Ambika Sinha: A who’s who on the Democratic primary race

Sunday, February 3, 2019 - 5:04pm

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The Michigan Daily

While it may be hard to believe we have just barely made it past two complete years of the Donald Trump presidency, Democrats are desperately trying to find a candidate who will boot "The Orange" out of the White House. Here’s my take on some of the key players within the Democratic Party that have shown interest in the job:

Elizabeth Warren: The Rank and File

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has built up an esteemed career in the Senate over her past two terms. She frequently appears in national news as a face of the Democratic party in the Senate and has not let her esteem stop her from butting heads with the president on several occasions. Her recent DNA test for her Native American heritage has shed a negative light on the senator, her competence as well as her commitment to liberal causes. If Warren were to win the nomination, she might be the most liberal candidate for the party since 1972. While her future looks promising, Warren may fall victim to something I call the "Hillary Clinton effect." This term refers to politicians who have very little connection with their constituencies and are not relatable, thus decreasing their voter base. While Warren may be competent for the job, are Democrats willing to nominate somebody who may not fit the newly shifted definition of “electability”? After all, the end game for the Democrats is to push the president out of his seat.

Kamala Harris: The Frontrunner

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., is often seen as the best bet for this race. As seen in her work as California’s attorney general and as a California senator, Harris has always been very vocal on matters such as immigration, and has recently voiced support for Medicare for All. Harris’s appointment to the Senate Judiciary Committee has bolstered her image and given her the platform to speak out against people like Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Harris’s campaign has run off of a staunch call to truth and therefore serves as a foil to the cloud of obscurity associated with the Trump presidency. While she has been regarded as a second Obama, Harris still has much to prove to the people of color who felt ignored by the Obama administration and especially targeted in the Trump presidency. Nevertheless, young Democrats like myself often see Harris as a public servant unaffiliated with the stench of politics. She has already electrified her voting base.

Andrew Yang: The Outsider

I know what you’re thinking — the last time a business owner wanted to run for office we all thought it was a joke, only to realize our worst nightmare had come true when Donald Trump was elected president. Yang is a former tech CEO based in New York City who founded Venture for America. While he may not be the most conventional candidate, his platform has certainly set him apart with his proposed “Freedom Dividend” that would provide all people ages 18 to 64 with a universal basic income of $1000 per month. While many may not deem Yang as a viable candidate, he has received recognition, as Obama named him as the presidential ambassador for entrepreneurship in 2015. Yang continues to gain more traction, and maybe the breadth of his promises will prove beneficial. When Trump first announced his run for presidency, he was polling at 5 percent, and was less popular than Republican candidates Jeb Bush, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio.  Perhaps Yang can pull off a Trump-esque victory by adopting extreme ideologies to draw voters to him?

John Delaney: The Pragmatist

Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., was one of the first people to announce his candidacy for presidency, and has already been gaining ground in states like Iowa. Though Delaney is not a household name like Warren or Harris, he has already outlined some basic platform ideas that center around a moderate, bipartisan approach to politics. Delaney’s entire campaign centers around his pragmatic approach to politics and his goal of unifying the divided nation. Delaney’s call to unity is shown through his time in Congress, as he has been known to work with both Republicans and Democrats. On average, Delaney votes with Trump about 34 percent of the time, which is higher than the combined percentage that Harris and Warren vote with the president. While Democrats are eager to prove they are not bought by super PACs, it is important to note Delaney is the sixth richest member of Congress and is a former CEO of the New York Stock Exchange. Delaney’s realistic approach to politics may not be the best tactic for Democratic voters, who tend to be activists with rather extreme views. Both parties have unified their supporters through a common hate for their opposition. Can Delaney’s message unify an increasingly extreme party?

Julián Castro: The Newbie

Julián Castro was the former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development during Obama's second term and was the youngest member of his cabinet. Castro’s message is rooted in a direct contrast to the xenophobic message Trump has preached to the American people. Castro entered the national stage as the keynote speaker at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and was even a prospective running mate for Hillary Clinton in 2016. At a youthful 44, the secretary has already accomplished a great deal by serving on the San Antonio City Council at age 26 and mayor of San Antonio at age 30. His affiliation with Obama and his vigor have proven to be an asset to the relatively discouraged Democratic voters.

I know all of this can be exciting. However, with so many competent candidates, we must keep in mind that the percentage of eligible voters among Democrats who vote in primary elections is 14.4 percent. The next time you vote, you have to keep general electability in mind. We are no longer in the era where simply “being fit for the job” is enough to get you to the presidency — some may argue general competence is not even required to get the Oval Office, based on the way these past two years have gone. However, this race is more about just unseating Trump. It is about bringing back the ideals of acceptance, diplomacy and competency to this great nation. The current state of our union is one destitute of motivated leadership. Out of the people who have made their case in this past month, the only person I see capable of reinvigorating this country with hope and efficacy is Harris. So when primary election season comes around, and you are one of the 14.4 percent of eligible Democratic voters voting, ask yourself — who can make the most of the United States? When all things are considered, I am sure your answer will bring you closer to Harris.

Ambika Sinha can be reached at ambikavs@umich.edu.