A political lesson for folks unhappy about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Sometimes you gotta stop gazing into the horizon searching for Mr. Right and take a second look at Mr. Right Now. (Apologies to my same-sex and nonbinary friends for this analogy cast in straight-woman terminology.) As any dating guru will tell you, Mr. Right Now is never the flashy guy who checks all the boxes on your wishlist. He’s the second-look guy who is more interested in you than himself; someone ready to commit to doing the work to build a good relationship.
I’ve been mulling over that well-known relationship advice as I read and listen to voters who are deeply disappointed that — after all the candidates on the Democratic debate stage months ago — the last person standing is, for them, just okay. Some feel so debilitated that they are talking about not voting at all. Certainly, that’s a choice, though many of the 2016 nonvoters said they wouldn’t do it again. Days after the election, 100 nonvoters expressed their regret to the Guardian. One told reporters, “I am furious, embarrassed, disgusted and afraid.”
Choosing Mr. Right Now, politically, requires thinking pragmatically about how you assess the candidacy of campaign hopefuls; not sinking into the fantasy of what might have been with Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Julian Castro or Corey Booker — the ones who got away. Cool your fevered imagination and really take the temperature of Mr. Right Now’s comforting, if dull, assets. Candidate Biden’s early political ads actually highlight his low-key steadiness, asking, “Remember when you didn’t have to think about the president every single day? And instead there was someone in that office who thought about you?”
No question, excitement is important in political campaigns. Biden upped the excitement factor in his race by adding Sen. Kamala Harris to his presidential ticket. Naming her as the Democratic vice presidential nominee brought back former supporters of other candidates and elated some independents and a scant few of the remaining undecideds. But will it be enough to stir the kind of enthusiasm that drives voters to the polls?
Harvard University’s Institute of Politics polled likely voters under 30, revealing mixed results about the enthusiasm factor. On the one hand, 56 percent of the group who support President Trump said they were “very enthusiastic” about voting for him, while just 35 percent of young voters supporting Democratic nominee Joe Biden said the same. Nevertheless, 60 percent of under 30 likely voters said they will vote for Biden, compared to the 27 percent who said they were casting a ballot for the president.
Tomorrow night’s first presidential debate at Cleveland’s Case Western University is an opportunity to recognize that this election offers a stark choice. And that there’s too much at stake to allow a four-year political fling to trump a lack of enthusiasm about Mr. Right Now’s sober, steady leadership.
I urge voters to consider the sage full-throated lyrical advice of those venerable rockers, the Rolling Stones. “You can’t always get what you want,” the Stones have sung for 50 plus years. “But if you try, sometimes you just might find you get what you need.”