With less than 90 days until the election, I find that my greatest fear is a depressed turnout for Joe Biden. This site hasn’t relieved that anxiety. At all. Which is why I felt compelled to write this piece.
I want to push back against certain views that I see as misguided and cynical, often rooted in false equivalence. If this attitude persists in far-left corners, then democracy is in danger — not to mention every other issue that liberal holdouts claim to champion.
This is not a moment for progressives to despair. They’ve helped shape the new status quo in the Democratic Party, but staying home in November would erase that work.
Trump doesn’t have enough support to win on the power of his own vote. No president has failed the “are you better off than you were four years ago” test as badly, and that fact doesn’t even cover the daily stream of lies, divisiveness, and inconceivable corruption emanating from the White House.
Trump and Republicans clearly know they can’t get re-elected on the merits, or even on the same ruse from 2016, which is why they’ve stopped trying to govern in good faith — during a pandemic no less — or present a real vision, relying instead on culture-war peddling and voter suppression.
Staying home in protest of the system plays into their hand. Even for Biden skeptics, think of the presidency as less a vessel for your hopes and dreams than a job for someone who has the skills, talent, and temperament to do well. Someone who will follow science, heed expert advice, and operate in reality. Someone who recognized the threat of this pandemic in January, and critized Trump for rolling back the Obama administrations’ progress on global health security. This alone shows why we all must vote.
Still, I know it might take more to convince disillusioned voters that one path is far better. So here’s my attempt to deconstruct certain views and offer a different perspective, in hopes that all Resisters will flood the polls.
Clarifying the Meaning of “Vote Blue No Matter Who”
This phrase, often used as a rallying cry by staunch Democrats, has irked some liberals. But that’s only because they misinterpret its meaning. Rather than understanding the slogan as a show of unity with those who hold the same fundamental values, they cast it as a surrender to the Establishment, saying that adherence to this would free Democratic leaders from accountability. After all, this reasoning goes, neoliberals can sign off on a corporate agenda and still expect their base to come home on Election Day because … Vote Blue No Matter Who. But that’s a false idea of its meaning and effect.
Vote Blue No Matter Who is a call to support the Democrat over the Republican in the general. No one is safe from a primary challenge, as recent history has demonstrated. The slogan simply means that a candidate like Amy McGrath, who defeated the more liberal Charles Booker in the KY primary, is still way better than Mitch McConnell. And if we reject McGrath and other moderates, then McConnell and his majority can kill the entire progressive agenda. An agenda that would have received wide support from even the most vulnerable Democrat in a red state who not only shares our most important goals — voting rights, climate action, health care — but also recognizes the consequence of misrepresenting a liberal base.
Right now more than 250 bills that passed the Democratic-led House, with overwhelming support from the majority, collect dust in McConnell’s legislative graveyard. These bills include the late John Lewis’ H.R. 4 (voting rights) as well as the Heroes Act, which passed with 207 Democratic votes and one Republican vote. The problem here is Republicans, not “neoliberals,” a fact that’s been thrown into even sharper relief during a pandemic. This is why we say Vote Blue No Matter Who. Because the notion that moderate Democrats offer more of the same — or that they can’t be pushed by the threat of a primary challenge — has no basis in reality.
Challenging the Belief of a Rigged 2020 Democratic Primary
Joe Biden received the most votes in the primary, awarding him the nomination. But there are Bernie Sanders holdouts who insist the race was rigged against their candidate. They rarely clarify how but I’ll try to guess. Because we all see that dark money didn’t play a role — Sanders outspent Biden in every state — their belief seems to stem from the fact that other Democratic candidates endorsed Biden before Super Tuesday. But this was not unfair or corrupt.
First off, endorsements have been a staple of primary campaigns throughout history, regardless of one’s familiarity with the custom. Some of Sanders’ younger supporters are newly engaged in politics, so they may not understand the nature of endorsements. That doesn’t make it okay to condemn traditional practices, though. And in fact, securing endorsements is a key strategy in every cycle, not only as a way to expand the base but also to show leadership. Turning ideas into law requires cooperation just as much as vision, so collecting endorsements signals an ability to build support.
Which brings me to the second point. The “Establishment” didn’t force Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar to back Biden. Both were closer aligned ideologically to Biden and one even publicly voiced concern about Sanders as a candidate. So there was nothing nefarious or preordained about their stance. As party leaders, they also had a responsibility to give their opinion in the moments when they had the most leverage. Sanders would have accepted their backing if offered, so his tendency to nurture cynicism over the act itself was disingenuous. That said, I give Sanders credit for eventually throwing his full support behind Biden. I hope his supporters follow suit.
Defending the Validity of a Primary Victory and The Convictions of Supporters
When skeptics question the legitimacy of primary results, they’re dismissing millions of voters. This snub may be unintentional, simply an indirect consequence of their claim, but nonetheless still exists. And it’s not right. Just because your candidate didn’t win doesn’t mean that the other supporters don’t hold just as strong of convictions. They weren’t paid for or tricked into it. Biden earned their trust through his service as vice president for a successful administration and he has a genuine connection with his base.
His win was also fueled in part by a desire to remove Trump, combined with the logic that a well-known Democrat would be better positioned to succeed than an Independent Socialist. Cornell Belcher offered this assessment after the South Carolina primary, where Black voters propelled Biden to a resounding victory and jumpstarted his campaign.
“It was simply, ‘Oh my God this man (Trump) is an existential threat and we just to have to focus on who has the best chance of beating him,’” Belcher said. “And they thought Biden had the best chance of doing that, hard stop.”
Biden’s voters didn’t necessarily disagree with Sanders’ agenda; they just put more weight into track records and their idea of electability. Biden may not be the chosen candidate of staunch progressives — and I know “electability” is a flimsy term — but Sanders supporters should at least empathize with the underlying motive behind Biden’s victory: the best way to remove a dangerously unfit man from office.
Biden Deserves Credit For Evolving, and Understanding For His Past
Biden has reached out to Sanders and his base more than any nominee has done for the runner up in recent memory. Not only does Biden know how important it is to unite the party, but he also has a new appreciation for the need for bold reform. As such, he has strived to build a diverse coalition, both demographically and ideologically, the latter of which is evidenced by the Unity Task Force. He’s embraced the progressive wing and vowed to give them a front seat at the table if elected. He can only do so with their help.
As for criticism over his past positions, I urge skeptics to be more accepting. While I respect their views, this kind of shaming often lacks historical context. Biden has always been a leader that seeks out the median location within the Democratic Party, so inevitably he’s taken positions in previous decades that are out of step with the current moment. But the point is that he’s almost always landed on the side of progress at a given time, and shown an ability to learn and evolve. Don’t make purity the enemy of progress.
This election is a binary choice. And though I reject the framing of the “lesser of two evils” — that premise would be the greatest false equivalence ever — I ask liberals to also see this as a choice between two governing visions, with the future of democracy at stake.
Biden has extended a hand and rolled out a bold progressive agenda, to Sanders’ own approval. He’s kept an open mind and embraced new thinking. Undecided liberals should see the larger picture and do the same, then continue to push for more. But we have to start somewhere. If they still refuse to join the mission, though, then the least they could do is respect Biden’s base’s passion as equal to their own.
Crying “Rigged” Obscures The Real Crises of Voter Suppression
It’s easy to label every defeat as illegitimate, whether it’s in politics or sports or any competition. But casting blanket cynicism in this case is particularly dangerous since voter suppression is real. If we blame everyone then cynical actors will escape scrutiny. The problem will persist. That’s why accuracy is critical lest progressives risk being dismissed as sore losers.
Fixing the system requires identifying the source and acting strategically, like Republicans do in their effort to gerrymander districts with surgical precision. But some liberals have lost sight of the enemy, and their misdirected anger could have devastating consequences.
In Kentucky, for example, Jefferson County had a single polling station for 600,000 residents. This trend isn’t uncommon. Since 2012 Georgia has closed 214 polling places in communities with large African American populations (7:32), and Milwaukee had just five stations open on the day of Wisconsin’s primary election. These and other cases like them are unacceptable and represent a great injustice. But after McGrath defeated Booker — a result likely affected by this failure — at least a few Booker supporters lashed out at the Democratic Establishment, in some cases even encouraging Kentuckians not to vote for McGrath over Mitch McConnell in protest. That’s wrong and counterproductive.
Kentucky is a dark red state, so Republicans have control. It was inevitable that fewer polling stations would unintentionally benefit a moderate against a liberal in a Democratic primary one day, but it would be illogical to blame the Democrats and refuse to vote. How would the system ever be fixed if you let the cheaters walk to victory? It wouldn’t. Corrupt elections would just become a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s why it’s critical to look beyond the surface — to see that although McGrath benefited she wasn’t responsible — and combat this strategically, by voting for those who stand for fair elections.
Don’t Be Your Own — And Democracy’s — Worst Enemy
Trump’s enablers (the modern-day Republican Party) have shown that they’re interested in power for the sake of power. But as effective as their white identity appeals and propaganda have become, it doesn’t resonate with a majority. Therefore they rely on voters becoming cynical and disillusioned.
Don’t give them that. For whatever ideological disagreements liberals may have with Biden, he’s not a tool of corporate America who will sell out the country for his own interest. For whatever character concerns you have with Biden, he’s never shifted money from charities to his pocket; he hasn’t been credibly accused of sexual assault over 20 times; he’s not a lifelong scammer surrounded by grifters and criminals; and he’s never ignored a deadly pandemic that’s cost over 160,000 lives and tanked the economy. One of these two candidates will win. The better choice couldn’t be more clear.
The same is true in every senate race, as Trumpism, the dominant strand of the Republican Party, must be defeated. Moderate Democrats may be constrained in some cases by the electorate — or their ideology — but they would fight for voter rights and aim to advance our most fundamental goals, which is how we continue to progress. They would lead the country in good faith, guided by science and facts. That’s better than the alternative and it’s time to recognize the virtue of better.
From Biden on down, the Democratic candidates would defend democracy and be beholden to you, their voters. There has never been a more critical time to vote and encourage others to vote.
(Check out the sites below for state-by-state info on how to register, request absentee ballots, vote safely, or even volunteer.)