Perspectives: Should Democrats Unite Under Joe Biden?

graphic by Kaila Hanna

Yes – Caleb Lazar

No – Kathryn Rhatigan

Joe Biden’s voting record is rife with discontinuities, his speaking is uninspiring at best and his sexual misconduct allegations are unignorable. As much as I would like to vote for a more progressive candidate with a cleaner track record, our options are limited. Realistically, the only two candidates with a chance in the 2020 Presidential Election are Biden and Trump, and choosing not to vote for Biden in such a close election is essentially the same as casting a ballot for Trump.

Yes, there are technically alternatives, but low-profile, third-party candidates like Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation simply will not win this election. Refusing to vote for a viable candidate in favor of a more progressive nominee like La Riva would not grant me power, but rather guarantee that my vote is worthless.

Some argue that voting for third-party candidates does not directly help Trump, especially in states with strong Democratic majorities. The 2016 election has shown that we should not rely on polling, though, as seemingly assured victories can quickly slip away.

Further, third-party voters would weaken Biden’s chances in battleground states. These voters can make all the difference; for example, if third-party voters had supported Al Gore in the 2000 Presidential Election, he wouldn’t have lost the election by 537 votes in Florida.

Those who urge others to vote for third-party candidates not to take the election away from Biden, but just to send a message are perpetuating the idea that individual votes anywhere are meaningless, a mindset that can reduce voter turnout. This mentality undermines democracy with impacts lasting far beyond this election.

Others who refuse to vote for Biden say it’s against their moral code. But with both Biden and Trump having a history of offensive comments and sexual misconduct, neither has the moral high ground. With no other realistic options, we should vote off of their policies. I am not suggesting that we ignore Biden’s ethical wrongdoings or the allegations against him, but since we must have a president with lacking morals, voters should choose the one with policies that will benefit those most in need.

Inside Newton’s bubble, it is easy to claim that Biden is no different than Trump, but replacing Trump is a matter of life or death for thousands of people. Vulnerable communities need immediate change, and in nearly all policy areas, Biden guarantees improvement.

While Trump has spent his term undermining the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Biden seeks to expand it with a public option that would guarantee affordable health insurance for millions of Americans.

Biden has promised to repeal Trump’s Title X gag rule, which seeks to restrict access to birth control and family planning for 4 million people, and pledged that his federal court nominees would support reproductive rights.

Despite the Obama-Biden administration’s controversial immigration record, Biden promises to end long-term family separation and ICE raids and to lift Trump’s travel ban and “public charge” rule, which makes it more difficult for low-income immigrants to enter the U.S.

Biden’s environmental package includes reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, participation in international collaboration such as recommitting to the Paris Climate Agreement and focusing on environmental justice for communities hit hardest by climate change. In contrast, Trump has expanded oil production and rolled back nearly 60 environmental regulations, including the Clean Water Act, and is targeting almost 40 more.

The list of policies goes on. Biden’s victory isn’t just about the idea of having a Democrat as president; it’s about protecting the vulnerable, especially from the harms that a second Trump term would have. Voting against Biden just to send a message that he’s not a perfectly ethical candidate is a slap in the face to the people of color, the low-income Americans, the immigrants and the LGBTQ people who need immediate change, especially when the alternative is also unethical and offers far less progressive policies.

Voting for Biden isn’t just about the policies he passes now; it’s also about allowing progressive movements to succeed in the future by securing a liberal presence in the judicial system. This year’s election is a critical junction for the Supreme Court, as the next president will shape its political makeup for decades. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the current four left-leaning justices, isn’t likely to last through another four years, and replacing her with a progressive — or at least left-leaning — justice is imperative to prevent a backward slide into conservative heaven.

Beyond the Supreme Court, the president also appoints federal judges. These courts have the power to squash liberal reforms for decades, and a Democratic president is necessary to end the flood of conservative appointees.

Biden does not align perfectly with my views. But democracy is about compromise, and refusing to vote for popular candidates unless they propose exactly what I want would prevent me from getting anything I value in a candidate. This year, we desperately need change, and Biden is our only hope of getting it.

The day after Donald Trump was elected president, many instantly began dreaming of the 2020 election when American voters could kick Trump out of office and replace him with a nice Democrat. Democrats hated Trump then because he was racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and had a history of sexual assault. His war-hawkery, environmental record and attitudes towards economically underprivileged Americans appalled us. His incoherent sentences rife with offensive one-liners grated on our consciences. Naturally, the best replacement would be a candidate with none of these qualities; one who could stand for a just and kind America. Instead, we have Joe Biden.

Though Biden may preach moral superiority, his record shows a strong alignment with Trump’s politics. Biden has had adverse attitudes towards racial equality for the duration of his political career. According to the New York Times, in the 1970s, Biden became, “the Democratic Party’s leading anti-busing crusader — a position that put him in league with Southern Segregationists.” More recently, Biden misspoke at a campaign event and said that, “Poor kids are just as smart as white kids.”

Biden spent his career as a homophobe. In 1996, Biden voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited federal recognition of  same-gender couples. In a 2008 vice presidential debate, when asked, “Do you support gay marriage?” Biden answered plainly: “No.” 

Biden has stood behind other bigoted policies; the Obama-Biden administration oversaw the deportation of around three million undocumented immigrants.  Any liberal who wants to replace Biden with Trump because of his terrible stances on immigration should first analyze Biden’s cruel record.

Biden’s promises for his administration are just as saddening as his record: he promised to veto Medicare-for-all, a policy that has proven its necessity during this pandemic. With a campaign vested in the interests of pharmaceutical companies — an industry that donated nearly $1.4 million to his campaign this election cycle alone — Biden can’t promise his allegiance is to his voters. 

And how is Joe Biden supposed to care about the needs of the working class when securities and investment firms are funding almost $7 million dollars of his campaign?

All this lies in the wake of Biden’s personal failures: he has legitimate sexual assault allegations against him that can not be brushed aside as Republican voters have ignored allegations against Trump. We cannot ignore the crimes Biden allegedly committed simply because he calls himself a Democrat.

Left-of-center voters can not betray their morals for a candidate who respects none of their values. Many people have advocated for “Vote blue no matter who,” and ended up with a candidate who is “blue” in name only. Sexual assault survivors, people of color, LGBTQIA+  people, uninsured low-income Americans, undocumented immigrants and children who must live out their lives in a land that is sinking into the sea have had direct attacks made against them by Joe Biden.

Biden represents the corruption of our election system — a campaign funded by super political action committees and large corporations, supported by the party establishment far more than by regular people. Asking for “unity” behind him will only serve to perpetuate the corruption in American politics.  

So what is the point of electing Biden? To remove a president to whom he is so similar? The claim that withholding support for Biden is “giving a vote to Trump” represents the corruption of our supposed zero-sum game elections.  My vote is not owed to Biden, so withholding it does not lend support to Trump, and in solidly blue states like Massachusetts, or firm red states like Texas, individual votes have little say in the face of the electoral college. Both candidates are antithetical to nearly every value I hold. If third-party candidates, such as Gloria la Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation or Howie Hawkins of the Green Party, receive large numbers of votes in this election, perhaps America will be one step closer to realizing the corruptness of the choice set before voters. 

Why would I, a supporter of a left-leaning Supreme Court and criminal justice reform, vote for the man who fought Anita Hill to get Clarence Thomas confirmed and wrote the 1994 Crime Bill, which put people of color in jail at vastly disproportionate rates? Why would I, a supporter of rights for all immigrants, people of color and same-sex-loving people, vote for a man who has stood against their equality and justice? There is no unity to be had under Biden. I can not unite under an alleged rapist. I can not unite with a racist, xenophobic, homophobic war hawk. There can be no democratic unity because the Democratic Party has no unifying ideology.  If the Democratic Party is asking me to support Biden’s heinous politics, then I am no longer a Democrat.