Do the Right Thing and Vote for Joe Biden
After Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race, I swore I’d never vote for Joe. Here’s why I changed my mind.
Back in April, when Bernie Sanders announced that he was suspending his presidential campaign, I tweeted “Tell me why I should vote for Joe Biden. I won’t accept ‘he’s not Trump’ or ‘he’s better than Trump.’ How? Tell me. Why should I trust anything he says? Why should I play into the hand of the corrupt Democratic establishment and vote for their cherry-picked candidate again?”
I meant it. I was angry. As someone who supported and campaigned for Sanders when he ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016 and again this election cycle, I was livid at what was essentially yet another move by the DNC to slow Sanders’ momentum like they had in 2016. This time, they encouraged all the other Democratic candidates to drop out and rally behind Biden — a candidate who didn’t challenge their platform or openly criticize them like Sanders had.
Yet again, I was presented with a candidate too close to the status-quo for my liking. All the hope for progress I felt as a Sanders supporter was crushed. I resented the old adage about choosing “the lesser of two evils.” Why couldn’t I feel genuinely enthusiastic about who I was voting for?
And, most importantly, why should I vote at all?
Eventually, I came to a conclusion — one I know many people I love, admire, and deeply respect may recoil from. This November, I‘m casting my vote for Joe Biden. Not because I’m particularly excited by his platform (I’m not), or that I think he’s the perfect candidate (he’s not), but because I know America can’t take another four years of Trump.
If you’re like I was just a few months ago and find the idea of voting for Biden pointless or even downright repulsive, allow me to address your concerns.
What’s the point in voting when the future looks bleak either way?
This is a question I’ve seen quite a lot, particularly coming from young millennials and Gen Z “zoomers.” The simple answer is: there is just too much at stake this election, even if it doesn’t appear so on the surface.
Consider presidential appointees: powerful individuals who, whilst needing Senate approval, are wholly decided upon by the Commander-in-Chief. Many of Trump’s appointees have generated a great deal of well-earned controversy over the years as a result of their lack of experience, corruption, or general incompetence.
One such person is Betsy DeVos, our current Secretary of Education appointed to her cabinet position by Trump in 2017. DeVos comes from a wealthy family worth $5.4 billion and has a background in business, not education. She hasn’t stepped foot in a public school as a student nor as a teacher, and yet is tasked with making critical and long-lasting decisions on behalf of them.
It’s no secret that DeVos is more interested in aiding the nation’s private and charter schools than she is in improving the quality of education in our public institutions. As recently as May 2020, DeVos created a voucher program worth $180 million for religious and private schools using federal COVID-19 funds that should’ve been used to aid public schools as well.
Earlier that same month, she made an addition to Title IX rules that would allow anyone accused of rape to cross-examine their accusers, a move which many experts argue would dissuade survivors from coming forward with their stories.
Cabinet members like DeVos are far from the only presidential appointees whose decisions will impact our experience as Americans for years to come. Perhaps those with the most power to do so are Supreme Court justices, who aren’t simply replaced when a new president is elected.
The fact that SCOTUS members have lifetime appointments should scare you into voting against Trump. During his first term alone, Trump appointed justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, both of whom are considered conservative. With Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg having turned 87 this year and battling another bout of pancreatic cancer, the odds of Trump getting to appoint another justice to the Supreme Court are worryingly high, should he get a second term.
What happens when Trump fills the Supreme Court with a number of right-leaning judges? Well, take abortion rights, for example. If Republicans in red states continue their strategy of passing anti-abortion laws to challenge Roe v. Wade, a conservative Supreme Court may choose to hear a case that could end in a decision that reverses rights established in Roe. To make the stakes even higher, Trump recently released his list of potential future SCOTUS nominees, and Senators Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton, both of whom believe that Roe should be overturned, were among those named.
Abortion rights are far from the only rights that could be at stake should we have a Supreme Court so heavily weighted to the right. Consider the Republican Party’s attitude towards same-sex couples, transgender people, and immigrants, and ask yourself if you are willing to see the rights of those marginalized groups potentially ripped from them for the next several decades as a result of a two-term Trump presidency.
Okay, but there’s no difference between Trump and Biden. Not a big enough difference to make voting for Biden worth it, anyway.
While Biden may not be the progressive candidate so many of us hoped for, he is certainly not equivalent to Trump. A cursory look through each candidate’s campaign website speaks volumes.
On his website, the Biden campaign has outlined a total of 46 plans for his presidency, among them “The Biden Agenda for Women,” “The Biden Plan for Housing,” “Racial Equity Across the American Economy,” and “The Biden Plan for Combating Coronavirus (COVID-19).” In contrast, the Trump campaign website has no platform listed, likely because the GOP still hasn’t released an official party platform this year. Instead, the website has a section devoted to “Promises Kept” comprised of just 14 categories.
None of the aforementioned Biden plans have an equivalent on the Trump campaign website, so let’s compare something both campaigns mention and is undoubtedly one of the most important and pressing issues of our time: the environment. Joe Biden’s website showcases “The Biden Plan to Build a Modern, Sustainable Infrastructure and an Equitable Clean Energy Future,” in which he acknowledges the severity of the climate crisis and promises an economy with net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.
That year might seem too far off, but it’s still better than anything mentioned under Trump’s list of so-called accomplishments regarding the environment. Not once does his campaign website make even a passing mention of climate change — unsurprising, considering he still doubts overwhelming scientific evidence linking it to human activity.
Instead, the Trump campaign boasts of leasing over 78 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling, approving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, and rolling back Obama-era caps on greenhouse gas emissions.
It is perfectly fair to critique Biden’s plan for combating climate change as not being aggressive enough, but at least he has a plan. A Biden presidency would buy us time, while another four years of Trump would send us hurtling even faster towards an inhospitable Earth.
Voting doesn’t bring about real change; activism does.
Activism and protesting are vital parts of living in a democracy, but so is voting. So the question is, why not both? Voting and activism aren’t mutually exclusive. Mailing in your ballot or going to the polls on election day doesn’t mean you can’t (or shouldn’t) be out in the streets demanding change.
Activism is often the driving force behind getting different measures on your ballot. Think about American LGBTQ+ activists who fought for decades to be treated as equals under the law, many of them concentrating on how federal law would not recognize a marriage between a same-sex couple.
Years of struggle from protesters and activists brought gay marriage rights into the mainstream American consciousness, and eventually the question of whether or not gay marriage should be legal appeared on ballots across the country. In 2015, after many states had already legalized it, the Supreme Court did the same.
While it’s more than likely that we never would’ve voted to legalize gay marriage without the tireless work of gay rights activists throughout the years, the final step in the process was to vote on it. What sense would it make for people to spend so much of their time and energy convincing the government and the public that gay Americans deserve the right to marry if, when given the opportunity, nobody actually voted in favor of it?
It’s been said before, but it bears saying again this election year: life is full of choices wherein neither option seems particularly great. Is Joe Biden everything I want him to be? No. Is he everything that we need at this crucial time? Also no. Will a Biden presidency mean we can all take a collective sigh of relief and get back to “business as usual”?
Absolutely not. But there is simply no way that a Biden presidency can be just as destructive to human rights, our environment, and our democracy as another four years of Trump.
If you, like me, want a better and brighter future than the one we seem to be heading towards, you need to do all you can to make that happen. That includes getting out in the streets and getting involved in activist organizations, but it also means voting, because voting is democracy.
In the United States, you have as much the right to vote as you have to not vote. The latter can be tempting in times like these, but consider the actual effects of abstaining. In the words of the late novelist and essayist David Foster Wallace,
“If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don’t bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interest to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself that you’re not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.”
It’s plain to see who the “Diehards” are in 2020. This election, and every election after it, exercise your democratic right and vote by voting.