Channeling Rationality and Emotion in the 2020 Election.

There’s a place for both, but balance is key.

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Photo via Bernie Sanders on Instagram

The 2016 election was telling in a multitude of ways. Whether it be the ability of an old social democrat like Bernie Sanders to appeal to the raw frustrations of young people in particular, or the economic desperation and fear of the other that culminated in to the rise of Donald Trump, we certainly learned a lot about the pulse of the country. But perhaps the most important thing we learned from this election was the clear and ever growing divide between the more moderate wing of the Democratic Party, and the rising new blood that’s definitely further left leaning.

In my view, part of what further exacerbated this divide was what felt like almost complete and total disregard of this leftist wing of the party among Hillary Clinton’s campaign. One of the clearest indicators of this was her selection of Tim Kaine of all people as her choice for Vice President. Rather than choose someone who might be more appealing to the left, she chose to appeal to the right instead. There is absolutely no denying how deeply frustrated and discouraged people felt, and I would argue that a lot of the resentment towards the establishment that she represented was due to the constant drum beat that we needed to just bow our heads and fall in line.

While 2016 highlighted this deep seeded division, the 2018 midterms showed us exactly how best to handle rationality vs. emotion when casting our votes. The American left has for the most part been able to channel their frustration in productive and meaningful ways.

We took the pain and the fear from 2016 and turned it in to something incredible. The Justice Democrats are the prime example of what can happen when we step back, regroup, and consider the most productive options on the table. In all honesty I can understand the concern of organizing within a party that seems so far gone, but perhaps democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders are proof that we might just be able to bring it back.

If we channel the energy and emotion of the leftist base, while at the same time continuing to use the tools and platforms of the Democratic Party to get the message across, then the 2020 election could potentially go even better than 2018. Of course, this is contingent upon the ability of the democratic base to strike the balance between rationality and emotion.

The dangers in ignoring the emotions of the base is without a doubt at the top of the long list of lessons we can learn from 2016. I saw an immeasurable number of people chastising anyone who cast a protest vote, and understandably so. But without acknowledging the context of the state they live in (a protest vote in New York vs. a protest vote in Florida for example) or the reasons they felt they had to do it, you are not discouraging them from doing it again.

We have to keep our emotions from getting the better of us in the midst of situations like the one we’re in, but the first and best way to do that is by having an honest discussion about why those emotions are there in the first place. Discussions like those are at the root of all fundamental change, and we’re doing no good in ignoring their value and simplifying the problems at hand. Donald Trump is not an issue that will simply be solved by ignoring everything that led him to where he is. His entire appeal is based on emotion, and to defeat it we have to channel a little bit of emotion as well. Excitement of course, being better than fear. While I don’t want to turn this idea in to an argument in favor of Bernie Sanders, I don’t think I would be furthering my point if I didn’t at least acknowledge his ability to appeal to what Americans are feeling and at the same time offer real ideas on how to address it.

I don’t want a candidate who is just going to appeal to my emotions, and stir up my anger or even my nostalgia without offering anything else. But at the same time I don’t want a candidate who’s just telling us that what we are going through doesn’t matter and we just have to vote for them because Donald Trump is bad. Fighting Donald Trump or selecting a candidate that actually wants to enact leftists policies are not mutually exclusive. I want a candidate with real, authentic ideas that we can discuss and debate in a manner that ensures finding the best possible way to move forward both in defeating Donald Trump and enacting a genuine vision for the future of the country.

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Lauren is a writer & leftist with analysis on topics related to politics & policy. She can be reached at or Twitter @xlauren_mx

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