Only two months into 2019, controversies and scandals have unearthed a lack of responsibility and awareness in some of our elected officials.
Two weeks ago, a defamatory photograph of two students — one wearing blackface and one dressed as a Ku Klux Klan member — was discovered on Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D-Va.) yearbook page. In response to the scandal, Democrats responded by demanding integrity from him, proving to the electorate that they could hold their own party accountable.
Democratic responses to the Northam scandal are just part of a larger trend in the party as the 2020 elections loom closer. As candidates prepare to take back the White House in 2020, they have demonstrated, through clear actions and the avid use of social media, their commitment to expecting the truth from all leaders, regardless of party.
Partly in response to President Donald Trump’s 8,459 lies told while in office, Democrats have adopted a new party platform that emphasizes truth and integrity. Holding elected officials accountable — though it should have been the standard method of practice — is now the universal message within the party, hoping to appeal not only to Democratic voters but to decisive swing voters as well. Given that the Democrats now have a majority in the House, the party’s platform promise to “clean up Washington” can now become a reality.
The party’s message of accountability is also evident in the platforms of the Democrats who have announced their candidacy for the 2020 presidential election. For example, presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) tweeted in response to the Northam scandal that “we should expect more from our elected officials. He should resign.” Booker was quickly joined by a host of his fellow Democratic presidential candidates in denouncing Northam.
Similarly, after Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted last week, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” to question the authenticity of support for Israel, Democrats were quick to condemn her actions as antisemitic.
By hoping to gain back many Americans’ trust after these incidents, Democrats have tried to create a more open and respectable image of American politics. For example, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) will lead the House Oversight and Reform Committee in investigating the executive branch to denounce corruption within office.
It is clear that Democrats are determined to be at the top of the moral and ethical totem pole, juxtaposing themselves from Trump and the Republican Party in this crucial time period for garnering support in the 2020 election.
However, the unifying message of accountability for elected officials does not just appear in Democrats’ responses to scandals, but also candidates’ platforms. Ahead of the Iowa caucus, Democratic candidates are emphasizing accountability and integrity as a central element of their platforms. For example, the first statement on the “Meet Kamala” page of Sen Kamala Harris’ (D-Calif.) campaign website is “Speaking Truth, Demanding Justice.” Additionally, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) both make credibility and anticorruption, smaller themes within the larger argument, a part of their platforms.
As Trump’s popularity decreases — disapproval ratings of Trump increased from 55 percent to 59 percent, according to a 2019 Gallup Poll — Democrats’ chances of taking the White House and promoting their message of accountability have increased.
With a plethora of Democratic candidates to choose from, voters should seek to elect a legitimate, responsible and, most importantly, accountable president if they are to sit in the most esteemed of seats.
However, as candidates continue to emphasize responsibility in their campaigns, it will be crucial that the call for accountability does not become an empty promise. If Democrats are to reassert their dominance and construct a transparent government, it is essential that they give Americans the leadership they deserve.
Alexis Smith is a freshman in the College.