Progressives Don’t Have To Stop Critiquing Biden/Harris To Vote For Them
When Bernie Sanders, arguably the most desirable option for Progressives during the 2020 Democratic Party Primary election, ended his campaign, voters around the country were crushed. The support for Sanders was palpable, and for a while, it felt like he could actually win the nomination.
When it became apparent that former Vice President Joe Biden was the presumptive nominee, a vague weariness and overall distrust took over the election. Sanders’ supporters called out his lack of media coverage, despite being a consistent frontrunner during the primaries, and broadcasted their support by labeling themselves #BernieorBust. If it was going to be Biden versus Trump, they would either sit this election out or write-in Senator Sanders’ name.
This year has illuminated just how broken our nation really is. With the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans have dealt with record job loss, impacting access to health care for those who rely on employer-sponsored insurance, in addition to confronting police brutality. The Democratic ticket features a centrist platform and former attorney general, whose misleading moniker ignores Senator Harris’ tough-on-crime policies. Needless to say, there is much to be desired for Progressives this election.
While it’s true that some “Bernie or Bust” voters have decided to support Biden this election, there is still a group of eligible voters, namely Gen Zers, who “don’t like Joe Biden or Donald Trump enough to vote,” according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.
Biden’s assurance to Pennsylvanians that he will not ban fracking has disheartened those who have environmental regulations at the top of their list of priorities for the nation’s next president. His stance is understandable as Biden seeks to appeal to a wide range of voters, from weary Republicans to Progressive Democrats, but also worrying. How can anyone support a nominee who seems to be at odds with his own platform? Without wanting another four years of Trump’s administration, another question arises: How can Progressives support a Biden/Harris ticket?
The Trump era has reduced civility in politics. We have a president who outwardly mocked a reporter with a disability, casually talked about sexually assaulting women, and routinely name-calls his opponents. Trump supporters lap it up, insisting his remarks are jokes, or locker room talk, and do not seriously reflect the President’s character. The effect is more derision and hate. Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s mispronunciation of Senator Kamala Harris’ name — and his subsequent response that being corrected is just an excuse for the Left to limit critiques of the Senator — demonstrates how subtle the process of othering truly is. It also highlights how it’s been used increasingly the past four years to sow division in our country.
The fact is, both former Vice President Biden and Senator Harris need to be critiqued, by the right and the left. While I personally believe the Biden/Harris ticket is the far-more preferable option under the two-party system, neither of them are perfect candidates.
Biden’s support for the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which encouraged states to implement mandatory minimum sentences and targeted low-income communities by reinforcing the disparities in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine, is one of the biggest talking points for on-the-fence voters. It makes sense in this year of mass protests for racial justice, contributing to the conversation around prison abolition and increasing recognition of the racist practices that have allowed the criminal justice system to disproportionately lock up Black Americans.
At his Town Hall on October 15, Joe Biden recognized his support for the 1994 bill as a mistake but still attempted to pass the blame. Namely, Biden expressed that individual states were at fault for how they chose to implement different aspects of the crime bill. After, Biden pivoted to recognize today is a different time and named a few of his ideas for reforming the criminal justice system, such as decriminalizing marijuana, ending mandatory minimums, and ending “the federal crack and powder cocaine disparity.”
Biden’s platform embraced many of the above ideas early on, but his decision to welcome Senator Harris as his running mate made reluctant Progressives even warier of giving him their vote, reducing the already-low enthusiasm for the 2020 election. While Republicans garner fear among their base by labeling Harris as the most liberal person in the U.S. Senate, Progressives see a waffler who claims to support liberal policies but whose background and record tells a different story.
It is important not to forget both Biden and Harris’ backgrounds, as they can provide insight into how they will run the country should they win the election. Voters can be excited that Senator Harris is the first woman of color to accept a Vice Presidential nomination, but not forget that her co-sponsorship of the Medicare for All Act of 2019 did not stop her from including a larger role for private insurance in her own plan, released during the Democratic primaries.
In fact, it is the prevalence of Progressive policies, from the Green New Deal to student loan forgiveness, that has made the Biden platform shift further left. Republicans may still cry whenever the word “progressive” is mentioned, but more and more citizens are paying attention to climate change, access to health insurance, and whether social security is going to be bankrupt by the time they need it. These are no longer seen as topics the Left brings up to steal money from hardworking Americans; rather, these are things a growing number of Americans are paying attention to and prioritizing.
When voting for the Biden/Harris ticket this last week leading up to Election Day, Progressives ought to remember that voting for a political candidate does not require robust support. When debating with others, bring up the issues that make us all question just how left-leaning Biden truly is. Acknowledge the ticket’s shortcomings and commit to demanding improvements: through protest, lobbying, calling-in, etc.
There is a widely-felt unease about where the nation is headed. We, as voters, can only do our best, and encourage others to do the same.