There are no permanent friends and there are no permanent enemies in politics. There are just temporary alliances that serve as a means to an end. That is how leftists should view the candidacy of Joe Biden when deciding whether to vote for him in November. I have decided that I will vote for Biden, it was not easy.
Joe Biden will be a bad President if he gets his way. He has a policy record nearly a mile long full of war authorizations, working class attacks, and mass incarceration. He is not going to meaningfully compromise with the left, there has been nothing in his long political history to suggest that he will. The party platform doesn’t matter, and his campaign concessions don’t matter, they will disappear after he wins. We’re not going to end up with the kind of society we were fighting for, not this time. The left lost this one, there isn’t a real positive way to spin that. There were insurmountable odds in regard to uniformly negative media treatment, outside party pressure to coalesce around anyone but the left front runner, and an electorate that ultimately cared only about electability and thought the left was a risk despite polling better than every liberal alternative save for Joe Biden. However, losing is still losing and there are now millions of voters who are unsure how to move forward, which will be of enormous consequence in the 7 states which will decide the presidency.
Here’s a question for my fellow friends on the left, “do we want to start winning?” If the answer is yes, the choice must be Joe Biden. That’s not going to be a popular answer, but I’m going to do my best to explain myself.
Joe Biden represents a rapidly decaying, unpopular, irrelevant ideological framing that is clearly in its death throws considering the left defeated 23 candidates representing it and would have defeated 24 if not for the party stepping in to save Biden. Meanwhile Donald Trump represents the beginning of an ideological revolution already seen in US Senators like Josh Hawley. The New Right is adopting the language of working class movements and has allowed its rhetoric to become increasingly anti-elite while pushing a policy that is aggressively conservative on immigration and civil rights. Which will be easier to defeat when the time comes and will do less immediate damage? It’s Joe Biden and neoliberalism. The danger of the New Right is so profound and under examined that we cannot risk it’s further legitimization with a Trump re-election.
As Cornel West said, we have to form an anti-fascist electoral coalition. It will not be a happy task because of the genuine disagreements many of us have with Biden on nearly every policy issue. In some cases, I truly believe his solutions will make our world worse, not better. However, I don’t subscribe to the acceleration mindset that is present in some leftist circles. I don’t believe that it’s in the best interest of anyone to allow the system to become as dysfunctional as possible in the hope that the working class will achieve the class consciousness to finally stand up to industry and party elites. I understand the logic, but there’s several reasons I find it dangerous and irresponsible.
First, the revolution just might not happen that way. Things may get bad or just downright terrible and the working class may simply just learn to live with less as we always have, and a more unimaginable cruelty will become the new standard of living. We may be resigning ourselves to a generation or a century of unrealized opportunities because we mistakenly believed that the powers that be which have actively suppressed the working class would suddenly become allies because the Right won.
Second, and this a more philosophical question, but just how much guaranteed suffering are we comfortable inflicting to prevent hypothetical suffering? We know to a great extent what happens if the right wins. There will be an even more enormous transfer of wealth to the rich from the poor. Civil rights will be rolled back for ethnic minorities, religious minorities, the LGBTQ+ community and women. Climate change will be ignored and there will be hostility towards socialist governments. So, it’s a pretty enormous gamble to suggest that by strengthening the right by giving it access to power that the locked-out left will win. I don’t know that we’re organized enough to win against an animal that is admittedly much smarter and much more politically savvy than the liberals in the Democratic Party who we still lost to.
Finally, if there was any real chance that the New Right was sincere, would act on their populist rhetoric, and actually unite with the left on the few things we agree then that’d be one thing. Josh Hawley for example talks a pretty good game about cracking down on Google and increasing worker wages. However, Donald Trump has been President nearly 4 years now and the time for compromise has come and gone and come and gone again and each time the New Right became more extreme and further removed from anything resembling populism. They are not serious about supporting the working class, they are enemies of working people and only play lip service to our economic anxieties. They are co-opting ideas and language to create a coalition broad enough to enact their actual agenda. Joe Biden is also not a consistent ally, but at the very least he isn’t duplicitous in his true intentions. We know what we’re dealing with and that matters.
I know some of you are thinking “Well what about the Green Party?” and I understand the question. Clearly the Democratic establishment has a deep antipathy towards the left and resents us for questioning why we shouldn’t expect better. There’s obviously an urge to thumb our collective noses at the party and refuse to support a nominee we feel was foisted upon us. Believe me, I get it. Here’s what I don’t get; is the Green Party serious about doing anything except making it easier for Republicans to become President? Because if they were serious about providing an actual left-wing alternative for voters, that would be a noble and respectable goal. However, there does not seem to be an effort to build any actual left-wing political party that can compete in municipal, state, or federal races. There are 0 greens in the US House, 0 greens in the US Senate, 0 greens in Governors mansions, 0 greens in state houses, 0 greens in state senates, just 1 mayor and a smattering of assembly people or trustees to a fire protection district. The Green Party is not serious about politics; they’re serious about publicity stunts including running for President with no intention of winning or even organizing in a serious way. The Green Party isn’t worth anyone’s time.
You might also be thinking, as I did, why not just leave your presidential ballot blank and only vote down ballot. In 2016 despite organizing hard for Hillary Clinton, despite Bernie Sanders holding over 37 events for Hillary Clinton, and despite more Bernie voters supporting Hillary than Hillary voters supported Obama 8 years earlier…she still lost and the left received all the blame. If Biden loses we will get all the blame and if he wins we’ll receive none of the credit. However as with Mrs. Clinton, a Biden loss would not cause the party to become introspective. It would lead the party to double down on an ineffective ideology while simultaneously attempting to strangle the left. The party again will be obsessed with beating the other guys by any craven means necessary as opposed to creating positive policies that will make people’s lives better. Yes if Biden wins, truly awful people will once again have direct access to power. However, those same people have that access now and will retain it win or lose, but hopefully what changes for us is a fever break in the fear that grips Democratic voters that will allow us to be bold on policy next time.
I understand believing there is not an affirmative policy case for Joe Biden. He opposes Medicare-for-All. He opposes marijuana legalization. He opposes the Green New Deal. He is conservative in his outlook and without imagination. I don’t dispute that; I agree with that analysis without objection. However, the few places that he is not bad, not good by any means but devoid of Trump level cruelty, are important.
A bipartisan consensus exists on DACA and would likely succeed with the narrowest possible senate majority. Biden would sign DACA, Trump would not. That makes the difference for 700,000 Dreamers. It’s not nearly enough for them, but it is life changing.
Joe Biden paved the way for Clarence Thomas, something he regrets but we should nonetheless resent him for. Donald Trump appointed Brett Kavanaugh and will appoint other conservative activists. The Supreme Court is at stake, it shouldn’t be, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg unnecessarily put this country at risk by not retiring in 2014 while Democrats had a Senate majority; but here we are. There are also federal courts and US Attorneys and decades of precedent that could be upheld, rewritten, or tossed out. The ACA, which is a dysfunctional and inadequate attempt at moderate healthcare reform, only exists because of a single swing vote. Medicare-for-All will never come to pass with a Trump judiciary. Biden’s picks will not inspire us, but they will support an eventual leftist agenda when the time comes.
Finally, it’s important to acknowledge the credible allegations of sexual assault against Joe Biden. I believe Tara Reade and I believe Joe Biden should be investigated. This is no different than the Kavanaugh allegation right down to the reporter. I believe Joe Biden should be disqualified from the presidency; I believed that about Donald Trump too yet nonetheless he became President. As a country we are going to have to grapple with what it means to have two accused sexual assaulters competing for the Presidency. It’s disgusting and survivors of sexual abuse certainly deserve better than Trump or Biden. There’s nothing to add beyond that, there is no “defense” or “vote for the rapist with better politics”. If the allegations against the candidates are a bridge too far for you, that is perfectly reasonable and let nobody convince you otherwise.
What the left is fighting for is not about one Joe Biden or even Donald Trump. It’s about defeating the forces that created Joe Biden and Donald Trump. It’s about long term goals for this society and moving the ball forward anyway that we can, understanding that this struggle came before us and will continue once we’re gone.
I’m voting for Joe Biden. Not because I support him or what he believes in. Voting for President in states like Missouri has become a purely symbolic act, it just won’t matter in the end. But symbolism does matter and eventually Donald Trump won’t be President and we’ll be able to take a long distance view of the damage he’s done to our country. I want to be able to say I opposed him in every way possible. I protested, I organized for unions, I organized for criminal justice reform, I donated to organizations doing good work in places I can’t go…and I voted in opposition. We should still demand things of Biden and his eventual administration should he win. We should get even more serious about persuasion and political organizing. We should rethink electoralism and find new ways to achieve our policy goals. Those are all necessary things for the future, what is necessary now is defeating the New Right by voting for Joe Biden. In an election with no good options, we have to fight to prevent the worst possible outcome.