There is an old story that if you put several crabs in an open-top bucket they won’t be able to escape even though each individual crab might be able to climb out. The problem is, the crabs will all struggle to climb out at the same time, and they end up pulling potential escapees back into the bucket.

The end result is that none of the crabs escape, and, in the case of the poor crabs destined to be someone’s dinner, they all lose!

With the crowded field of Democratic candidates currently contending for the presidency, I believe we are watching the political version of the crab bucket unfold on the national stage. Good, well-intentioned candidates rise in the polls only to be pulled back down by rumors, “purity tests” and resentments.

Kamala Harris is the latest potential nominee to fall prey. She came on very strong and gained a lot of support and buzz among Democrats. Yet she had to end her campaign because she ran out of money, even though when she declared her candidacy back in 2018 she was a top fundraiser.

As does any candidate, Harris had her pluses and minuses. But she couldn’t withstand the barrage of criticism on social media and from other candidates, and she ended her campaign less than a year after it started. She was accused of being “too centrist,” and she was looked on with suspicion by a lot of people because of her background as a prosecutor.

And so, the crabs pulled her back into the bucket, and her campaign withered.

Now Pete Buttigieg has risen in the polls, and already the crabs are snapping at his heels. He’s gay and a progressive, and he supports a lot of strong progressive ideas, including eliminating the death penalty, supporting abortion rights, a public option for health care, adding LGBTQ rights to the Federal Equality Act and a higher minimum wage.

He even has a plan to address systematic racism in America including large grants to African-American entrepreneurs and historically black colleges.

But the crabs are nipping at his heels with assertions that he cannot win the “black vote” because of his demoting the black police chief in South Bend over illegal wiretapping allegations. Others claim that black voters will never vote for a gay candidate.

Bernie Sanders keeps climbing up as well, only to be pulled down by criticism that he is “too old” and “too progressive” to be elected. Joe Biden keeps peeking over the edge of the bucket only to be dragged back down by discredited conspiracy theories and the same “too old” argument that plagues Sanders.
Elizabeth Warren nears the rim, but she gets criticized for having once been a Republican and for being too wonky and having a plan for everything.

The crabs are working hard to bring everyone back into the bucket.

What is the point of it all? Well, with the prospect of another four years of Trump, the stakes in this election are as high as they have been in my lifetime.

It is important that we scrutinize all the candidates and choose one that can defeat Trump in the general election. We must know their flaws and their strengths. But it is also important that we don’t become so critical that we end up with a candidate who may have no flaws, but who has no appeal, as well.

The truth is, no one candidate will satisfy everyone’s vision of an ideal candidate. They all have histories prior to running for president, and though you can infer a lot from a person’s history, it is also important to remember that people — and their viewpoints — do change.

Democrats and progressives in general, by their nature, like to look at all sides of a candidate. But only the most politically involved will have their finger on the pulse of a candidate’s prior positions and political history.

Most voters make their decisions emotionally not logically. That truth was made abundantly clear in the last election, when voters’ emotions were swayed not only by campaigns but by foreign meddling through social media. That meddling will most likely happen again; I suspect it is already going on.

The crabs that are energetically pulling candidates back into the bucket might not be who we think they are. Fake organizations and false profiles are being found every day, and so far, social media companies have not found a way to effectively combat the problem.

Additionally, the Trump administration has systematically cut funding to cyber security research and routinely dismisses the idea of Russian meddling. I wonder why? (That is a rhetorical question for the irony-impaired.)

So, while it is important to examine all the candidates in the primary, it would serve us all better if we stuck to promoting our favorite candidate’s best qualities and policies rather than dragging other candidates back into the bucket.

The average voter wants a candidate they can understand, one that makes them feel good about choosing them for office. If we do nothing but harp on other candidates’ flaws, the general public will look at all Democratic candidates as flawed, and they will lack the enthusiasm needed to win the election.

Unlike with Republicans, who have become a cult in recent years, a Democratic candidate has a higher bar to clear, since loyal Democrats seem to actually care about the details of a candidate’s political history.

With that in mind, it is vital that we remain focused on the positives of our favored candidates and stop behaving like crabs. Otherwise, we will all be served up on the menu at Trump’s second inaugural dinner.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at