Writer: Harita Iswara
CW: discusses sexual assault
Where to start…
Joseph Biden is now officially the Democratic presidential nominee with Kamala Harris as the vice-presidential nominee for the ticket. Identity politics has consumed the narrative about what this means, with everyone shouting into the void about representation for Black and South Asian Americans. But not everyone is happy, rightfully so. Do we really want the symptoms of a problematic criminal justice system as part of the legacy of Black and South Asian representation for the foreseeable future? In Part 1 of the series, Sana discussed how the science behind electoral politics will aid the Democratic ticket, and provided an explanation for the dangers of voting third party and not voting. But because no politician or movement is immune from criticism, I will discuss some of the surrounding issues that we have to inevitably face on November 3rd.
The Blame Game
Whenever we have discourse about voting, there will always be disagreement. Shaming people into voting and blaming people for democratic failures because they don’t vote is wrong. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, except for when that opinion infringes upon someone’s rights. Joe Biden’s troublesome reputation follows him, with numerous women coming forward with allegations of Biden assaulting them, as well his complicity in the further institutionalization of the prison industrial complex. Telling people that they are obligated to vote for Biden is a slap in the face to survivors of sexual abuse and to Black and Brown communities. In tandem, blaming these groups of people for the lack of radical support for the Democratic ticket is also wrong. There needs to be room for criticism, for nuance, and for deeper evaluation of the very basic principles and morals that democratic values are based on. This black and white analysis of the choice we have to make in November is irrespective of the fact that people's lives are affected by the wrongdoings of Biden and Harris, even if they are arguably better than Trump. For so long, our politics has been largely devoid of legitimate humanity and concern for the true wellbeing and protection of our most vulnerable communities. If in this moment we can’t find it within ourselves to have even the slightest concern for people whom we know are hurt by the politics of our country, we will find it hard to ever do so in the future. We have to stand in solidarity with these communities, understand their opposition to Biden, and listen to and amplify their voices.
Voices in the Crowd
The Democratic party has rallied behind Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, strengthening the ticket. From progressives such as Bernie and AOC to staunch centrists to lifelong Republicans like Colin Powell and John Kasich, it seems as though Biden has won over many. If we isolate the target demographics for this election though, who are we focusing on? Is it the Left-leaning college student who doesn’t think settling is an appropriate response for the electoral system’s shortcomings and failures? Or is it the lifelong Republican Veteran who can’t see the country he defended go down the drain in its full descent into fascism. Who are we trying to win over? We’ve seen a large force of bipartisan support for Biden as Republicans and Democrats crowd the political center and voice their intentions to remove Trump from office. At the same time, Biden has a strong history of being grossly centrist and appealing to the Right side of the aisle for his entire career, which he is using to his advantage this cycle. His support from the Right and especially from higher up in the GOP comes at a cost for the majority of his constituency. The appeal to traditional conservatives is arguably leaving a large part of his left-leaning constituency behind. This dilemma, along with the narrowing margin between Biden and Trump, now at a 6 percentage point difference among likely voters, might hurt Biden in the long run, as he inches closer to losing progressive voters. While winning over Republicans is considerably a good thing, this will have an effect when translated into policy and action if Biden wins the election. Are we going to try “push Biden Left” once he’s in office? Or are we going to settle for a centrist?
Are We Still Settling?
People are saying that our current situation is once again a case of voting for the lesser of two evils. By that regard, we’ve been voting for the lesser of two evils for quite some time now -- why, you may ask? Is it the narrow two-party system? Is it the fact that we’ve followed none of the recommendations for a properly functioning democracy? When will this end? Some say that in order to end this painful cycle of mediocrity we must refuse to vote or settle; we need to stop settling for the lesser of two evils and push for actual change. That could look like voting for a third party or not voting, and calling for an absolute overhaul of the two-party electoral system we currently have. A counter-argument for that is that we vote Biden in, and then put forth tangible efforts for change, but it is unlikely that we can accomplish any change through the electoral binary. Can we afford to postpone this much-needed change? We have been stuck for so long, and in order to progress as a democracy we have to push for radical change, some suggest. The Settle for Biden movement, created by former Warren and Sanders supporters, has made its position clear on the subject; voting for Biden is not something we’re doing out of pure happiness or with pride, but we have to do it in order to bring back some hope of being able to fix the damage. Settling for Biden isn’t the optimal choice but with what’s at stake, the wellbeing of our people, the climate, human rights, etc., can we afford another four years of Tr*mp? There is also a large conversation about holding politicians accountable and that if the Democrats win, we can hold them accountable once they are in office. As we’ve learned time and time again, it’s clear that we cannot “hold politicians accountable” if they do not work to change for the better. Public officials need to practice servant leadership and genuinely serve the interests of the people as, “it is the candidates' job to win voters over, not voters' to submit to a choice between two evils.”