Electability Is A Myth

Sara Danver
3 min readDec 17, 2019

Electability is a myth. It’s a story we tell ourselves to justify the soft bigotry of low expectations. It’s how we explain away our own prejudices, our own fears. We project them onto someone else — someone we haven’t talked to, someone we’ve never met. We can say “I don’t think Elizabeth Warren can win” and pretend it means “I would happily vote for a woman, but I don’t think anyone else will.” When it really means “I am afraid to vote for a woman.”

There are perfectly valid reasons to dislike a candidate — they speak in soundbites instead of policies, they speak in policies that you don’t like, they have a record of dishonesty or their theory of the case doesn’t fit with yours. There are approximately twenty people running in the Democratic primary and there are several I do not want to become our nominee. But I would never argue that any of them aren’t electable. Even the ones that aren’t inspiring, whose answers are garbled. Even the ones who are 78 and just had a heart attack or the ones who have too much money and not enough people around them to tell them their ideas are dumb.

Because here’s the thing: anyone can beat Trump in 2020 if we all work hard enough.

We have to show up. We have to march, we have to canvass, we have to register voters, and we have to call them. We have to talk to our friends and family. We have to talk about the policies that are important to us and the stakes of the upcoming election. We have to talk about losing health care, the melting planet, and the onslaught of gun deaths and the violence of our hate. Each one of us has to commit our money, our time, and our energy to the next election.

To be sure, this will be easiest with a candidate who gives us a good campaign to work with, whose narrative is inspiring and whose policies are helpful and easy to understand. But democracy isn’t a two person game, or a four person game. It’s got 300 million players and each one of us is responsible for showing up and demanding the country live up to its promises to the best of our ability. And we are even more responsible for showing up for those who can’t. Democracy is an ever expanding project and those of us with means and ability have the responsibility to show up for a future of brighter possibilities for everyone.

Because working hard isn’t just a matter of hours spent talking to voters. It isn’t just our commitment to staying informed, energized, and ready to fight for what we believe in. And it doesn’t just happen on weekends and weeknights and on the occasional trip to a swing state.

We, each and every one of us, but specifically those with platforms and power have to work extra hard to dismantle the misogyny and racism permeates our politics. We cannot be passive observers of bigotry. It is not the job of candidates to prove that they are electable in spite of their race or their gender. It is our responsibility to make sure that doesn’t matter. It is our responsibility to look at the race and gender gaps in polling and call it out for what it is, to listen to voters when they say what they need from candidates, and to listen to candidates when they tell us what they’ve experienced.

We can’t just call it out. We have to fight it. We have to fight it in ourselves, with our family and friends, with our co-workers and that guy you meet at a bar who let you spend an hour talking to him only to find out he just doesn’t think she can win.

Electability isn’t a measure of candidates. It’s a measure of us.

We can have the country we’ve dreamed of. But only if we work hard enough.