Voters must demand more from candidates

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Earlier this week, I shared an article on Facebook.

The subject of this article was Bernie Sanders, specifically his awkward, fumbling interview with New York Daily News from last week.

The article in question laid out a potentially damning reality for the Sanders campaign: Bernie doesn’t seem to know how to fulfill his campaign promises. Numerous spots throughout the interview show Sanders essentially conceding that he hasn’t fully done his research into matters that make up the bedrock of his popularity.

The day after I shared this article, a friend who saw the post sent me a message over Facebook asking if I was “leaning toward Hillary now.”

This should be a ridiculous question. But unfortunately, it is not.

In a lot of ways, as absurd as it may be, it’s a very legitimate question. If someone is criticizing a political candidate on social media, it’s an entirely reasonable conclusion to assume they support “the other guy” (whomever that may be). But is this how healthy political conversation should be happening? Should criticism of a candidate only come as an attack from some opposing camp? Why are we a nation of political absolutists who, when presented with a reductive dichotomy of two political candidates, cleave to either one with a sanctimonious vigor? Why can’t we see as much criticism coming from within a camp as without?

I believe that Sanders is a well-meaning and passionate politician. I believe that, in many ways, his values and goals are the sort of sharp-left turn that can course-correct this country away from decades of living in the shadow of Reagan-era politics. I also believe that Bernie doesn’t really have a practical plan to make his campaign goals a reality. I believe that his repetitive soapboxing is a mask for undercooked political rhetoric, and I believe this should seriously call into question his qualifications as a presidential candidate.

Does this mean I am a Hillary supporter? Absolutely not. I believe the last Clinton administration was deceptive in its wooing of black voters and did far more to harm the black community than it did to help it (Hillary’s own “super predator” remarks from the era are more than enough to indicate her less-than-progressive views on issues plaguing the black community to this day). I also believe her history with regard to foreign policy, specifically regarding Latin America, reeks of imperialism and is cause for incredible amounts of concern. In many ways, Hillary’s policies aren’t marked improvements over the policies of her Republican opponents.

But just because I am not in any fashion a Hillary supporter does not mean that her opponent is off-limits for criticism. Nobody should hop into bed with the Sanders campaign due to distaste for Hillary. Sanders doesn’t deserve your vote for simply not being a Clinton. Every candidate, no matter his or her party, should strive to earn your vote from you. And if they are failing to do so, then demand more of them. This is the most important role criticism can play in the political sphere. At its best, criticism isn’t an attempt to tear down the name of an opposing faction; it’s a challenge to those on the receiving end to do better.

This year, we are electing a new president of the United States. If there ever was a time not to settle for the lesser of evils, it would be now. And if nobody has proven themselves worthy of the position, then it’s time we demanded more from them. Don’t be afraid to criticize, especially those with whom you mostly agree.

Andrew Allen is a junior majoring in communications. Upon Further Review runs alternate Thursdays.