This post is unusual, as the author is not a member of the Political Union Executive Board. However, we felt it would be in the interest of public discourse to publish his response to Pamela’s article from a few weeks ago. As always, all of the views expressed in this post belong to the author and not to Political Union as an organization
With one of the most consequential elections looming, the messaging from left-leaning media outlets such as The New York Times, CNN, Vox, and more has been very clear: Progressives should swallow their pride and vote for Biden. The fear of a repeat of 2016 has led to calls from liberal elites to set aside differences to focus on defeating Trump. Under the guise of party unity, Democrats have been reaching out to Bernie supporters to back off from their ‘extreme’ views and support more electable policies and candidates. But in doing so, Democrats put pressure on progressives to compromise their values and settle for Biden. So in this article, I will try to justify the decision to vote for non-major party progressive candidates for president.
It is important to acknowledge that the Democratic Party is not progressive. For decades now, mainstream Democrats have framed the desires of the common people as too ‘extreme’ and instead bended to the wishes of their corporate donors. This is extremely clear in Democrats’ refusal to push for policies that the overwhelming majority of the population supports, and makes it difficult to justify voting for their candidates. Sixty-three percent of Americans support tuition-free public colleges. Sixty-seven percent support the federal legalization of marijuana. And sixty-nine percent of voters, including 88% of Democratic voters, support Medicare For All. Yet the Biden campaign has already announced that they will not sign these into law.
At this point it seems worth mentioning that liberal media seems to love mentioning that while Biden does not support these policies, he is running on the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party. While this statement is somewhat true, I believe that this is the wrong way to frame their agenda. “Most progressive” is not a positive term; it's an excuse not to do more. Remember, it is the most progressive politicians of the 1960s who are responsible for the failure to commit the necessary resources to enforce desegregation. The unwillingness to follow through with progressive ideals is what has perpetuated racial inequality to this day and will be what prevents meaningful change into the future.
Democrats need to realize that the best way to win elections isn’t to compromise morals and appeal to the center, which is to say, corporate interests. It is to run on common-sense progressive platforms with the broad support of the American people and allow people, not corporations and wealthy individuals, to benefit from the wealth generated by their own production. This certainly will not be accomplished by Biden, who has received more than half of his $300 million-plus campaign funds from large contributions. The Democratic Party’s refusal to appeal to even their own base ostracizes the progressive wing of the party in the name of NeverTrump politics.
On top of this, Democrats twice now have had the chance to run a candidate who has been consistent in his message of equality but both times undercut his path to the nomination. In 2016 this was the controversy around the party’s backroom support of the Clinton campaign. This year this happened when moderate candidates Buttigieg and Klobuchar dropped out last minute to consolidate their voters behind Biden just ahead of Super Tuesday, after it was clear that Bernie was leading in the polls. Then, instead of appealing to this core group of voters, they’ve run two of the most establishment, corporate-funded candidates in Clinton and Biden.
In this year’s case, it too isn’t just that “Kamala is a cop” or that “I want to abolish the police,” as Pamela Chen suggested in a post on Political Union’s blog last week. It is that both Harris and Biden have spent their entire political careers promoting racist and classist policies. As Senator from Delaware, Biden helped author the 1994 Crime Bill, ushering in the era of mass incarceration, and repeatedly through the ’90s and ’00s pushed to cut and restrict social security programs. Biden then spent eight years under the Obama administration actively supporting drone strikes in Syria, the continued waging of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the expansion of the surveillance state, and the most deportations under a single administration in American history.
Kamala Harris, on the other hand, as the Attorney General of California oversaw the arrests of thousands for drug violations, defended the death penalty, and resisted calls to investigate certain police shootings. With these track records, it is no wonder that progressives are lukewarm on the promises that Biden and Harris have made in recent months. This year could have been the Democratic Party’s opportunity to reform and shift philosophical course and demonstrate that they have learned from their mistakes in 2016. Instead, they gave more speaking time to former Republican presidential candidate John Kasich over prominent progressive Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at this year’s Democratic National Convention. No matter how much Democrats may say otherwise, voting for Biden will mean a corporatized, watered-down version of progressivism that will continue to maintain the current unjust order.
Let me be clear. I still think there are genuine upsides to voting for Biden over Trump. He has declared his dedication towards the nomination of left-leaning judges, support for LGBT rights, raising the federal minimum wage, and belief in climate change (the bar is so low!). Unfortunately, due to the currently flawed electoral system, if you are voting in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin, I do think that you should still vote for Biden to prevent another four years of a Trump presidency.
But for everyone else, if you genuinely care about building an equitable society, putting an end to imperialist and expensive wars, and addressing the devastating impact of climate change, consider voting for a progressive candidate for president. America is reaching its breaking point. With racial tensions caused by police brutality flaring across the country, wildfires blazing along the West Coast, and millions of people struggling to make ends meet amid a deadly pandemic, it is clear that we need massive changes to the current system, which Biden will not accomplish. There are other options available such as Howie Hawkins, the nominee for the Green Party, who has been pushing for progressive causes including eliminating campaign financing from lobbyists. We should not have to keep settling for the lesser of two evils. Biden is not our champion.
Isaiah Jones is a Weinberg junior from Hong Kong studying Computer Science. When not at Main Library working on a programming assignment, he can be found reading Reddit NBA threads, playing squash, and trying to get more sleep.
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