- The Democratic primary, featuring colorful faces and ambitious ideas, resulted in the selection of Joe Biden.
- Many progressives feel like they're at a loss, with two candidates who don't represent their core values.
- However, there are clear reasons for progressives to vote for Biden and feel enthusiastic about it.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Joe Biden is an anticlimax.
For those of us hoping that the obvious failures of the Trump administration would help Democrats seize the moment and actually reshape the country in the right way, the Democratic primary for president offered some hope. It featured fresh, colorful faces with bold ideas to move the country in the right direction. And yet, it resulted in the selection of an elderly white man with a long history of uninspiring policy positions.
Even in his current platform, it's hard to see why someone looking for a bold, new direction after Trump would be excited.
On healthcare, Biden's proposal for a public option will still leave people uninsured and allow for medical companies to continue prioritizing profit over people's health. On immigration, his refusal to decriminalize unauthorized border crossings will lead to the continuation of the demonization of asylum seekers, a phenomenon rooted in xenophobia and racism. His historical contribution to mass incarceration gives me no optimism on his proposals for prison reform, which include ending the mandatory minimums that he helped to put in place.
Additionally, choosing Kamala Harris, a former district attorney who's record as a prosecutor leaves much to be desired, as his running mate in the midst of perhaps the largest national uprising against police violence ever, speaks to his inability to capture the moment.
It's incredibly hard for me to summon any form of enthusiasm under these circumstances.
So where does that leave us progressives? Election after election, calls to put our values aside and vote for the greater good are becoming tiring. For the second election in a row, progressives are left with disappointing choices, and for the second election in a row, many are threatening to sit out and abstain from voting.
But whether we do so enthusiastically or resentfully, I do think there are some honorable reasons to cast a ballot for the Biden/Harris ticket in 2020.
Don't waste your efforts
Progressives have a right to be dismayed. Biden's campaign has always represented a return to "normalcy," a normalcy that makes way too much room for inequality. But it's also the only campaign now that has the chance to be influenced by the efforts and activism of progressive voters.
There is an opportunity for progressives to push Biden and Harris on healthcare. While she later walked back the full throated support of the policy, Harris co-sponsored Bernie Sanders' Medicare For All bill way back in 2017, saying it was "the right thing to do." During his vice presidential introduction event on August 12, Biden had Kamala agree to tell him when he's wrong, giving her a voice on issues like healthcare.
So while it's not perfect, if Biden and Harris are elected, it is much more likely that the White House will be at least open to some of the ideals of a progressive healthcare push.
Additionally, Biden's proposal to fight climate change — while not as ambitious as the Green New Deal — is still commendable and shows that progressive activism can work on the former Vice President.
Biden's policy only exists in its current form due to the actions and activism of progressive groups like the Sunrise Movement, which has led the national conversation on the imperative to fight climate change. To be clear, the organization gave Biden an F rating on his climate change stance during the primaries, but since then, its cofounder, Varshini Prakash, joined Biden's climate task force, along with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who is co-chair.
There's only one ticket on the ballot that progressive voters have sway with. It's not the amount of sway desired, but it exists, and should be taken advantage of.
Pick your poison, but it's a no-brainer
Trump on the other hand has made delirious skepticism his brand and convinced millions of his supporters to do the same. He has fanned the flames of white supremacy. He's stripped away regulations that made the environment safer and healthier. He maliciously undermined the Affordable Care Act for political points. He's welcomed Russian interference into our elections. He's doubled down on the worst aspects of our immigration policy. And most recently, he has completely failed to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
In terms of finding a meaningful difference between Trump and Biden, Trump's handling of the pandemic should be crucial, even for the staunchest leftist. It also underlines the literally deadly consequences of not supporting the Democratic ticket.
Trump's entire response to the crisis has been informed by the stubborn insistence that it isn't a serious threat. He has consistently made inaccurate claims and pushed misinformation. He's attacked the WHO, the CDC, China, and even the previous administration for the country's struggle with COVID-19. He attacked leaders like Governor Whitmer of Michigan for extending social distancing guidelines.
By the end of May, the US death toll passed 100,000, and still, the Trump administration's message was that they had met the challenge adequately. Now, as we approach 180,000 deaths, the administration is pushing for kids to return to school, and for the economy to be fully reopened.
In 2014, Barack Obama gave a speech underscoring the need to hang up partisan stubbornness in preparation for a pandemic that experts have long said we were due for.
"There may, and likely will, come a time in which we have an airborne disease that is deadly. In order for us to deal with that effectively, we have to put in place an infrastructure…that allows us to see it quickly, isolate it quickly, and respond to it quickly."
Experts agree that an earlier and more concerted response would have prevented the high death toll we have today, and it is unfathomable that literally anyone else would have dropped the ball so similarly. If we find ourselves fighting another pandemic in the next four years, it is imperative that Donald Trump isn't at the helm of the response. It simply means there will be unnecessary deaths.
Progressive voters like me who are disappointed by their options have to understand what's really at cost here. It is a cliche by now to say that staying home on election day is a vote for Trump, but even if we actively dislike Biden, Trump's first term alone should be enough to get us there.
Cast your vote for the ticket most influenced by your beliefs, and get ready to make every effort to push it as far left as you can. The biggest aid to the progressive cause is to normalize its policy, and we have a long fight ahead of us.
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).
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