Key to 2020 Democratic primaries: Vote with courage

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For all Americans far and wide, Feb. 3, 2020, marked the official beginning of the end. Behold, the four-month-long 2020 Democratic primary season where we’ve been tasked with choosing our favorite among (too) many candidates, only to then be ultimately ignored and have the nominee decided by a tiny handful of the population. Oh, sweet, sweet democracy. But I’m surprisingly not writing this to rant about how undemocratic the United States is — that’s an article for another day. No, my friends, as chance may have it, Taylor Marzouca is writing an op-ed for her college newspaper to talk about something we don’t associate with electoral politics very often: courage.

Courage is a word we don’t normally hear around voting, but it really should be. In an age of Bidens, Buttegiegs, Klobuchars, Steyers and Yangs (Rest in peace), courage is pretty relevant. If you’ve paid any attention to CNN, MSNBC or simply watched a Trevor Noah video on Instagram, you’ll notice a variety of these words when it comes to policy positions: “extreme,” “moderate,” “feasible,” “unrealistic” — even “crazy.” Especially when it comes to climate policy, the only two candidates who have pleaded to go head-to-head with the fossil fuel industry are routinely labeled as being idealistic, incomprehensible and just overall “too” everything. And for the only candidate who has actually been walking that walk since the ’80s. Well, Bernie Sanders has been publicly deemed “crazy” more than anyone can count.

Why is this relevant? And what does this have to do with courage? Well, in case you didn’t hear, or haven’t been to California or Australia lately, the world is literally on fire. And I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but we need something drastically different and innovative than what we have now if we’re going to have a chance at simply getting out of this alive. I genuinely wish I was exaggerating, but I’d be lying if I said it any other way.

As you may have predicted I would say: this is where Sanders comes in. It’s no secret that there’s a difference between Sanders and the rest of the presidential candidates. But it’s not simply because he’s a candidate with progressive policy. Sure, he supports a Green New Deal and has pledged to take on the fossil fuel industry, but what makes Sanders fundamentally different is the foundation of his campaign: a grassroots movement. This nationwide network of volunteers and the rejection of corporate donations aren’t just some fluffy talking points — they ensure that the work of this election goes far beyond Nov. 3, 2020. We’ve never seen politics like this in the U.S., ever. This is that “drastically different” something.

Some say he’s extreme. His ideas are “crazy” and “would not work in our current system.” But that’s exactly the point. For a lot of people I’ve spoken to, they find themselves at a point where they like what Sanders is saying (I mean, how could you dislike the idea of everyone having healthcare?). But, while they might agree these things are “just,” and are positive ideals, they’re held back by the idea of either feasibility or electability. They don’t think the vision is possible for a number of reasons: Will he actually win? Will these policies be accepted? Isn’t America too racist, or sexist or conservative to go along with this? And let me tell you, people have every right to think like that. The organizing that’s happening in this campaign isn’t about fitting into what’s “possible” now, in the world as we know it — it’s about creating new possibilities.

His ideals are ideals for a reason: because this is not the world we live in. We live in a world where the climate crisis is here and coming faster every day. We live in a world where people die because they can’t afford to go to the doctor. A world where black people are shot by police with no consequence. A world where the top 1% of the U.S. population owns more wealth than the bottom 80%. A world where small farmers are committing suicide because they are so deeply in debt. We live in that world, and it’s horrible, and cruel and most of all, scary. The world we live in is terrifying, and what’s even worse, is that we’re so used to it, that the notion that we might actually have a way out is “too good to be true,” and so to believe in the possibility of a good world is really just to set yourself up for some crushing disappointment.

To summarize an idea that the amazing Nina Turner brought up in a recent MSNBC interview: We cannot keep the status quo in this country in the name of “practicality.” Rolling with what we’ve always done in the face of the climate crisis is not practical. Practical does not mean that we settle for injustice. Practical cannot mean that we give up on the idea that our world can be better than what it is today. That, to me, is not “practical” — that’s letting fear deter you from fighting for your right to live a better life. But the exact same reasons we’re scared, are the exact same reasons we need to be brave. The world is on fire, and we are quite literally running out of time. There is no room for “moderate” anymore, you need to vote with courage. There is no room for a plan that fits within our current system. We need the plan, the candidate, and most importantly, the movement, that will transform the world we live in. And we need it now.