Student Voices: What I'm looking for in a candidate

As someone who has worked with campaigns since 2017 and followed presidential races since I started reading in 2007, the upcoming election season is set to be one of the most confusing ones yet. Why? Because in a field of more than 20 opposition candidates who generally have similar policy positions, the case for which particular candidate will have the best chance at beating Donald Trump is truly unknown.

What I’m looking for in a candidate is one who can lead a movement for true progressive policy in Washington. At this stage in the race, “electability” is merely a misnomer for nominating someone who has the backing of the establishment coalition in the Democratic Party. I’m looking for a candidate who puts in place policies that attempt to establish equity, not solely equality. From tuition-free public colleges and universities to Medicare for All, the 21st century is the time for changing the status quo in U.S. politics.

During the first round of debates, it seemed as though many candidates were in favor of pushing America in the direction of humanity-first policies. However, the one person whose policy plan stayed consistent throughout was Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Although she was on the first night, without the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden or Sen. Kamala Harris, Warren shined above all the other candidates on stage as the most prepared and responded directly to questions.

Sen. Cory Booker and former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro did get moments to focus on their top issues – criminal justice reform and immigration, respectively – but throughout the night Warren maintained the edge she had heading into the debate.

The second night was filled with far more discourse and interjections. Yet throughout the debate, the thing that stood out most was how much Sanders’ policies have become a crucial part of current Democratic Party policy. Comments like “I agree with Bernie” or “Bernie is right on this” were present throughout both nights. From Medicare for All to the assault weapons ban and harsher regulation of Wall Street, Sanders’ ideas that were once thought of as radical are now not only mainstream, but backed by millions of Americans.

His debate performance was not excellent, but throughout the evening he worked the audience back onto his side by going after Biden’s foreign policy record and presenting a strong closing statement.

The mention of Biden brings me back to my point about this being the 21st century. Compromise between the two parties in the way outlined by more centrist candidates such as Biden and Harris has not worked since the start of the tea party back in 2009. At this point, a candidate who is compromising on core principles of progressive policy is someone I cannot get behind.

I will vote for whoever goes against Trump, but during these primaries, the only thing that should matter is supporting the vision you want for America. Playing it safe, relaxing and not advocating for all Americans is what got us into this current presidential predicament. To do it all over again would be a severe detriment to America.

Although we’re eight months away from the California primary, these debates were the true start of the grudge match set to come. Aside from Biden, who authored the 1994 crime bill and is partly responsible for American mass incarceration, I eagerly look forward to seeing which candidate will earn my vote.

This race will really be about finding the candidates we dislike the least, as opposed to like the most, and I cannot wait to see how things shake out over these next few months.

Noah Tesfaye is a 2019 graduate of Los Altos High School and a Town Crier intern.

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