I went to my local polling booth to cast my vote for Bernie Sanders in the primary March 3. I was optimistic about the future and excited about voting for a candidate like Bernie. He is the most progressive candidate that has attempted to secure the Democratic nomination in my lifetime. He was the first of the Democratic presidential contenders to back the Green New Deal. He sought to cancel student debt. He was a strong supporter of Medicare for All. He had promising goals for this country, a clean record and an articulate, powerful way of speaking to people.
When Bernie dropped out of the race in April, I was obviously disappointed. Joe Biden was not my first (or even second) choice, especially after quarantine had given me time to learn more about specific candidates and their policies. Previously, I was unaware of his politically questionable past.
There are many examples: his opposition to busing in the 1970s, his vote against the Hyde amendment and his writing of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (which disproportionately affected people of color). Biden has been accused of ignoring personal boundaries and faced an allegation of sexual assault. While numerous investigations have questioned the credibility of that allegation, it has undoubtedly left a mark on Biden’s campaign.
Kamala Harris, his vice presidential choice, also lacks a “clean” political background. While she views herself as a progressive prosecutor, she rarely prosecuted officers who had killed civilians and refused to advance DNA testing that could have exonerated Kevin Cooper, a Black man on death row. Both sides of the political spectrum have criticized Harris. The left has criticized her for her past as a prosecutor, whereas the right has attacked her identity as a woman of color. Trump even ridiculed the pronunciation of her name in a live address.
Yet it is crucial that we vote for Biden and Harris this November. I know a number of people who plan to abstain from voting, or are voting for a third party. Their arguments for doing this vary, but there is one overarching narrative: the system is broken. The two-party system is not representative of our country or its needs. Yes, American politics need serious reform; however, this mindset is rooted in privilege. This is not the time to be voting with an idealist mindset, but with a clear purpose. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that Donald Trump is removed from office.
Trump’s presidential term has been a danger for immigrants, low-income people and other marginalized groups. His response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been pitiful, and he has even admitted to downplaying its significance. Both of our presidential candidates have racist and misogynistic backgrounds. However, Trump’s present impact is even worse than his past. He is a manipulative con artist. If you aren’t immediately affected by his immigration policies, limited food stamp access or his blocking of Medicaid, it is even more imperative that you vote him out. Those of us who have that privilege should use it to make life-saving change for others.
Biden’s campaign seeks to curb qualified immunity, hold police to a national standard, quadruple federal spending on low-income housing, triple federal spending on low-income schools, double Pell Grants, make community college free and has $10 billion set aside for transit in low-income areas.
Additionally, Biden has grown immensely over the last decade in response to his previously conservative views. Biden was the first national leader to openly support gay marriage in 2012. During this campaign, he has stated that he wants to let in more refugees and abolish cash bail, two important progressive steps for the United States.
Some people consider 2020 to be one of the worst years the United States has ever experienced. While, yes, a lot has happened in a short period of time, this year has also called attention to the array of injustices that already plagued our society. Racism is systematically integrated into our education, policies, and administration. While climate change’s effects are rapidly occurring, the Trump administration has appointed individuals with ties to fossil fuel industries to environmental posts. Additionally, Trump is erasing representation in real time: he cut short the census a month earlier than anticipated.
Four years under the Biden administration may not make any radical change. However, four more years under Trump’s administration will push us further and further into our current hole. An economic recession. A pandemic. The tragic realities of climate change. Weekly headlines stating that Trump said something blatantly racist. If your life was not immediately affected by Trump’s actions, it will remain unaffected by Biden’s.
Biden’s administration, while flawed, also has many promising policies that could make real change in this country. More work needs to be done to restructure American politics, but change will not come if initial steps are not taken. Lives are at risk, and four more years under Trump would make that risk greater.