Since Bernie Sanders announced the end of his public campaign on April 8, I have been torn about where to cast my vote come November, or if I should even vote at all. That Wednesday left Bernie supporters disheartened and outraged that our party’s presumptive nominee is now Joe Biden. Although Bernie will remain on the ballot, the end of his campaign has led him to fall back and endorse Biden to prevent another four years of Donald Trump.
This has left me, and many other progressives, at the proverbial fork in the road. Many voters are so discouraged by the end of Sanders’ public campaign, and rightfully fed up with the Democratic National Committee forcing Joe Biden down our throats, that they’ve decided to not vote at all. Likewise, progressives and leftists are demanding accountability from their peers. “Real progressives would never vote for Biden” rings through social media louder than the cries of fellow dispirited Bernie Bros. To vote or not to vote?
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A popular rationale for refusing to vote in November is that Democratic party voters have to stick it to the DNC – we must refuse to go along with whatever calculated regime was put in place to force Biden to the forefront. The dropouts the day before Super Tuesday felt obviously coordinated. It’s as if the DNC doesn’t trust us enough to vote in our own best interest. They expended more effort pushing the Biden agenda than trying to combat the Republican National Committee. The rhetoric of “vote blue no matter who” unjustly puts the liability on voters rather than the system. It is frustrating for Democrats to feel like they have to protest and rebuild the party during such an important election.
Another reasoning is that we shouldn’t have to participate in another election that is sexual predator versus sexual predator. No one should ask any survivor of sexual or gender-based violence abuse to “suck it up and pick a predator." The argument that victims need to put their trauma aside in the polls, or consider Biden’s alleged offenses to be less than Trump’s, is tone-deaf. Ranking harm-done as a political tactic encourages the dangerous narrative that trauma is competitive. It shouldn’t be about who has hurt fewer people. But, unfortunately, it is.
Every election has been a decision between the lesser-of-two-evils. We pick candidates based on abstract decision-making, turning to character analysis when their issues and policies are unclear or imperfect. Obviously, Trump’s policies are not ideal and neither is his character. Biden’s campaign has banked on nostalgia rather than focusing on his agenda, and his plans come off as lackluster and formulaic – not up to par with what we had expected with Bernie. Pair that with his sexual assault allegations and it’s obvious why voters are so disappointed.
The U.S.’s flawed voting procedures are also not ideal, but refusing to vote is not an effective solution. It is spoon-feeding Trump a second term, airplane noises and all. If November comes and it’s Trump versus Biden then I will (begrudgingly) vote for the latter. It’s not because I suddenly trust our voting system or that I am particularly impressed by any of his policies, but because I’m fearful of what will happen if we have another four years with the same warmongering fascist monster.
A Trump-less presidency means the daily lives of marginalized people can be less focused on navigating around encouraged racism, homophobia, xenophobia and possible impending hate crimes. It would mean less promotion of violence and the slander of legitimate news sources. Geopolitical stability may be salvageable after four years of America seeming like a reality TV show than a nation.
The “America First” mantra will finally die – a saying that initially lured Nazis and Nazi sympathizers to America pre-World War II. Global climate efforts will no longer be blatantly disregarded. There would be a possibility to rebuild the international alliances supporting global climate solutions. Maybe Biden will even support the New Green Deal, although that might be wishful thinking since he hasn’t embraced it since 2019. But, the fact that there is even room for hope is a step up from the current political climate. It means that the U.S. would not have an outwardly ignorant and hateful figurehead anymore.
If you can afford to live through another four years of a Trump presidency, then that is a privilege. Choosing not to vote at all is flexing that privilege. It’s easy for Democrats that do not face certain socioeconomic hardships to opt out entirely in the name of “taking a stand." But it’s not about you and your rights and your privilege, it’s about standing with those who don’t have the same options.
The room for outward racism, classism, sexism, etc. that Trump’s presidency invited has further bred a society of fear in marginalized groups. The social implications of another Trump presidency alone should be enough to get democrats to rally around a single candidate, begrudgingly or not. Middle-class white people hollering “Riot!” and “Revolution!” from the comfort of their own homes, absolving themselves of electoral responsibility, will face little to no repercussions. Letting someone who will continue to destroy minority communities win won’t “stick it” to anyone but those already struggling.
At this point, not voting for Biden is nothing but a symbolic gesture that gambles our only route out. I’m not asking anyone to cling onto the liberal fantasy that every bad thing that’s happened since 2016 could have been avoided if Hillary had been elected, that simply getting a democrat in office again will solve all of our problems. This particular election isn’t about best-case scenario, it’s about avoiding the alternative. I am certainly not asking for victims of sexual assault, or anyone for that matter, to come to terms with checking off an alleged predator’s name on the ballot. It’s also your right to not participate if you feel that doing so “preserves your integrity” for any reason. If that’s the case I would hope you’d at least write Bernie in.
I can’t convince you that Biden will even be a good president. But change isn’t linear. The dream of a president like Bernie was keeping a lot of us alive with hope for the days after quarantine. That rug of hope being pulled out from under us is a cold reminder that democratic politics have always been about compromise. Sanders himself said that it would be “irresponsible” for his supporters to be passive and let “the most dangerous president in modern American history” get reelected.
Voting Trump out of office is bigger than any one person’s honor. When there is someone bleeding out right in front of you, on the brink of expiration, you handle that immediate emergency first. In this case, we are the bleeding body and the Trump administration is our larger-than-life wound. We have to handle this immediate problem first so we can tend to less urgent cases (the hypothetical impending Biden presidency) later. If you want change through direct action, then get involved – and vote.
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