Why Defeatism is the Last Thing We Need for The 2020 Election

Megan Jackson

It’s September of 2019, more than a year away from the much-anticipated 2020 presidential election. Despite the already well-trod campaign trails, debates and upcoming fateful Iowa caucus, many people are justifiably “not even thinking” about the upcoming election yet. After all, not everyone is a PoliSci major with a lot of Googling time on her hands and an avid interest in the horse race. This, I respect. In homage to these people, I will keep my remarks brief. 

Counter to the baby boomers who cluck otherwise, our generation by and large is interested in the presidential race. In conversations with my peers, however, I have repeatedly heard the same slogan that puts my heart ill at ease: the resigned, apathetic declaration that he’s going to win.

We all know the “he” of which I speak: he’s orange. He’s crude. The busy Twitter fingers on his little hands have been deftly dismantling democracy and America’s good name since 2016, and he has been running his 2020 campaign since before he took office. The people I’ve spoken to do not want him to win—it’s more of a sigh than a rallying cry—but they seem staunchly convinced that he will. 

Perhaps my peers hope to guard themselves from the inevitable doomsday despair that will strike us if he does win. Perhaps they, like so many others, have grown demoralized by the constant stream of nonsense, embarrassment and outright criminal behavior spewing like ash from this great orange dragon. His thick, flabby scales seem impenetrable to inquiry, impeachment and his citizens’ outrage. At this point, one might say, what can possibly slay the beast? Perhaps this jaded outlook disguises a disinterest in digging deeper and doing the work to stake a claim on the Democrats’ chances. Still others would prefer to focus on local and state elections and declare themselves “realistic” than face the heartbreak of another dashed dream. 

I am terrified that my fellow voters are spinning a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Absolutely, local and state elections are going to be important in 2020. Some of our most important battles—such as women’s reproductive rights and gerrymandering—are recruiting their generals from those ballots. Surely, too, we cannot underestimate our opponent. The arrogance and certainty of Democratic voters everywhere won Trump’s joke campaign the presidency three years ago, and there is a tangible possibility that he could snatch it again. I would argue that we cannot overestimate him, either. Trump this time is neither a joke nor the only real candidate; he is just a horrible man surrounded by smarter, equally horrible people. He is not undefeatable—but he would love for you to think so. It makes his job much easier.

I was a sophomore in high school in 2016, and I did not yet care about politics. I couldn’t vote. Like many current college students, this presidency was chosen for me by my elders, and I have watched in horror as their choices bore horrible, racist, criminal fruit. We may already have missed environmental deadlines; we may already be headed towards a recession that could put many of us out of a job after graduation. We may already have lost.

Until we know that for sure—and we won’t until after November 3, 2020—I can’t give up. It’s our turn to make our voices heard, to reject what we know is wrong and act for what we think is right. In the coming year, we will have the opportunity to open our minds and our hearts to new candidates and to the possibility—not the promise—of a better future. Maybe this hope is reckless; maybe it’s not realistic; maybe it’s all for nothing. The same could have been said about pretty much every uphill movement towards positive change. In my eyes, the 2020 election could well be our generation’s defining moment: our Vietnam, our March on Washington, our Stonewall Riots, our Seneca Falls. It breaks my heart to see so many of us turning away from our chance to change things for the better out of fear for the possibility of things staying the same—because if we don’t do something now, they definitely will.

 I hope you’ll find the hope to join this fight with me. We have a little more than 14 months to make history together.