A Decision Tree as the Democratic Primary Turns 20

It’s getting confusing. The charts listing the candidates alone take up half the screen. The little photos of each of them are so scrunched now, it’s hard to distinguish one septuagenarian from another. But when you look past all the analysis and all the angst, there’s a pretty simple way to decide how to handle all of this.

Ask yourself: “Is Trump awful enough to…”

  •  Condone what happened to Anita Hill

  • Elect a 77-year old Socialist with no record of actually accomplishing anything

  • Buy into a 37-year old mayor of a town smaller than Washington Heights

  • Support someone so obsessed with their personal narrative, they actually declared having their “Spartacus Moment” out loud on the Senate floor

  • Vote for someone who lied about being Native American for decades

  • Pick someone whose greatest attributes seem to be aimlessly wandering the Midwest and livestreaming his dental appointments

  • Endorse someone so transparently political that they can score an A rating from the NRA one day and then try to posit themselves as the most progressive candidate in the race the next

  • Choose a candidate famous for being the worst boss in the Senate – an august body known for having 100 of the worst managers in America

  • Decide you like 5 other guys you’d never heard of until last week because they don’t seem to have the flaws of everyone listed above (probably because we don’t really know them yet)

If your answer is, “yes, Trump is awful enough to live with any of those candidates ahead of him,” then the next step is pretty simple: stay out of the primary (that’s how I feel). Let the market work as it should. Let the candidates compete vigorously in every state and know that whoever emerges from the scrum is the best suited candidate to take out Trump in November. When that candidate captures the nomination (ideally on the convention floor), give them as much money, time and help as you can. 

If the answer is no, pick the candidate you can live with and support them now. But remember, you’re not Nostradamus. You’re not even Jimmy the Greek. So when you choose a primary candidate, you’re saying “this person is so great that I’m going to support them even at the risk of re-electing Trump.” That’s not an unreasonable position to take – but it may be a dangerous one. 

All of the candidates are flawed. Because they’re all human. It’s easy to disqualify any of them as insufficiently moral or progressive or experienced. But if you believe all that matters is electing someone other than Trump, be careful not to let your passion for one primary candidate or disdain for another lead you down a road that produced the wrong result in November. 

Bradley Tusk