It is clear that the 2020 Democratic primary will have a large number of contenders with a variety of political opinion. These opinions range from the progressive left to the establishment centrists and they unquestionably will have their fair share of disagreements.
With more candidates announcing their exploratory committees every day, a culture of polarization has already developed in democratic circles.
However, Democrats need to be careful not to cannibalize their own kind.
Current Democrats that have either announced or are beginning exploratory committees include West Virginia Sen. Richard Ojeda, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA), U.S Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI), Mayor Julian Castro and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY).
With only a handful making their candidacy known thus far, some publications like Rolling Stone have the number of potential candidates reaching nearly 30.
Many opinionated Democrats are likely to have a candidate that they feel represents them well and a sentiment that any other person just won’t do.
Instead of looking at Democrats running as a corporate shill or a radical socialist, take time to consider their ideas. In a vibrant democracy, conversations over policy shouldn’t be something to shy away from. Even if there is a candidate that you feel shouldn’t represent the party, there may be something valuable that they bring to the conversation.
Ojeda, for example, has been criticized for his environmental record in the past, but that doesn’t negate his work highlighting the opioid epidemic and our broken education system.
Gabbard has a questionable past when it comes to some foreign policy decisions, but that doesn’t mean she can’t add something valuable to the debate when it comes to Veterans’ rights and healthcare.
While questions concerning Gillibrand’s ties to Wall Street are legitimate, she still has valuable input concerning gender equality and sexual harassment.
When Warren announced, she was immediately criticized for her combative tone and demeanor, but the idea that such criticism negates her arguments when it comes to financial oversight and the student debt crisis is absurd and counter-productive.
Rather than rebuking a fellow Democrat on sight, Democrats should consider what experience and perspective they can bring to the debate stage.
This is not to say that during this primary they should not hash out the deep divides in the party, rather that it is imperative that they debate in good faith.
The Democrats would be wise to learn from the 2016 Republican primary, in which divisive rhetoric was plentiful. The last thing Democrats need is a presidential nominee that wins by their vitriol rather than their policy proposals.
No matter who the candidate ends up being, whether it be current frontrunners like former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), or an underdog candidate like Castro or Gabbard, the Democratic nominee who will likely face President Donald Trump will benefit from the quality of debate had on these key issues.
Instead of seeing each individual candidate as an obstacle to their preference, Democrats should try to see such candidates as an opportunity to have an important conversation.
Jared Sellick is a junior majoring in political science.