Written and Edited by Annika Lilja
On Friday, Dean Phillips, a congressman from Minnesota (D-03), announced that he is running for president, and thus challenging President Biden for the Democratic nomination.
I worked on his Congressional campaign this summer and met him numerous times. I want to take this opportunity to explain why I am so excited by this news and explain some of the dynamics at play here.
This won’t be All Teen Politics' usual type of article, as I am sharing my own personal experience.
I won’t try to convince you to vote for Phillips, but rather explain my ties to this and explain what his candidacy means. I hope you can read this article and walk away understanding why it is so important to get involved in politics within your own community, and also have a sense of the significance of this campaign.
I had the opportunity to attend a program at Georgetown University this past summer and decided to take a chance and pursue a different option that would allow me to gain some work experience instead. I did some research on political internships and decided to apply for the Dean Phillips for the Congress internship program because he is the representative for the district where I live. I wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me then that who I was working for would run for president just a few months later. I had a phenomenal time working on his congressional reelection campaign this past summer, I went door-knocking, phone banked, walked in parades, worked on basic office tasks, and got to meet Phillips a numerous times. I have a great memory of participating in a Fourth of July parade and Phillips being the only politician present willing to stick it out with all the volunteers in the pouring rain while the others were ushered into vehicles by their staff.
The first time I met Congressman Dean Phillips, he had a conversation with my group of interns and spoke very candidly about his role in Congress. When asked about running for president, he explained how he felt that someone within the party needed to challenge President Biden. Phillips was honest to us about his lack of national presence and explained that he felt someone else, like Gavin Newsom, Gretchen Whitmer, or Amy Klobuchar should be the one to run. He expressed his concerns to us about Biden’s age, and how important he thinks it is to usher in a new generation into politics.
As time went on, and no other Democrat decided to run against Biden, I kept wondering if Phillips was going to announce his candidacy. This past Wednesday, rumors started circling as a "Phillips for President" bus was spotted in Ohio, assumed to be making its way to New Hampshire to announce his candidacy on the last day possible. Then on Friday, the official announcement came out that Phillips is running for President.
I was at a Model UN conference all day on Friday, and during our lunch break, I watched his announcement live, telling everyone I knew that the congressman I worked for was running for president because I couldn’t contain my excitement.
Phillips first ran for Congress in 2018, and he currently represents the 3rd District of Minnesota, which is the most civically engaged district in the country and where I also call home. He was a part of the House Democrats' leadership but stepped down to pursue this campaign, and he is the most bipartisan member of Congress.
At this time, there are four Democrats running for President: Joe Biden, Dean Phillips, Marianne Williamson (a self-help author and spiritual adviser), and Cenk Uygur (a political commentator and media host who at the present moment couldn't be president because he isn’t a natural-born citizen). RFK Jr. is no longer a Democratic nominee, and is instead running for President as an independent. Then, of course, you have all of the Republicans running for President. Here is a great resource to know who is running in 2024.
There are several dynamics at play to explain:
Dean Phillips is not a traditional election “spoiler,” a term usually given to third-party candidates who are highly unlikely to win but draw votes away from the two major parties, thus giving them the power to shape elections. In order to appear on the general election ballot in November of 2024, Phillips would need to beat President Biden in the Democratic Primaries (which will happen in the spring of 2024). Phillips isn’t a member of a third party, so he isn’t an election spoiler. He will still likely impact the election though.
Dean Phillips could either help the Democrats or hurt them.
Phillips could help the Democrats by potentially being a candidate more people would be willing to vote for than Biden. Concerns about Biden’s age and his low approval ratings could be seen as demonstrating the need for someone else to run as the Democratic nominee.
Phillips could hurt the Democrats because his campaign materials could be weaponized by Republicans to attack President Biden if Phillips isn't the nominee and Biden is. Phillips could also potentially divide the party, but also remember that both he and Biden can’t be on the general election, November of 2024, ballot.
Phillips could either be setting himself up for a 2028 Presidential Run or ending his political career.
By getting national attention now, Phillips might be laying the foundation for a 2028 Presidential run that then wouldn’t be against a sitting president of his own party.
If this goes badly though, Phillips might not have the support to run for President again in 2028 (if he even wanted to), and he might have a hard time being reelected to Congress.
Phillips has every right to make his voice heard by running for President. Whether or not you think Phillips' campaign will help the party you identify with, or even if you agree with his policies, Phillips, as with any other candidate, is exercising his right to run for president and have his opinion heard. This is what democracy is all about. Personally, Phillips' campaign is giving me hope that we can move forward as a country still upholding our democracy.
This is exactly why getting involved matters and why it is so great. As I said, I never thought I would be in this position. I am so proud to say that I did my part in helping his congressional campaign, and in doing so, I have so many new opportunities I can explore. All it takes is one small act as simple as sending an email or filling out an application to get your foot in the door. If I can do it at 16 years old, I have no doubt whoever is reading this can do it too.