Sometimes politics feels like a hellhole. Whether it’s in the Twittersphere, on CNN or C-SPAN, or even just in everyday conversations, it can feel like an inescapable purgatory. This should go without saying, but politics shouldn’t be hell.
Donald Trump’s presidency has shown nothing but hatred—hateful policies and hateful rhetoric—fueling this hellishness that Americans wake up to every morning. Though the past two and a half years have been filled with anxiety, sadness, fear, and anger, the group of Democrats who have announced they’re running to unseat Trump in 2020 have brought hope to those of us who want to see him out of office. With such a large field, there are plenty of strong candidates to do just that.
In her 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton used the slogans “Love Wins” and “Love Trumps Hate.” The one thing I urge every person to do, no matter what side of the political spectrum they are on, is to show compassion in politics. We must all show that love truly does win. We must love our neighbors, love our fellow citizens and immigrants, and love each other regardless of identity or orientation or background.
We are fighting to protect people’s rights, from immigrants seeking a better life here in America, to women seeking access to reproductive care, to minority communities seeking freedom from discrimination. All of these acts necessitate kindness.
Something I’ve seen, particularly on social media, is supporters of certain candidates lashing out at other candidates for everything from their voting records to their personal lives. Kamala Harris has been pegged as a cop for her prosecutorial record during her tenure as Attorney General of California and District Attorney of San Francisco. Bernie Sanders has been shunned for the supposed hypocrisy of being a millionaire while fighting for income equality. There are countless examples of how Democrats have attacked potential nominees in the name of their preferred candidate. But going against other Democratic candidates right now is counterproductive.
What matters most is unifying the Democratic party and uplifting fellow progressives. If we’re going to win the election, we need everyone to rally behind whoever wins the primary. We must put personal preferences and biases aside and focus on combining our efforts and supporting the Democratic nominee.
I’m not advocating for ignoring candidates’ flaws. We can address their mistakes or faults in constructive ways. We can accept candidates’ apologies, and understand that they are humans, just like us, and should not be held to a standard of perfection or ideological purity. Furthermore, we must accept that people’s views change over time, and a candidate’s policies or proposals from years ago may not reflect their current views. Our elected officials need to be allowed to change their opinions, and we should trust that their new policies are a reflection of their current selves and the best, most recent information.
One of my old friends from elementary school, a big Sanders supporter, has already posted on social media multiple times attacking Harris’ flaws. He did the same thing when Clinton was running in 2016. First of all, it’s April. We’re nowhere near the primaries. It does absolutely no good to target fellow Democrats right now. I know my own personal well-being is a small drop in the bucket of the grand scheme of politics, but it’s draining to go through social media and constantly see people putting each other down. And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Instigating debates online is often useless. Our discourse needs to be more constructive and caring.
In 2016, a group of Sanders supporters took to Twitter to harass and downgrade Clinton supporters. I tweeted about a Clinton event I was attending and got a nasty reply tweet from someone whose Twitter profile header was a cartoon depiction of Sanders holding the severed head of Clinton. I remember his supporters attacking Clinton for Benghazi, taking a negative narrative that had been pushed forward by Republicans and using it in the name of their progressive candidate.
Not to spend too much time reliving the 2016 election, but one of the campaign’s most upsetting themes was the group of Democrats who refused to vote for Clinton, whether they decided to vote independent, to write in Sanders, or even to vote for Trump. Whoever the nominee is this cycle, whether it’s Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Harris, Sanders, or any of the other candidates, we must pledge to vote for them.
Distaste for candidates grows out of infighting. We must foster trust in each progressive 2020 contender and encourage every Democrat, no matter how far left or center they are, to rally behind the nominee in the general election. Because if we don’t, Trump will win again.
Trump has created an environment where harassment and negativity fester like a disease. His tweets, the nicknames he gives his opponents, and his policies showcase his deep-seated hatefulness. He has neither compassion nor remorse. Many of his supporters have also taken his lead in online harassment, some going to extremes and committing hate crimes and acts of violence in his name. Not only do voters and supporters need to be kind to overcome this, we need a compassionate and caring candidate to get Trump out of office. We need to do everything in our power to make sure that happens.
Although I’ve been writing about the need to get Trump out of office, I want to stress the importance of working to elect Democrats across the country, in local offices and in Congress. While the presidency will be front and center this cycle, there are so many important races to be won this year and next. If Democrats can win back the Senate and maintain the House, then we can start to pass policies that help and protect people across the country and around the world. If Democrats can pick up governorships and positions in state legislatures, we can make sure that we are enacting positive change on every level and promoting a stronger democracy for all.
No matter who your preferred candidate is, no matter if you have a favorite or if you haven’t decided yet, all I ask is that you practice compassion in your political endeavors.
Lift up your candidate’s record, their background, their message, and anything else about them that inspires you. We should also commend other candidates, even if they are not our favorite, for their admirable policies and actions. Support each other instead of getting into pointless and derogatory arguments on Twitter or in real life. We are all fighting for equality, for justice, and for freedom. Lift up that message instead of trying to tear each other down.
So I ask you, stop fighting on the internet, stop calling each other names, stop bringing up things from candidates’ pasts that they’ve apologized for or that don’t reflect who they are today. Instead, go knock on doors, make calls, and organize to ensure we get every person to get out and vote.
Let’s show the world that love wins.
Image Credits: Olivia Stevens