In this primary election, like many others, moderate Democrats chose the nominee. I understand why this makes many progressives feel left behind—however, Joe Biden himself has said he knows he will have to earn progressive votes.
This article is not a case of moderates imploring progressives to vote Biden for no reason. This is me, a progressive, persuading you, another progressive, about the progressive case for voting for Biden.
I want to vote for someone more progressive than Biden. In this primary, I voted for Elizabeth Warren. I’m hoping I can again in 2024. However, that is in the future, and right now, I’m responding to Alice Woo’s op-ed from two weeks ago, in which she tries to argue that progressives shouldn’t vote for Joe Biden. And so, here I am asking: Please, please vote for Joe Biden.
Woo’s argument is based on a misplaced focus on comparing Biden and Sanders. She focuses on his record. And his record isn’t good! Sanders’ is much better! But the choice is no longer between Sanders and Biden. It’s between Biden and Trump, and it is hard to argue that Trump’s record is better or even passable. He had never held public office before becoming president. And the last three years have certainly not inspired hope in Trump’s policies—he’s threatened war with Iran (twice!), separated families at the border, shut down the government twice, and instated a travel ban on 13 countries.
The travel ban is something we don’t talk about enough. Citizens of those countries can’t travel or immigrate to the United States, restrictions which were in place before COVID-19 and likely will be afterward the pandemic. Yemen saw a 91 percent decrease in the number of visas offered because of the travel ban. The U.S. government says there are exceptions, such as visiting dying family members, but only 2 percent of these exceptions are ever granted. Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, is implicated in the ban as well. Trump implemented this ban via executive order, which means that a President Biden could (and has promised to) repeal this policy without any input from Congress.
Woo’s original argument misconstrues Biden’s campaign and his ideology. Biden agrees with Sanders on raising the federal minimum wage to $15. He opposes war with Iran. And this is to say nothing of his possible Supreme Court appointments, who are in office for life and have control over issues like abortion legality and same-sex marriage, both of which Biden supports. This is all to say: Voting for him is not just a symbolic gesture.
Woo’s call to vote for the Green Party is similarly misguided, rooted in a deep misunderstanding of American politics. I doubt many who currently consider themselves to be Republicans—a party that “support[s] the development of all forms of energy that are marketable in a free economy without subsidies, including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power, and hydropower”—will ever vote for the Green Party. This in mind, an empowered Green Party will just suck votes away from the Democrats, offering more control to the Republicans. In America, any candidate needs to get the highest percentage of the vote in any given district to get a seat in Congress. For example, if the Green Party receives 20 percent of the vote, let’s say, and the Democrats get 35 percent, and the Republicans get 45 percent, then all of the seats will go to the Republicans, despite them not getting a majority.
It is useful to think of American political parties as arms of the government rather than true ideologically based parties. It is the Right and the Left, and yes, if you don’t support the Left you are supporting the Right. If you don’t support progress—even modest progress—you are supporting the way things are.
It may be true that Biden will be unlikely to win because only 24 percent of the population strongly supports him. As a non-political scientist, I don’t feel like I should speculate on who will win (though plenty believe Biden will). But while Biden’s lack of a strong base of supporters may prove a liability in the upcoming election, it will make progressive policies easier to pass because Biden needs progressives’ support in a way that Trump does not. This will make him a better leader, and not just accountable to those who strongly support him.
And if you don’t vote because of your dissatisfaction with the current political system, I would like to remind you that staying silent isn’t a form of exercising your voice. Not voting does not demonstrate dissatisfaction; it is giving up your power. Ultimately, the government is loyal to those keeping them in power, so not voting is surrendering control to whoever is currently in charge.
As for those who say that the difference between a Biden and Trump administration will not affect them personally, I’m sorry. But I would implore you to think about other people. Think about immigrants who want a better life for themselves. Think about women in the South who could lose the right to end an unwanted pregnancy. Think about the middle-class families in Iran who lost everything once Trump put sanctions back in place.
I am voting for Joe Biden because there is no question that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and Trump has not put any restrictions into place to prevent that from happening again. At the same time, Republicans have purged college students and Black voters from registration rolls. All the while, Trump continues to inflict more violence on people in America and across the globe. Whatever damage a Biden administration does (and I don’t deny that there will be damage) will be reversible in the next election or two or three. But I fear that Trump intends to undermine the electoral system so that there is Republican domination over the country that can only be usurped by violence.
And that is not something that I can support.