can do better than sexual harassers and white dudes with dubious policies. We can’t settle for a candidate that Americans just feel “OK” about, who won’t inspire them to show up to the polls. Our lives and our futures depend on it — literally.

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