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Prepare to vote for the ham sandwich

| Wednesday, December 4, 2019

“If it is between Donald Trump and a ham sandwich, I will vote for a ham sandwich — and so will the rest of America.”

Over the course of this holiday weekend I have had to listen to this phrase from my father no less than 20 times. He first proclaimed it when he found out that my sister and I don’t like Amy Klobuchar as the Democratic nominee, again when my grandparents said they were worried about the upcoming election, again when my aunt and uncle asked why everybody hated Joe Biden all of a sudden and 17 more times after that. It was a bit repetitive.

However much I hate to admit it, though, he does have a point. There’s nothing progressives love more than cannibalizing their own party, and we cannot afford to allow this habit to continue. There is no perfect candidate. Perhaps some are better than others, perhaps some options sound about as bad as voting for a ham sandwich, but every single candidate in the Democratic field today is better than Donald Trump. 

Don’t get me wrong, you should be fighting for your favorite candidate now, but you shouldn’t do so at the total expense of the others. The fact of the matter is, if your candidate doesn’t get the nomination, we’re all going to have to vote for the person you just spent the last few months on Twitter attacking. Sure, maybe you like Bernie’s healthcare plan better than Warren’s, but that doesn’t mean a tick in the box for Warren would be the worst thing your fellow voters could do. Maybe you think Buttigieg’s move to the center is more troubling than Biden’s track record with young voters, but a vote for Pete isn’t going to be a disaster for the country. As my father was also fond of saying this holiday weekend, “There are 16 Democratic candidates in the running right now, I have them all ranked from best to worst, and I would still vote for number sixteen over Trump.” Picking a favorite Democratic candidate does not mean you automatically have to hate all the others; they’re on the same side, and, importantly, that side is against Trump. As Jackie O’Brien wrote in April, “There is a vital difference between pointing out the downsides of a candidate, and writing them off entirely for the smallest of mistakes or minor policy differences.”

I’m not just worried about progressive voters going at each other’s throats, Democratic candidates share the blame too. I would never suggest that the candidates stop attacking each other altogether during the debates, but they have to be careful about the way in which they do so. Lately, there has been a troubling trend where instead of talking up the merits of their own platforms and pointing out the legitimate weaknesses in their opponents’, Democrats have been using Republican talking points to tear each other down from the podium. In the second Democratic debate, John Delaney attacked Elizabeth Warren while relying on the GOP falsehood that Medicare for All would make private insurance illegal, saying, “They’re running on telling half the country that your health insurance is illegal. It says it right in the bill.” Warren responded, saying not only was that untrue, but also “That’s what the Republicans are trying to do and we should stop using Republican talking points in order to talk with each other about how to best provide that healthcare.” She has a point. When Democratic candidates rely on misleading Republican narratives to score points against each other, everyone loses. Potential voters don’t get clear answers and persuasive arguments, and the nomination process begins to look more and more like a fight to the death between candidates. 

This cannot be the way we look at things. The fight for the Democratic nomination is a fight over who should lead the charge, and the winner shouldn’t have to utterly destroy his or her opponents (and future allies) to take up that mantle. We need to be a unified party in 2020, not one that limps to the mat still licking its wounds. 

Democrats lost the 2016 election for a myriad of reasons, most of which were our own fault, and if we’re going to win in 2020 we need to start fixing these issues. I don’t want to see another election where more than one in 10 supporters of one of the most progressive candidates in history voted for Trump because Sanders didn’t get the nomination. A Joe Biden presidency wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. A Bernie Sanders presidency wouldn’t destroy the country. A ham sandwich presidency isn’t the worst case scenario. The only outcome we must avoid at all costs is another Trump presidency. It’s time we stop acting like 15 out of the 16 Democratic candidates are evil incarnate and remember that we’re all fighting for the same thing.

Mary Szromba is a senior majoring in philosophy and political science, and she’s never been wrong about anything in her entire life. Questions, comments and anonymous love letters can be directed to [email protected] or @_murrrrrr on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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