Let me guess: the thought of voting for Biden makes you sick to your stomach, the thought of another four years of this madness makes your anxiety spike, yet the thought of doing nothing feels defeatist. That is the challenge a lot of us face after Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign on Wednesday, April 8th, leaving Joe Biden as the presumptive Democratic nominee.
There is this often repeated idea that if nothing else, Biden is better than Trump. It often comes alongside the impression that any Democratic administration is better than the current Republican one. There are a lot of problems with this approach, and now that Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee, it is time we start asking if this is really the case at all.
Saying this, without any definition, gives too much credit to Biden. Trump has put the bar on the floor and the fact that Biden marginally beats him on some things is not a feat. And the repetition of “Vote Blue No Matter Who” does not help those of us who are on the fence about voting decide anything.
No matter which political issue you decide is most important to you, most leftists will probably find that Biden’s policy proposals are preferable to Trump’s at the surface level. Biden claims to support a public option for healthcare, marginally reforming the justice system and has a plan to deal with the opioid crisis.
At the same time, we have heard him disparage and suggest a veto for Medicare for All; we have heard him defend his 1994 crime bill; and he suggested as recently as November that marijuana could be a "gateway drug." His words are not matching those of his campaign.That is a problem. Biden tends to half-ass things, his two previously failed presidential campaigns being just one example.
On top of this weak, contradictory approach to campaigning, Joe Biden was accused of sexual assault in 1993 by former aide Tara Reade. He denies this accusation, but there are a plethora of other allegations of inappropriateness. Further, he is a narcissistic, hot-headed man who explodes at constituents and says things like, “You want to check my shape on, let’s do push ups together, let’s run, let’s do whatever you want to do, let’s take an IQ test.” His character alone turns plenty of voters away.
Personally, these things weigh with the fact that it is important that my candidate is dedicated to structural change. The damage by the Trump Administration has already been immense. This administration has further fostered a hostile and inhumane immigration system which includes ramped up deportations and the separation of families. The current administration has trampled on civil rights. All the while, President Trump himself has packed his cabinet with warhawks like Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and conservative capitalists like Secretary of Education Betsy Devos who are doing daily harm in their roles.
Big structural changes, such as abolishing Immigrations & Customs Enforcement, instituting a carbon tax and otherwise aggressively battling climate change are the only ways to undo these atrocities. The chance of any damage being undone through needed structural shifts by Biden, who is not in any way committed to structural or societal change, is so low it is laughable.
Therefore, a Biden win would not fix anything. It would be a band-aid. It seems to me that we are bleeding so heavily a band-aid would be ineffective. That is the worst thing about this: Biden knows he is a consolation prize. He doesn’t want anything significant to change while many Americans so desperately do. He ran for president just because he knew he could win. It is the worst philosophy for an official to have and yet it is what we are left with.
There is a compelling argument for voting for Biden in November, and that is the importance of having a balanced Supreme Court. Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg has had multiple health scares other the past couple of years, and although she seems intent on working for as long as we need her, health is unpredictable. Were she to pass during the Trump Administration and President Trump was able to successfully appoint another Justice, the court would have a 6-to-3 distribution, leaning conservative. And according to Vox, the average term for a Justice appointed after 1966 has been “an average of 24 years.” Unfortunately, President Trump has already had the opportunity to successfully appoint two conservative justices: Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. This is not even to mention the scores of appointed conservative judges at lower level courts.
Biden winning would also probably be better in the sense that there may be less active harm and malicious intent within the administration. Axios published the first insights on the discussions of Biden’s team on possible cabinet picks. From a progressive’s view, the short list ranges from infuriating (Mike Bloomberg as World Bank head) to barely acceptable (Elizabeth Warren as Secretary of the Treasury) considerations. From a centrist’s point of view, the list is probably encouraging. Even still, the list is likely evolving, and Biden might be inclined to use his cabinet picks to appease the more progressive voters that feel left behind after Sanders’ campaign suspension.
On the other hand, we have seen the harm the Trump Administration has done. President Trump insists on directing money to an ineffective “Border Wall.” He pardoned Eddie Gallagher, a man convicted of horrendous war crimes, and honored Rush Limbaugh, a loud and proud racist. The Trump administration is one of the most regressive this country has ever seen.
It follows that a vote for Biden is a vote against the current administration. A vote for Biden is a vote for his administration; if we can get some progressive people into his cabinet, four years of Biden might actually be something useful. Combine that with a vote for more Democrats in the U.S. Senate, and maybe we can take some power back. But if we just promise our votes to him without pressuring him to fill up his cabinet with qualified, progressive individuals because “at least he’s not Trump,” there won’t be anyone to be mad at but ourselves.
Biden said in a tweet that he would spend his time trying to earn our votes. It would be astonishingly pleasant if any of his tactics actually included showing us how he will be a better president than Trump, rather than riding the wave of assumption. And even if he puts his best foot forward, he cannot erase the past.
The American people have been left to consider the future of the Supreme Court, our justice system, and the planet as a whole, and to decide how that weighs against Biden’s severe personal and political shortcomings.
When it comes time to vote in November and you are a Democrat who just cannot bring yourself to vote for Biden, that’s your right. It is not only your political right, but it is your moral right to not support a hack politician that’s also an alleged sexual predator. People can be mad about inaction but must keep track of the original evil: action with malicious intent.
Right now, Joe Biden does not have my vote. There is a lot of time between now and Election Day, and I may very well decide, after plenty of soul searching and anxiety, that the factors outlined above lend themselves towards casting my vote his way. It may not. Either way, Joe Biden has a lot of work to do.
Editor's Note: The views presented in this story belong to the writer and are not necessarily reflective of North by Northwestern as a whole.
Article thumbnail: Phil Roeder / CC BY