The number of people who believe the goal going into the 2020 American presidential election is as simple as “beat Trump at all costs” are abundant. For many people on the left, this is frustrating to see. Activists have been fighting this battle long before Trump’s presidency, and activists will be fighting that same battle long after Trump’s presidency. It is understandable that, in light of just how much the American government has done to marginalize people in and outside of the country, it can be more than disheartening to see the struggle watered down to dealing with one man. That Trump is not a new phenomenon for America is clear, though many have been misled to believe that he is. American citizens have had it fed to them that this country has made mistakes but it’s not broken, that Trump is inherently un-American, that this is a democracy for the people and somehow something has just gone wrong. Yet history shows that Trump’s evils are not unique to him, or even to the Republican party.
There are many examples of the violent nature of the American government and extensions of it throughout our history, too many to count. The American history of genocide inspired the Holocaust, while American corporations and press were known to be quite favorable of Hitler and the Nazi party. In fact, America housed Nazis after the war, and worked within the interests of Nazis in West Germany to get a leg up on the Soviet Union. The CIA played a major role in putting Saddam Hussein in power, and only decided to take action against his party when it was inconvenient for the United States. The war in Iraq was about oil profits, first and foremost, and that is what the government’s stance on Hussein came down to from the very beginning. Even modern presidents who ran on so-called progressive Democrat platforms have done horrible things; Obama, beloved by many liberals, was known to immigrant communities as “deporter in chief” for a reason. These are only a handful of atrocities committed at our government’s behest. Trump represents these sorts of horrors to the liberal American public, and yes, he is genuinely a terrible man and president alike — but he is used as a means to obfuscate the real evil that is within the nature of the American government. The truth is that Trump is an icon for what America has been since its establishment.
Taking him down does nothing if the things he stands for and represents remain in place, and that is not simply the vague idea of the Republican party. The Democratic party is another face for the same beast. Those who genuinely believe that voting for Biden is the only hope while claiming to be progressive need to engage that dialogue. The arguments in favor of voting for Biden do not hold water when examined up close, even beyond the moral dilemma. While everyone has the right to choose not to pick which rapist war-monger they like better, and insinuating that survivors should force themselves to do that is cruel (not to mention the fact that nominating bigots and rapists are forms of voter suppression of the targeted marginalized people and survivors of sexual trauma respectively), there is much more to this than that fact, and the argument is not to do nothing about the problem. The argument as to why we should not vote for Biden is not an argument in favor of inaction, but an argument in favor of what can be done instead. If one decides the alternative is not worth it to them, that is their prerogative and the outcome of that falls on their shoulders, but everyone deserves to know their options and have a chance to make an informed decision.
To begin with, the basis for the argument that everyone left of center should vote for Biden in November regardless of voter stances hinges on the idea that he can beat Trump. Yet, even when Clinton won the popular vote in 2016, Trump was given the nomination regardless. Clinton was not a good candidate all around: she was just as much of a lack of compromise as Biden, but she did have more love for her from liberal Americans than Biden does. Just as it is now, many of the people who were courted by progressive candidates in 2016 were lifelong non-voters and opposed to voting for Clinton. Not only is it therefore wrong to blame Trump’s fraudulent win in 2016 on those who chose not to throw their weight behind Clinton instead of the blatant disregard for the popular vote, this fact also begs a question: will the popular vote be disregarded again in 2020, and is Biden, someone who cannot even hold a candle to an already undesirable candidate, even capable of getting the popular vote?
Furthermore, what message does it send to the Democratic party establishment if people go against all of their convictions to vote for Biden for the sake of knowing our president is simply “not a Republican”? Biden was chosen for the position of Vice President in Obama’s administration because he was, effectively, a Republican’s Democrat; he was and still is a Republican in Democrat’s clothing, though the distinction is hardly noticeable when examining the values of those parties. He has gotten where he is today by being as conservative as a Democrat can be. Telling the DNC that people will vote for anyone as long as they call themselves a Democrat — that they will “vote blue no matter who” — tells them that they do not have to worry about securing those votes. Those on the left who are refusing to vote for Biden are largely marginalized people in the working class, most of whom have far more progressive politics than any purported “progressive” candidate.
Voting for what someone deems “the lesser evil” — still very much an evil, one must remember — has only worsened an already undemocratic and intentionally-broken system over the years, allowing candidates to get away with being more and more overtly horrible. To say “we will vote for you even if your candidate will do us no good and only bring us harm” is to tell them that they do not have to consider the people’s needs and demands for liberation and justice. They have no cause to cater to the needs of the oppressed if they can count on them to vote in the favor of the party anyway, and as the Democrats shift further and further right, they have no other reason to consider them. Holding one’s vote captive sends the message that they cannot count on getting that vote when they don’t speak to “progressive” values. Yes, sometimes compromise is necessary for the sake of doing good, but being aware of what compromises are being made and weighing the options is important. Sanders himself was barely a compromise to many folks on the left. With that in mind, it’s important to ask: how is Biden a compromise, and is that compromise worth it? The argument here tends to be that he will help get progressives into office, or at least people who would not do quite as much damage as Trump’s picks. But is this true, or just a pipe dream? The answer is there, but it’s not a heartening one.
Not only does Biden oppose Medicare for All (something he has stood by during the COVID19 pandemic), he has made it clear that he would veto it should it pass, and has historically voted to cut social security. More than once, even! His history of bigotry also speaks for itself, having been an open segregationist while in office and opposing marriage equality until it was beneficial to his platform (only to be showered in praise when he offered his “support” to the cause). He aided in getting people like Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia into the government, and he has still failed to atone for what he did to Anita Hill. Though many refuse to acknowledge it, he took part in worsening America’s student debt problem. He also wrote the crime bill, known for opening the floodgates for mass incarceration. Biden is one of the major names at fault for America’s modern prison industrial complex, something that is used to perpetuate a form of legalized slavery that targets the marginalized. Our prison problem is a severe one, one which is used primarily to wield power over poor people of color, opting to let actual rapists, pedophiles, murderers, and warmongers live freely in favor of using it as a tool to exploit innocents for their labor. Biden’s conscious choice to exacerbate that problem says plenty about not only him as a person, but about how he wants America to function. That image of America is no better than Trump’s, it just has a prettier face to the average onlooking liberal — “return to normal” is “make America great again” painted blue. It is indefensible.
This does not even factor into account that he voted in favor of the Iraq war, or that he not only stood by and allowed the Obama administration to both deport massive numbers of immigrants and open the ICE camps but partook in that administration without issue. It is apparent that Biden himself will not put things into action to improve the state of things in America or minimize the damage our military and ruling class inflict on people, but what about his prospective administration? People being considering for cabinet positions by Biden include Mike Bloomberg (known for his use of stop-and-frisk tactics), Pete Buttigieg (known for allowing and ignoring the racist and chiefly anti-Black violence in South Bend as Mayor), and Kamala Harris (known for her support of transphobic policy and battling in favor of wrongful convictions). This is just a sampling of his picks, none of which indicate he will bring anything but more of his ilk to the government. What good will these people do for America’s working class, for the immigrants being put through torture because someone has deemed them “illegal” and denied them personhood, for the innocent victims of American imperialist violence? When one asks themselves this question, they should take a moment to see if they can back up their answer.
Ultimately, the most important question in this moment for those who intend to vote is whether voting for Biden would mean any more in terms of making change than a protest vote. It doesn’t; in fact, some would argue that it accomplishes less, or perhaps that it even serves only to make things worse by enabling the party to nominate overtly worse people. It’s no secret that the American government’s electoral system is not built to allow us to vote in liberation. This is one reason many people reject voting entirely in favor of committing themselves to direct action as well as anti-Imperialist, anti-Capitalist, pro-worker causes. That’s a perfectly understandable choice, and there is no reason to begrudge anyone that, especially in light of America’s disregard for the people and our longstanding voter suppression problem. There are certainly other, and in fact better, ways to use one’s voice than simply voting in presidential elections, though there are ways to vote strategically and in favor of bolstering actual radical movements. Voting should not be the crux of one’s political action, but if someone is in a position where they can, protest voting does not hurt, unlike voting for the lesser evil and aiding in allowing a platform for those “evils”.
Contrary to popular belief, voting third party is not equivalent to not voting. This is an idea that is peddled specifically to keep Americans functioning within the government’s so-called two-party system, where both parties serve the needs of the same people, and neither serve the needs of the working class. If pro-worker, anti-Imperialist parties that do not exist to serve the ruling class gained traction, it would allow more people to engage in political organization and the growth of solidarity among the working class people in this country. Spreading their message and intentions helps to make more people aware of that party, and increases likelihood of those people joining that cause. While trapped within this intentionally broken system, spreading awareness for radical third parties is an important recruitment technique. Voting third party doesn’t “do nothing” in comparison to voting blue no matter who, as it grows the platform of more radical political organizations. Not only is it an overt refusal to engage the two party system, it allocates more weight and resources to the chosen third party and raises awareness to actual progressive causes.
There are many ways to take action and put one’s praxis where their mouth is that are not just voting and going on with life. Consider looking into mutual aid programs during this crisis and how to support them. This is one of the benchmarks of solidarity with the marginalized and the working class. Joining an organization is one of the best ways to get active politically, though it depends greatly on who is active in one’s area and what sort of group one is looking for. This can vary based on a person’s tendency, and when struggling to find one that suits those beliefs, search broadly for what kind of political organizing is going on in the area and see what the nearest options are. A decent way to find where to start is by looking into the the International Workers of the World, local Antifa chapters, and local socialist and activist groups in general. Even when unable to join an organization immediately, it’s good to keep up with them and keep an eye on what events, protests, and other forms of direct action-taking are going on in the area. In the meantime, learning about one-on-one organizing is a great way to start building solidarity and class awareness while confined to one’s circle, and it is a tactic used in both formal and informal organization alike. Electoralism is not the be-all-end-all of making change and advocating for the working class and oppressed people, and no one has to place all of their hope on the 2020 election. The fact of the matter is that if someone hates the idea of voting for Biden so much, they shouldn’t vote for him. And they don’t have to, either.
For convenience and fact-checking purposes, here is an organized list of the sources, resources, and references linked in this post. In conjunction with providing these links, I want to make it clear that I am not associated with any of the news sources provided, nor am I cosigning all of their positions, simply the facts stated. My opinions are both my own and stated explicitly in this essay.
RE: AMERICA’S TRACK RECORD
- The Horrifying American Roots of Nazi Eugenics (History News Network)
- The Nazi Party: General Motors & the Third Reich (Jewish Virtual Library)
- How Journalists Covered the Rise of Mussolini and Hitler (Smithsonian Magazine)
- How Thousands Of Nazis Were ‘Rewarded’ With Life In The U.S. (NPR)
- The CIA’s Worst-Kept Secret: Newly Declassified Files Confirm United States Collaboration with Nazis (Foreign Policy in Focus)
- US and British Support for Hussein Regime (Global Policy Forum)
- Iraq invasion was about oil (The Guardian)
- NCLR head: Obama ‘deporter-in-chief’ (Politico)
- The results are now final: Clinton wins popular vote by nearly 3 million (Business Insider)
RE: BIDEN’S STANCES
- It Sure Sounds Like Joe Biden Would Veto Medicare for All If He Were President (Vice)
- Will Joe Biden’s political record come back to haunt him? (BBC News)
- Biden suggests he would veto ‘Medicare for All’ over its price tag (CNBC)
- Here’s How Deep Biden’s Busing Problem Runs (Politico)
- Joe Biden was in charge of the Anita Hill hearing. Even he says it wasn’t fair. (Washington Post)
- Biden: Scalia ‘one of our most influential justices’ (The Hill)
- Joe Biden’s non-apology to Anita Hill casts long shadow over 2020 run (The Guardian)
- How Biden helped create the student debt problem he now promises to fix (The Guardian)
- The Crime-Bill Debate Shows How Short Americans’ Memories Are (The Atlantic)
- Joe Biden championed the Iraq war. Will that come back to haunt him now? (The Guardian)
RE: BIDEN’S CABINET
- Here’s who Joe Biden is reportedly considering for top positions in his administration as he touts a ‘Return to Normal’ plan (Business Insider)
- Mike Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk problem, explained (Vox)
- Pete Buttigieg and the controversy around racial tensions in South Bend, explained (Vox)
- Harris seeks to block gender reassignment for trans inmate (Washington Blade)
- The Problem with Kamala Harris Is the Problem with the Law (Paste Magazine)
RE: POLITICAL ORGANIZING
- Autonomous Groups Are Mobilizing Mutual Aid Initiatives To Combat The Coronavirus (It’s Going Down)
- IWW.org (Industrial Workers of the World)
- Chapters (TORCH NETWORK)
- An Introduction to 1-on-1 Organizing Conversations (Fire with Fire)
Stay safe out there, comrades.