Primary Emotions



Unify. Photo by Callen Harty.

There are so many Democrats already announced as candidates for President, with at least one more coming this week, that it’s pretty much impossible to keep track of all of them. According to Wikipedia today, there are currently twenty major candidates, with Joe Biden about to announce his intentions on Thursday, which will bring that total up by one. There are an additional 200 declared candidates that nobody is even aware are running. The press will ignore those candidates because they have no name recognition and are not taken seriously as candidates. The bulk of the winnowing is done by the press without much input from the American public. Besides, no one can imagine organizing a debate with over 220 candidates invited. Of course, setting limits on who gets to debate and who gets media coverage or who can even be on the ballot, along with Citizens United, ensures that any candidate who ultimately wins is either wealthy themselves or has managed to garner the support of wealthy benefactors and political action committees. Those are the ones who get covered and are considered serious candidates by the news pundits.

Even with most of the candidates ignored, there is still a much larger than normal field this year. There are also a number of third-party candidates that have gotten little to no notice so far. As for the Democrats, in alphabetical order, the major announced candidates so far are Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Mike Gravel, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Wayne Messam, Seth Moulton, Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson, and Andrew Yang. An additional five besides Biden are considered possible contenders and are currently exploring the possibility of running. Those five are Stacey Abrams, Michael Bennet, Steve Bullock, Bill de Blasio, and Joe Sanberg.

Some of these candidates are known in their own states, but do not have a lot of national recognition. Some of them are considered frontrunners. Virtually any one of them would be better than the man who currently denigrates the office on a daily basis. For the Democrats it is a pool of well-qualified and able candidates–even the ones who are not currently getting much attention.

One thing that tends to happen with the Democrats is that they eat their own. The Republicans don’t care if their candidate is a liar, womanizer, or anything else, as long as they can stay in power. And America and her media like building people up and tearing them down. Each of the major candidates that entered this race did so with a splash and within a few days or at most a couple weeks, articles started appearing finding fault with one thing or another, or many things. Some examples:

“Cory Booker Has a School Choice Problem”–New York Magazine

“Cory Booker Has a Betsy DeVos Problem”–Mother Jones

“Cory Booker Has a Wall Street Problem Heading into 2020”–Esquire

“Pete Buttigieg Has Everything Except Positions on Major Issues”–Los Angeles Times

“What Happened When Pete Buttigieg Tore Down Houses in Black and Latino South Bend”–BuzzFeed

“Tulsi Gabbard, the Controversial 2020 Democratic Candidate”–Vox

“Tulsi Gabbard Campaign in Disarray”–Politico

“Tulsi Gabbard’s 2020 Campaign is Already in Trouble”–Vanity Fair

This could go on and on for pages. Type “The problem with X’s candidacy” and type in any of the candidate’s names for the X and you will see multiple articles enumerating all of the things that we can dislike about each of the candidates. Bernie Sanders is too old. Joe Biden disrespects women, Kirsten Gillibrand should have supported Al Franken. Beto O’Rourke benefits from male privilege. Elizabeth Warren mischaracterized her heritage.

The thing is, nobody’s perfect enough.

Nobody can live up to the expectations of everyone.

What some of those on the left don’t understand is that if they want to defeat Trump they have to compromise a little. They have to look critically at all of the candidates (and that’s what a nice long primary season is good for is to find the faults now before the general election) and vote for the person who most closely fits their values and has the best chance of winning. I don’t fault anyone for voting a third party candidate if that is the person who most closely matches their values. They’re not likely to win, but I don’t believe voting for the person you think is the best candidate is ever a bad thing. It may not win elections, but if it helps a person sleep at night, I’m okay with people making their own choices. Nobody should be able to pressure you or tell you how you must vote. We all have to make choices in our lives about what is best for us.

Personally, I’ll admit I’m a little more pragmatic. The only person I could vote for who would match my politics, morals, and views on everything would be me, and I don’t have a chance. While there are some things I may not like about all of the current crop of candidates, there are far more things I do like about all of them–I think there are a lot of great choices in the lot–and whichever one comes out of the Democratic primary on top will get my vote, even though I am not a registered Democrat and even though they may not be perfect. I believe that is the only way to defeat Trump and I believe it is important that all of us who have an early favorite in the race line up behind the primary winner if we can feel okay about that and then do everything possible to put that person in office. While we may not get everything we want (we never will), we will be rid of Trump, each of us will get some of what we want, and we will inch this country forward just a little bit more. Progress is slow and I am patient.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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