I’ll be mailing in my completed NC absentee ballot before the Iowa caucuses. Although this perhaps isn’t the most “efficient” way to use my vote, it’s important for me to vote my beliefs without the results of the Iowa caucuses biasing my decision in any way. And although one of the amazing things about democracy is that you can vote for whomever you want for literally whatever reason you choose, I wanted to take some time to articulate my reasoning before the first tallies are posted in the hopes that my thoughts may shed new light on the choices before other voters.
Remember 2012? After Obama crushed Romney, there was a lot of handwringing within the GOP about their demographic problems. They had issues with young voters, Latinos, educated suburban women. Party heads crowed about how they were going to build a bigger tent. Then in 2016, that same party nominated Donald Trump whose main campaign premise was to build a wall on the southern border. And at the end of Election Night 2016, they controlled all three branches of government. And this brings me to my biggest issue with the Democratic party: we are always reacting. Whether it was the Affordable Care Act, environmental policies like cap-and-trade, Merrick Garland, and now President Trump, Democrats always lose because they come up with some complicated plan, which often involves placating “moderate Republicans,” then the Republicans throw out the playbook and the Democrats look like fools.
There are only two candidates in the Democratic primary who are running authentic campaigns based on ideas that they truly believe in from first principles, campaigns that haven’t been poll-tested and optimized within an inch of their lives by consultants: Andrew Yang and Bernie Sanders.
I love Andrew Yang. I haven’t made up my mind on UBI, but as a technologist I know everything he speaks is the truth and requires urgent action. In fact, many of these ideas formed the basis of my own run for office in a Republican district in 2018. But that campaign experience means I know Yang’s campaign is doomed. The unfortunate reality is that these issues are so beyond the reach of most Americans, especially among those that actually vote, and therefore will have no impact. While I think Yang’s time will come, it is unfortunately a little too premature. I really hope someone picks him to lead Commerce or Labor in the next administration, where I know he will do amazing things. I also hope he runs again.
But I’m voting Bernie. One of the simplest explanations is what can now be called the “Joe Rogan argument”. Sanders has advocated for the poor, for civil rights, for an end to war, and for basic human dignity for decades. This, in and of itself, is remarkable given how most long-tenured politicians tack at the slightest shifting of the winds to maintain their grip on power. Bernie also represents a laser-like focus on the number one issue I see in America today: the lack of basic dignity for working people. As technology continues to bifurcate our economic structures, more and more people are being left behind. I firmly believe that in a country as wealthy as ours, everyone should be able to survive if they are working 40 hours a week. There has been some chatter among educated observers that this focus on swinging “working class whites” is a flawed strategy and that energies should be focused on boosting turnout within groups that are consolidated in favor of the Democrats. I think this is an extremely limited interpretation of what Bernie is saying. Restoring dignity to the working class benefits everyone, from the single mom working to provide for her family, to the Kentucky coal miner, to the undocumented Ecuadorean dishwasher. Indeed, this was the primary thrust of the Poor People’s Campaign before it was tragically cut short by MLK’s assassination. It has been a long time since the American discourse was dominated by pro-worker thought leaders. The early 20th century was chock-full of them: Upton Sinclair, Eugene V. Debs, FDR. Despite the rapid changes in the past century, many of the hard-fought initiatives started during their lives are still with us today: the FDA, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and more. For too long, liberals have focused on technocratic solutions whose benefits are not tangible nor evenly distributed. It is time for Democrats to take concrete and visible steps to improve the everyday circumstances of the American public: complete infrastructure overhaul, a Space Race-level investment on energy independence, a robust public education system with an improved focus on early childhood education, among others.
I wish to briefly address some criticisms of Bernie. Some say he’s too old. I agree. But so are all the other front-runners. I find it hilarious that many people who say this also declined to support my campaign or nurture my political aspirations following my loss. Wonder why there’s such a dearth of experienced, young candidates in the party. I’ve also heard that Bernie won’t be able to get anything done and so we should vote for someone who can. Anyone who still believes that the current incarnation of the Republican party will work with any Democrat is living in an alternate reality. To those who say that nominating Bernie will result in an assured victory for Donald Trump, I say bollocks. Setting aside the fact that Donald Trump is probably going to beat anyone the Dems nominate given the strength of the economy and the consolidation of his base, I now heavily discount conventional wisdom and the worldview of career political consultants given my own campaign experiences. We’re living in a time where the Internet is being increasingly leveraged for campaign use and accurate polling is more difficult than ever before. Therefore, the old playbooks are completely antiquated. Following their advice will lead only to a stale, uninspiring grind towards November.
I know that my success in life thus far cannot be attributed to hard work but rather a healthy dose of luck. I’ve tried to use my good fortune to make sure the floor is raised for all of our collective benefits, and I will continue to do so in any way I can. When it comes to casting my ballot, I believe Bernie most clearly and directly espouses my vision for how America should be. Regardless of what happens, God bless us all and God bless these United States.