Getting political: Thinking ahead to the 2020 election

Julia Hornstein

On the heels of a historic midterm election and looking ahead to what will probably be one of the most divisive presidential races in American history, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed. With twenty-one Democratic candidates vying for the nomination, it feels difficult for even the most politically involved to stay on top of everyone’s policies, polls, and twitter feeds.

In my eyes, politics is no longer a policy game––it’s about maintaining a strong social media presence, conveying a synthesizing and catchy campaign message, and getting the media to notice that you’re doing community service, meeting with local officials, and reaching out to the needy.

The day after Joe Biden announced his 2020 bid, my friend and I spent one of our frees watching his launch video, picking apart the graphics and utterances, and talking about how we thought he compared to more outwardly liberal candidates. I found that Biden’s utilization of the conflict over the Confederate monuments in Charlottesville as a synonym for beating Donald Trump in the general election paled in comparison to the upbeat, mobilizing, we-can-change-the-course-of-this-country narrative that Senator Cory Booker’s video presented.

Many have criticized Biden’s decision to open with the Declaration of Independence’s phrase “all men are created equal” because of the many apparent contradictions to this throughout American history. At the inception of the Declaration of Independence, slavery and gender discrimination were both deeply pervasive within the country. Rightfully so, it is difficult for many Americans, including myself, to separate this phrase from its abhorrent, unequal past, which substantially hindered Biden’s overall message.

Biden’s video showcased his take on what it means to be a viable presidential candidate as well as his unique strategies in the Democratic primary, specifically his attempt to unify liberals and centrists alike under his campaign. Biden made himself out to be moderate, appealing to older voters with a buttoned-up approach, strategically positioning himself closer to the middle of the political spectrum.

On the other hand, Cory Booker stressed the importance of giving younger generations a voice and listening to the needs of the people in an attempt to bring about systemic change in the realm of politics. In his video, Booker highlighted that he deeply cares about rehabilitating Newark, NJ––as this has been central to his work as a senator of New Jersey––and cities like it. He also emphasized that America must rally together to ensure that no one gets left behind. Booker used his experience in the Senate to frame himself as an experienced politician who has made significant strides within inner city communities in New Jersey.

For 2020, I think the Democrats are looking for someone who can give the DNC a foundation to introduce more liberal candidates in 2024, and someone like Biden fits that mold; he has past experience and can potentially swing people who voted for Trump in 2016 to the Democratic Party with his more centrist approach.

Although many young Americans are looking for an inspiring candidate like Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, or Bernie Sanders, this younger demographic only makes up a small portion of the Democratic Party, which is why I think Biden might clinch the nomination. The Democrats need to win 2020 before rallying behind more liberal candidates; if Biden wins, it could give the DNC the opportunity to push for the introduction of even further left candidates––like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren––for 2024.

President Trump’s utilization of Twitter as one of his main ways to connect with the country reframed the way we view interactions between politicians and the public. Currently, more importance is placed on online aspects of presidential campaigns, like launch videos and Instagram feeds, as these platforms are easily accessible throughout the country. This election is the product of that decisive shift, and because of it, now more than ever before, I’ve seen an increase in person-to-person dialogue pertaining to politics in the Horace Mann community. A few of my friends have group chats dedicated to talking about the election, while some of my other friends and I talk about the election over dinner or on the way to a Model UN conference.

This increase in dialogue has been integral in involving younger generations in politics. But, I still wish there was more of a concerted effort on the school’s part to involve the Horace Mann community in the election. Whether it be through featuring speakers from all political backgrounds and parties during assemblies or even having open dialogue sessions during a few I period meetings throughout the year, I think Horace Mann should do more to open space for conversations on both sides of the political spectrum.

As a school that prides itself on educating truly brilliant kids to become involved members of society, we must allocate our efforts towards making room for conversations during one of the most influential elections in our country’s history.