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Every day, pundits worriedly comment on how risky it would be to nominate a Democratic Socialist to run in the general presidential election. They are 100% right. What they fail to note, of course, is that it’s also risky to run a centrist. Any Democratic nominee is going to face an uphill battle. So let’s choose the candidate with the best policies and fight as hard as we can to elect that candidate.

Nominate a Democratic Socialist

We hardly need reminding that in 2016, Democrats did nominate a moderate. It didn’t go well. If people want to blame progressives or Putin or the Electoral College or anything else, the fact remains that every type of election interference from four years ago still exists today.

What if we nominate Warren? Trump and the GOP will attack her for having “claimed to be an Indian.” What if we nominate Klobuchar? The attack will be that she’s an “activist lawyer.”

Biden is “low energy” and sometimes stutters. No matter how inappropriate it is to mock him for his occasional trouble speaking, a president who mocks disabled reporters and POWs won’t have any problem doing so. And even if such an attack angers Democrats, the attack will still humiliate Biden in the minds of many voters. Would it hurt Biden enough to make him lose? We don’t know. But it’s risky. Just like running a candidate with some other type of “vulnerability.”

Is it easier to rally a potential voter behind “We will guarantee you healthcare and a college education and a living wage” or “We can’t really give you anything but we can get rid of Trump”?

Buttigieg is gay. Would Trump dare encourage voters to think about how bad that would make the U.S. look to the rest of the world? Of course he would. Just as he’d complain about Bloomberg “buying the election.” Or Steyer having no experience in office. Pundits seem to have missed that Trump is a hypocrite and that his hypocrisy means little to his supporters. He’ll use a Pee Wee Herman “I know you are but what am I?” attack on any opponent, no matter how ridiculous it looks to rational Democrats. And that approach works for him. Have we not been paying attention?

It wasn’t just centrist Hillary Clinton who lost a bid for the presidency. Al Gore lost, too. So did Walter Mondale. And Adlai Stevenson. And John Kerry. And Michael Dukakis. And more. Yes, sometimes running a centrist is a winning strategy. But sometimes, it’s not. It’s risky. Just like running a Democratic Socialist.

Is it easier to rally a potential voter behind “We will guarantee you healthcare and a college education and a living wage” or “We can’t really give you anything but we can get rid of Trump”?

Get rid of Trump! Yes! We want that!

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But it’s is a false dilemma. A centrist can’t guarantee he or she can win against Trump any more than a Democratic Socialist can. If it was guaranteed, we wouldn’t need the election in the first place. It’s risky to choose either option. But both groups will promise it. Given that either claim is unprovable until Election Day, though, we must add other factors to our decision. And those other factors must include policy proposals.

Would Republicans have a hard time working with a Democratic Socialist? Undoubtedly. But are we really under any illusion they’ll eagerly work with any other Democratic president? If I remember correctly, GOP lawmakers didn’t work all that eagerly with Obama.

If a centrist’s only significant argument is that they’ll stop the country from deteriorating further under Trump, that’s not a promise to actively make it better. Let’s remember that a Democratic Socialist will also stop the country from deteriorating further. We get that from either type of nominee.

But if the stakes are so high that we need to go with the safest bet, the bland status quo of past centrists is hardly a safe wager. We are in a time of crisis. Even without Trump in office, economic inequality has been growing for decades. Americans have come to understand that universal healthcare, something guaranteed in the rest of the industrialized world, is a right. What’s risky is ignoring the tangible, physical needs of the people casting their ballots.

Most voters believe the science proving how dire the climate emergency is. They aren’t going to be pacified with candidates who accept donations from fossil fuel corporations. A promise to “gradually” and “pragmatically” approach a crisis the majority understand must be addressed immediately is more than risky. It’s foolhardy.

I want a woman president. I also want a Latino. And an Asian. One black president was hardly enough. I’d also like a Jew. And maybe an atheist. As a gay man, I’d certainly like to see a gay president.

But what we need more than any of that is a candidate with policies that will help us all. Medicare for All isn’t negotiable. Neither is tuition-free college or vocational training. Or a Green New Deal. Polls show that the majority of voters want these things.

If it’s a purity test to demand that a candidate support a woman’s right to choose, we as an electorate have the right to demand other non-negotiables as well.

Johnny Townsend

Is that risky? Of course it is. But it’s even riskier not to.

Johnny Townsend