If you’ve made up your mind to vote for Biden, I’m not trying to convince you otherwise. Thanks to the two-party system, many of you believe that not voting for Biden is akin to voting for Trump. I happen to disagree, and before you begin to belittle the people who will not be casting a vote with the Democratic party, please consider the following.
I have not seen a single case for Biden to be elected beyond “he’s our best chance to beat Trump,” which is a weak case, considering a measly 24 percent of his supporters report feeling “very enthusiastic” about their candidate. Compare this mere 24 percent of enthusiastic supporters to Trump’s 53 percent, and recall Biden’s abysmal track record—opposing desegregation, backing the Iraq War, pushing to cut Social Security, persecuting Anita Hill, sexually assaulting Tara Reade, etc. Do you really wonder why he’s had trouble garnering support from progressive voters? I fail to see how Democrats have convinced themselves to rally around a candidate who is so wholly uninspiring and expect a different result than when we ran an unlikeable moderate in 2016.
Imagine our current leaders saying “we need to unify and rally behind President Trump in the face of the COVID-19 crisis”—indeed, I know people who stand by this sentiment. But the president fired the experts who were trained to deal with a pandemic; he called the crisis a hoax; he ignored the literal handbook on how to deal with widespread contagion; he suggested hospitals and nurses are hoarding or wasting masks, rather than mobilizing the resources at the government’s disposal to obtain more masks and ventilators. In the face of this purely factual criticism, is the best solution still to blindly support our leader?
Think about how disillusioned you are with our incompetent president, and then imagine the same treatment from every politician you’ve ever encountered. Imagine you’ve experienced marginalization, been left unemployed and without healthcare, and then told by Democratic elites that you must vote for their party because they will save you, even though they’ve failed to do anything that remotely addresses your lived experience in decades—that would just be too radical. These are the folks who voted for Trump in 2016, these are the folks Bernie was speaking to, and these are the folks who have no obligation to vote blue in November.
I myself question whether President Biden would be that much less of an evil than President Trump. One supposed appeal of Biden’s campaign is that he’s able to appeal to moderates across the aisle; he’s not promising the idealistic, extreme left, “pie in the sky” policies that Bernie was pushing. He’s all about incremental change. Unfortunately, if we keep countering extreme fascism with anything moderate, anything but extreme anti-fascism, then we are going to continue to be pulled further and further into fascism. Consider Biden’s recent promise to lower the Medicare-eligible age to 60 and the praise he’s received for this concession. Then recall that four years ago, Hilary Clinton suggested lowering it to 55. We’re going backwards. The center is sliding further and further to the right. Universal healthcare, which has dominated our debate stage for decades, is perfectly reasonable and functional for 18 other countries, but the American political and moral compass is skewed to the right after years of attempting incremental change. Incremental change is not good enough—a fact that has become especially clear in the face of the global pandemic.
Perhaps you’re thinking that I need to remember what matters: beating Trump. To this, I firmly say that if I have to set aside a lot of my principles in order to vote for a candidate, what does it matter that candidate’s party? Based on his track record, electing Biden is a win for the Republican Party in all ways but nominal. This year would have been the time for the Democratic party to evolve by throwing their weight behind Bernie Sanders. Instead, they bet everything on Grandpa Joe, a candidate who represents the Democratic party of an ancient time, but has not given any indication that he is prepared to lead Americans in any way (just look at his response to COVID-19, which is at times incoherent). Biden’s campaign website promises a few progressive policies (such as restoring DACA), but when I search for evidence that he will follow through on those promises, there is nothing to be found. Are you really asking me to put my blind faith in someone whose campaign is funded by 44 billionaires, made up of mainly venture capitalists and real estate moguls?
We don’t have two parties. We have a ruling class of elite politicians who work for lobbyists and look out for their own interests. The two parties are simply a “false choice,” like choosing between two brands of shampoo at the drugstore that both come from the same parent company. Democrat versus Republican is a distraction. The Democratic party has betrayed the ideals that it supposedly represented; it’s time to disrupt the two-party system.
If you are truly willing to “vote blue no matter who,” that means that you are willing to compromise on any number of your values in order to keep a Republican out of office. I shudder at the potential for “compromise” to become a willingness to brush aside significant issues in order to vote for a rapist whose policies have historically been very very bad for Black Americans. That’s privilege. Furthermore, if you are pushing that slogan, we will never be able to hold a single Democratic candidate accountable for progressive policies, because they know they will capture your vote regardless. We cannot keep pretending that rewarding a candidate with our vote doesn’t mean anything. I know that my vote has value; that’s precisely why I can’t just give it away to a party or a candidate that doesn’t represent me.
Instead of voting for a meaningless party demarcation, I will vote based on policy. If tens of thousands of people said, “Hey, Biden, we refuse to vote for you unless you support Medicare for All,” then maybe he would listen, and I could consider voting for him. But it is simply not sufficient for the media (or for our peers!) to take a candidate and demand our unity. Ideally, a candidate that actually represents the needs of the people will unify us with their actions. If Biden wants to be that candidate now, he needs to actually earn the progressive vote.
If your daily life does not drastically change based on the policies of whatever president is in office, and yet you are campaigning with all your might for a presidential candidate, then you might be imagining politics as a reality TV show you get to participate in. How fun, how inhuman! I understand that Biden will reinstate civility. He will restore America’s facade of liberalism and development. He will be less overtly xenophobic and vulgar than our current president. He will let you sleep better at night because you can feel as if you did your part to support progressivism by voting blue no matter who. This peace of mind is exactly what’s so terrifying about Biden becoming president: I worry we will stagnate. Both Trump and Bernie, from opposite ends of the political spectrum, succeeded in stirring people up. Trump’s open racism enraged liberals—and rightfully so. Obviously it’s harmful and embarrassing to have this current incompetent idiot in the White House. But I fear that liberalism, forcibly stirred up by the overt injustices of the current administration, will die a silent death if Biden, a covert conservative, is handed the office. Once we acknowledge the truth—that voting for Biden is mostly symbolic—you have to ask: what’s the benefit of preserving that symbol?
In the 2016 election, the DNC told hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised American citizens that they don’t matter. That is what led to Trump’s election; he was an anti-establishment candidate who (disingenuously) appealed to people who were reaching out for help. Bernie was our only shot at beating Trump; he was our progressive answer to the anti-establishment candidate. Many of the states Biden won during the primary (Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, etc.) are dependably red in the general election anyway. I don’t believe he has even a fraction of the magnetism required to swing the states that really count, and I sincerely doubt that his debate performances will contradict that perception.
If you’re voting for Biden, I won’t try to convince you otherwise, but I will urge you to stop trying to guilt progressive voters into choosing him. Perhaps if we make the DNC worried about winning, they could urge their puppet to adopt better policies in order to attract voters. And even if that doesn’t happen, I still believe we are justified in refusing to choose between two rapists. Ultimately, what’s the point of directing energy toward a campaign that will ultimately change nothing about our society, and a candidate who is far from likely to win the general election?
Instead of trying to convince disenfranchised people to believe in a system that excludes them, let’s demand more from the Democratic Party. Instead of wasting our votes on a candidate who will continue their corruption, let’s show them that we’ve had enough of incremental change. If the Green Party receives just 5 percent of the national vote, they receive federal funding for the next election as an officially recognized national party. Their candidates can begin to appear on ballots. They will begin to receive attention and resources to further their progressive campaign. We can break away from the two-party system if we stop wasting our votes on party loyalty.
Before you wage war on the enormous coalition of voters who desperately want change, consider devoting that energy into something that matters a lot more. We can flip the senate to blue. We can support Shahid Buttar and other progressive challengers of incumbent politicians. We can donate and volunteer with local grassroots campaigns. We can support local candidates who will make change in our communities. If we can’t have top-down change, let’s make it happen bottom-up. Without a truly progressive president, that happens a lot more slowly, but it’s still possible. Activism doesn’t begin or end with a vote. Let’s not lose sight of the battles that are really worth fighting.
[Corrections and Notes (04.18.2020): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Joseph R. Biden (D-DE) voted to confirm Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Biden was the chairman of the committee that approved Thomas. The clause referring to that vote has been removed. Note that the previous version also referred ambiguously to the enthusiastic approval rating among supporters of Donald Trump, which is 53 percent; the sentence did not refer to Trump’s overall approval rating, which at the time of this corrections notice is approximately 44.1 percent (with approximately 53 percent disapproval). Please additionally note that Opinions articles do not reflect the views of The Miscellany News as a whole, but solely those of the author.]