Samantha Della Fera: No rose for moderate Joe

Wednesday, July 10, 2019 - 5:38pm

Last month, Americans were treated to the first debates among the incredibly large field of Democratic presidential candidates. There are so many candidates that the debates were split into two nights — one on Wednesday, the other Thursday, with 10 candidates each. I tuned into both debates, expecting some laughs, some memes, some surprising breakout stars. Thankfully, I got all of that: laughs from Marianne Willamson’s confusing presence, memes from Beto’s Spanish moment and standout performances from Cory Booker and Julián Castro. Above all, though, I came out with two powerful emotions: frustration and anger. Frustration that former Vice President Joe Biden is leading in the polls despite a questionable political past and no new ideas, and anger that some people on the Democratic side believe that a moderate is what’s best for this country.

In my view, Biden appeals to people for two reasons alone: his connection to Obama, and his position as a moderate. Yet with the Democratic Party moving left, Biden’s policy proposals, or truly, his lack thereof, are tired and worn out — he is so desperately riding the coattails of the Obama administration. I could dedicate all 1,000 of my words to why we deserve better than Joe Biden, but this is a column not just on politics, but pop culture as well. So I’m going to do perhaps the most glaringly Gen Z thing I could possibly do: compare the 2020 Democrats to contestants on “The Bachelorette.”

I have just recently started watching “The Bachelorette,” but it is exactly the type of high-drama, low-brain power television that makes my heart soar. Hannah Brown and her harem of men is also strikingly reminiscent of the current Democratic race to the presidency. I don’t know which part of the show is most similar to the race: The fact that everyone’s chasing after someone from middle America as if they stand a chance or the sheer magnitude of indistinguishable white men. There’s also a central enemy — if Trump was a “Bachelorette” contestant, he would be Luke P. He is a manipulative, misogynist, toxic man that nobody likes but everybody can’t stop talking about, and he keeps getting put through by a voter from Alabama. You hope to God that he doesn’t win, but your past has jaded you, and your lack of trust in the process makes you the slightest bit worried he just might pull it off.  

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s Tyler C. — sweet, respectful and smart, Tyler is my Elizabeth Warren figure. He works with multiple charities and only wants what’s best for Hannah, even if it’s not what’s best for him. He’s almost too good for the show, and most people know that he should be the obvious winner. I can only imagine Tyler would tax the ultra-rich, forgive student debt, support the Green New Deal and support the rights of women, minorities and the LGBTQ+ community. 

To round out this scale, let’s throw in Jed. Jed looks good on the surface, he’s got everything you think the perfect winner would have. But Jed is hardly the most endearing guy on “The Bachelorette,” and Biden doesn’t even break my top five candidates. Take a peek under the surface, and there’s a darker side. Surprise! Biden opposed bussing, voted for Iraq and failed to be fair to Anita Hill. Almost as bad, Jed had a girlfriend when he joined the show and admitted to only going on it to promote his mediocre country music. 

This may be lighthearted, but I stand by my analogy. Shouldn’t we expect as much from our presidential candidates as we do from random men looking for love? Democrats and liberals have to learn from their past and their mistakes. If a woman isn’t appealing to voters, then why did a woman win the popular vote? If America won’t vote for someone too far left, why is every candidate talking about the Green New Deal, Medicare for All and free college tuition? How can we just go back to the way it was in the Obama Administration, when the world has changed since then and politics in America will probably never be the same? 

Biden insists that if he beats Trump, Republicans will be willing to work with him. He says this as if the blockage of Merrick Garland never occurred, as if the right isn’t gleefully stripping away human rights, as if partisan politics hasn’t shifted from disagreements over taxation to fighting over whether children should have access to soap. The bigoted foundation of this country is not going to disappear alongside its president, it will fight and it will fester, growing stronger in the absence of validation. We need a disruption, not a return to the past.

Seeing the tyrannical horror that is the current administration and the people who insist on bipartisanship to combat it, I can’t help but be constantly reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. King writes: “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace, which is the absence of tension, to a positive peace, which is the presence of justice.” The question on the ballots in June will not be one of this candidate or the other, but of order or justice. I hope for the sake of this country, everyone will choose the latter.

Samantha Della Fera can be reached at samdf@umich.edu.