Our country is at a crossroads. With the 2020 presidential election looming near, look no further than the present to see just how high the stakes will be in November. Sift through the clutter and lies of Trump’s campaign advertisements, Twitter rants, and press brief ad-libs, and you’ll see: in the era of COVID-19, it has become clear now, more than ever, that the president’s actions have tangible consequences. While under competent leadership, other developed countries like South Korea and Germany have managed to curtail the spread of the virus within their borders, America has soared into first place as the world’s leader in confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths. Joe Biden, the Democrats’ presumptive nominee and main challenger to Trump’s re-election bid in the fall, has argued throughout his campaign that we are in a battle for America’s “soul.” Perhaps now we are in a battle for its sanity, and, quite literally, its heartbeat.
It is in these trying circumstances that we see denunciations of Joe Biden from the left. Since Bernie Sanders suspended his bid for the presidency, those who hunger for structural change, who have grown weary of the Democratic establishment and who have become increasingly disturbed by Biden’s personal issues have found themselves without a candidate. Young voters especially — a demographic Biden has struggled to engage — are not persuaded by the frequently-repeated argument that the former vice president and the Democratic party as a whole are nothing more than a lesser of two evils. This election, however, isn’t your typical partisan tug-of-war. The “Trump is worse than Biden” argument isn’t just a throwaway anymore: it is, in essence, the most important argument, and the stakes have never been higher. That said, if you’re still not sold on Biden, I’m here to tell you that he’s all we’ve got — and why that may not be such a bad thing.
Joe Biden has dedicated his life to public service. After becoming the sixth-youngest U.S. senator ever elected to office in 1972, Biden represented the state of Delaware for 36 years in Washington before ultimately joining the Obama Administration in 2009. Throughout his time in our nation’s capital, Biden was among the poorest members of Congress, forgoing more lucrative career opportunities in favor of a lifelong career in public service. In addition, while his toughness, resolve and faith were repeatedly tested by personal suffering and loss, his commitment to his constituents never wavered. And while Biden does not hide from the “moderate” label, he can rightly claim some significant progressive achievements over his career, including groundbreaking legislation protecting women from violence, important advances in gun control and same-sex marriage, and more. While Trump’s presidency feeds off his stint as a reality-TV star, Biden’s promises to build upon his experience as a lifetime lawmaker with a deep, personal understanding of the struggles of ordinary Americans. Our current president may not know the first thing about empathy, but the presumptive Democratic nominee has practiced it his entire life: where Trump is the most ugly, Biden is the most human.
After spending nearly four decades in Congress, Biden’s legislative blemishes should come as no surprise. For all the Sanders loyalists who point to Biden’s voting missteps, such as the 1994 Crime Bill and the 2002 Iraq Resolution, I’d caution you against such sanctimony. Under the magnifying glass of hindsight, we could find mistakes on the resume of any career politician. Take it from Sanders himself, whose resistance to gun control in previous decades fails to stand the test of time and shifting policy platforms. When speaking about his decision to vote against the establishment of national background checks in 1993 and later to protect the firearms industry in 2003 and 2005, the senator acknowledged that he had “cast thousands of votes, including bad votes.” Biden similarly expressed regret for the tough-on-crime drug legislation he backed in the 1990s, admitting “I haven’t always been right ... but I’ve always tried.” Moreover, these failures have taught Biden to defer to those with knowledge he does not have. While Trump unconvincingly poses as a self-proclaimed “genius” during a global pandemic, Biden has urged the administration to listen to scientists and experts.
To those who long for immense structural change and fear that Biden cannot provide it, staying home in November or writing-in another candidate in protest will only enable the Trump administration to take the country further astray from where you hope to lead it. Indeed, a Biden presidency promises not only to return to the progressive road we have abandoned in the last four years, but to move us farther forward on it. The Biden Administration does not need to abolish Immigration & Customs Enforcement to stop locking children in cages at the border, it does not need to sign universal health care into law to expand coverage for millions of Americans, and it does not need to adopt the Green New Deal to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and reduce carbon emissions. These are not obstacles to greater progress; they are instead, after four years of retrograde and divisive politics, necessary stepping stones.
I’d be remiss not to mention Tara Reade, a former Biden staffer in the 1990s, who has accused the then-senator of sexual assault. Reade’s charges are complicated, and, like any alleged victim’s, worthy of our attention. The national media’s timid approach to her claims, in contrast to its wall-to-wall coverage on those brought forward by Dr. Christine Ford against Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, has been hypocritical at best. Succinctly put by Ruth Marcus in her recent op-ed in the Washington Post, letting ideological differences dictate one’s outrage “is intellectually dishonest.” That said, Reade’s story and Dr. Ford’s are not identical, nor are the circumstances surrounding them. I urge you to read Marcus’ full piece here — if not conclusive, it provides a useful framework for thinking about the issue.
November will be my first general election. Voting decisions are not to be taken lightly, especially for young voters. For many of us, myself included, this fall offers our first opportunity to participate in the country’s political process on a national scale, and many of my peers don’t want to feel lukewarm about their first ballot. I get it. Joe Biden wouldn’t have been my first choice for president either. But he is more than just a compromise: he is an experienced and empathetic leader with a respectable (even if imperfect) record of progressivism. But if you’re still not sold, I hope that at the very least, you can take pride knowing that your vote helped remove Donald Trump from the Oval Office — because I know I will.
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.
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