As the 2020 election nears, the United States enters a crossroads.
Since President Donald Trump took office, his administration has conducted itself in a way that harms all Americans, especially those from marginalized groups.
The U.S. government has rolled back environmental regulations, from overturning American involvement in the Paris Climate Agreement to supporting the return of asbestos use.
Trump ended efforts to keep tabs on white supremacist groups just as their rise became meteoric, with a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue and the recent bevy of death threats directed at Ilhan Omar (likely sparked by Trump and other Republicans disingenuously taking her comments out of context and accusing her of downplaying 9/11) serving as two examples of white supremacy run amok.
Instead, the Trump administration has chosen to target marginalized groups, including interning immigrants from the southern border in concentration camps, initially defending the separation of children and allegedly seeking to restart the child separation policy in recent weeks.
The administration has also banned immigration from several Muslim-majority countries and sought to target trans people by removing them from the military and setting up a policy to list birth gender on birth certificates.
There are numerous other harms the Trump administration has committed: sabotaging the deal that would prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, boosting private schools at the expense of public schools, gutting the Affordable Care Act and providing massive tax cuts for the rich.
I list all of the above in order to say this: I am aware of the stakes of this election.
I am aware of how important the election is and that compromising my ideals might be necessary in order to support candidates that will defeat Trump and the Republican Party.
However, I believe left-wing candidates and a left-wing direction overall are the best courses of action for both winning the election and taking action to improve the country, not the center-left that seems poised to yet again direct the party.
A frequent argument made by supporters of Hillary Clinton in the last Democratic primary or supporters of candidates such as Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke and Joe Biden in this primary is that while left-wing candidates and policies are nice in theory, they are incapable of winning elections, as centrist voters might recoil in horror at a leftist/socialist candidate and flip their vote Republican.
Certainly, this is not without merit — Cold War propaganda and right-wing fearmongering have made any form of leftism or socialism difficult to gain traction, although recently, the number of people who hold this stigma has shrunk.
But in making this argument, it ignores the other side of the argument: by choosing center-left candidates with an inconsistent history of defending minority groups, many voters within the Democratic party (or the left-wing sphere in general) might not turn out at all.
This caused trouble for Clinton, as she faced reduced turnout, perhaps in part due to this history in her career as a First Lady and Senator: she coined the phrase “superpredators,” used to depict largely-black criminal youth, while advocating for the crime bill signed by her husband that led to skyrocketing imprisonment rates; she supported harsh immigration measures such as the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act, which greatly expanded deportation; and she was largely opposed to gay marriage until after it became politically convenient and popular to do so.
In the same vein, current candidates might face this conundrum. Kamala Harris might be haunted by her history as Attorney General of California; while she hardly started mass incarceration that discriminated along class and ethnic lines, she nonetheless served as head of the department responsible for making sure thousands were put in jail for drug-related crimes.
Choosing leftist candidates comes with its share of problems electorally, but so does choosing centrists; attempting to choose solely, or primarily, by perceived chances in an election is a fool’s errand, and instead, we should choose based primarily on a candidate’s proposals for what to do for the country.
The center-left pushed for the environmentally and socially devastating Keystone XL pipeline, which would run through native land and put the surrounding area at risk from oil spills.
The center-left allowed the child separation policies to continue for decades until it was recently criticized, often fought against LGBTQ rights, furthered mass incarceration and generally stood on the sidelines, or even joined in on the attack against marginalized people, until it became politically convenient to fight to protect them.
Electing a center-left president would be an improvement on the Trump administration, but electing a leftist candidate like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren is required for achieving lasting and significant change.
Climate change is perhaps the nation’s most pressing issue. The EPA infamously issued a proclamation that the world had until 2030 to take sufficient action against carbon emissions to avoid disastrous consequences in the following decades.
The restoration of Obama-era policies is a step in the right direction, to be sure. But in order to keep this planet habitable for its people, the Green New Deal (and more) must be implemented, and only the left-wing that has advocated for it can be trusted to implement it.
Another pressing issue is healthcare, as Republicans finally managed to neuter the Affordable Care Act last year, after much effort.
Restoring the ACA is the first step in providing sufficient care, but in order to avoid needless deaths from poor healthcare, and join the modern world in avoiding placing the burden of healthcare on its people, a single-payer system like Medicare for all must be implemented.
This is a trend that continues in immigration, LGBTQ+ rights, bloated military spending and so on.
Restoring the Democratic status quo is not enough; we must take further steps in order to improve the conditions of marginalized people, fight climate change, and overall improve the nation substantially.
It is not enough to reject conservative policies and return to the Obama-era status quo, which did not do nearly enough in many areas, we must take the most significant steps, within reason, to improve our communities, our nation and our world.
Chance Page is a senior studying journalism.