October 4, 2020

BERNSTEIN | Don’t Just Settle for Joe Biden, Stand for him

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After a brutal primary season, many democrats have feared that a young progressive bloc would refuse to vote for Joe Biden out of a strong rejection of leadership and moderate positions. Since the vice president all but wrapped up the democrat nomination, one plea to progressives seems to be more popular than the rest: Settle.

The “Settle for Biden” mantra is going strong; in fact, there’s a grassroots organization of former Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) supporters leading the way in sharing the motto, fit with a 230,000-plus follower Instagram account. The organization wants to convince young progressives who were turned off to the Biden campaign that not voting would lead to four more years of President Trump.

This mission is important — Biden may be ahead in the polls, but if they’re as wrong as they were in 2016, this race could be close. With the Electoral College likely benefitting Trump, voter turnout is essential in this election as it will take a large margin in the popular vote to defeat the incumbent. This fact is especially important for states with rampant voter suppression like Texas and Michigan.

The fear of progressives not turning up at the polls isn’t ungrounded, either. Young people consistently vote less than their parents and grandparents, but as a large mostly left-wing demographic, we have power in 2020 — we just have to use it.

Unfortunately, many people (especially young people) haven’t seemed excited by Joe Biden. Because of his moderate positions, he hasn’t received the same rally as someone like Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), who leads and embraces progressive policies and has received mass youth support in his Senate primary this summer despite being 74, the same age as Trump.

Beyond Biden, it’d be hard to argue that there isn’t some apathy towards our political system in general in America. Take for instance the reactions to the presidential debate last Tuesday. It seemed like everyone was calling it a disorganized mess, pundits and beyond: Jake Tapper called it a “dumpster fire” and George Stephanopoulos said, “that was the worst presidential debate I have ever seen.” The unproductive shouting match we watched last Tuesday night gave little reason to have hope for American politics in the future.

But any recent feeling of hopelessness is to the credit of Trump, and to not correctly attribute them to him would be a disservice. Every time we show those feelings without blaming him, we empower those who think participating in democracy isn’t worth their time. We tell those people who don’t care enough to vote that it’s ok, everything is terrible anyway.

We can’t allow ourselves to have this mindset. Similarly, we can’t simply have the mindset that a vote for Biden is just settling. That forces us to fall into the trap of thinking we’re picking the lesser of two evils or the best of a bad bunch. But it should be clear: There are not two evils in this election. There is only one.

Joe Biden is not the ideal presidential candidate, at least not for me and the countless other Americans that will be affected by his failure to embrace progressive policy. I didn’t vote for him in the Democratic primaries. But as far as his position as the democratic nominee goes, he is a good candidate. Not just a better candidate or a less-worse candidate, but a good one.

This is how we should frame Biden’s candidacy in order to get young progressives or other disinterested Americans to come out and vote. Don’t just settle for Biden, stand for him.

He would be the most progressive president in our nation’s history if elected. Abraham Lincoln wasn’t an abolitionist and Lyndon B. Johnson wasn’t a civil rights activist, yet they met the moment and spearheaded necessary progress. Even if our country is in need of drastic systemic change and Biden can’t provide that to us, he will bring us closer. He has potential to be more than just “not Trump.”

Especially if he’s pushed by the left, there’s a lot of room for change. Despite not being a supporter of the plan, maybe he’d sign the Green New Deal, for instance, if it passed through Congress and made its way to his desk. With pressure from progressives, there are exciting opportunities in a Biden presidency.

So we shouldn’t settle for Biden. We shouldn’t act like we’ve been given the worst choices this country has to offer; only one option in this election represents that. If we treat Joe Biden in a way such that he’s relegated to being nothing more than an alternative, we give up on our hope for the future. And in doing so, we once again reinforce the beliefs of those who don’t want to vote because they think nothing matters anymore.

Daniel Bernstein is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at dgb222@cornell.edu. Feel the Bern runs every other Monday this semester.