Op-Ed: How did we end up with an old white man for president again?

Jasmine Razeghi, Junior

It is the Democratic Primaries and the most diverse line up of potential nominees stand before the American people. They give hope to America as many wonder, “will we finally get a President that is not an old, white man?” Unsurprisingly, the answer is no. The Trump administration, alongside the 4 years of pain that they caused so many Americans, did not spark the revolution that many were hoping for, including me. But what held us back? Most importantly, what lessons must we learn from 2020?


No voter should have to choose “the lesser evil”

We all suffer from a two-party system. No voter should have to choose “the lesser evil” come every single Presidential election, but that is exactly what we end up with every four years. This is why rank choice voting is not only necessary to ensure that every vote in the primaries matter, but for America to slowly move away from a two-party system. Rank choice voting is a step forward, arguably a necessary step as noted by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Common Purpose Report. With so many choices for the Democratic nominee and candidates dropping out at unpredictable times, a person’s vote casted today could be worthless the next.

How else do we address the two-party system that continues to thrive in a partisan America? Let’s be honest — as much as our two polarizing major political parties try to paint all voters as either red or blue, that simply isn’t the case. According to Pew Research, a whopping one third of registered voters are Independent. Of course, Independents often lean one way or another. But if one third of American voters cannot see themselves aligning with either party, shouldn’t our government body reflect that middle ground?


We had the chance to change, but we didn’t

A Times article on why the United States cannot (yes, cannot) elect a woman for president explains how ever-present sexism remains, describing it as this: “When a woman runs for President of the United States, it’s like she wraps herself in a giant roll of clear Scotch tape: everything sticks to her, and she can’t move. In American politics, a woman’s gender acts as both an invisible adherent and a tight constraint: it’s harder to shake off mistakes, harder to pivot, harder to throw punches and harder to avoid them.” An example referenced is that during the primaries we saw former Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg under the spotlight as Senator Amy Klobuchar, with over a decade’s worth of experience in Congress, failed to gain as much traction.

People are not perfect, I know. So, not only should a presidential candidate be criticized up and down (I mean, they are running to lead an entire nation), they must be held accountable for everything. However, the criticism and backlash must be fair. We cannot hold women to a higher standard just because they are women. As much as representation and checking off every diversity marker in no way solves the nation’s problems, it speaks volumes to tell the world that a woman can represent America. It also evokes shame that we have yet to tell the world this fact. At least, not yet.

But it is certainly not just about electing a woman for President. While Obama was the first Black president, does he have to be the last? As much as I dissed on Mayor Pete, was America drawn away from having an openly gay man for president? Or a young person? The average American is not an old white man. Why can’t we move on from this precedent? We had the chance to change, but we didn’t.


We were lucky this election cycle

As much as I would like to push for a more diverse government, I wouldn’t go as far to say that having someone other than an old white man will solve America’s problems. The face of America certainly means a lot to many of us. If each of us could finally begin to see ourselves in the President, it would be a beautiful awakening — just as the little girls across the country who were joyous to see Kamala Harris as the Vice President-elect. As we learn more about Biden’s cabinet picks, he seems to have followed through with creating an extremely diverse cabinet. While I hesitate in prescribing a movement towards electing a diverse set of government officials as a means of moving along a progressive pathway, I know that having a government that looks like its constituents is key to living up to Lincoln’s definition of democracy as  “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Many will challenge the nation’s ability to progress with regard to both our democracy and the diversity of government. “Well, if more (insert women, Black people, Latinx folks, Asian individuals, LGBTQIA+ here) ran, then we would elect them to office.” or “Is rank choice voting really that important?” The year 2020 has handed us opportunities to see both a diverse set of potential democratic candidates and an ideal primary situation where rank choice voting could have played a key role.

The truth is that the praised American democracy we put on a pedestal for the world to see is not as democratic as it could be. The harsher truth is that we know what must be done in order to strengthen our democracy, yet we refuse to do it. Come 2024, will the United States finally join the world in electing someone other than an old white man?