Why I’m Supporting Joe Biden
I’m a big proponent of the idea that if you are going to vote for someone you should be willing to publicly back up and own your decision. Voting is a serious matter that has the very real potential to cause a great deal of harm for a great many people. While I fully understand the importance of secret ballots, I also believe that the secrecy often allows cowards and hypocrites to support absolute monsters without the social consequences that should occur from that support.
If you’re going to vote for a presidential candidate — essentially helping them gain the power of life-and-death over the entire planet — you should at least have the decency to own that decision and be held accountable for it (assuming of course that such disclosure would not endanger you, your family, your employment, etc.). So that’s what I’m doing here: explaining my main reasons for supporting Joe Biden this election.
I’m going to begin with an analogy. Imagine you have a serious chronic condition. Let’s say diabetes. Then, to make things worse, you then find out that you have a cancerous tumor in your chest. Fortunately, the tumor’s still in the early stages and while it is extremely serious and life-threatening, it isn’t metastatic yet and hasn’t spread beyond control. What’s your top priority: losing 100 pounds to try and get your diabetes into remission, or aggressively attacking that tumor? Now, I’m no doctor but it seems to me that treating the tumor while it is still treatable is the obvious answer.
The neoliberal establishment that Biden represents is the diabetes — it’s a serious issue and one that needs to be addressed and managed as much as possible. But it’s also something that we have learned to live with in a tolerable way and does not pose an immediately lethal threat to the whole body.
The unique blend of reactionary conservatism, amorality, racism, sexism, and sheer brutalism that Donald Trump absolutely embodies is the cancer. It’s relatively new (at least, in this present form, this particular tumor), and while it has still been largely contained to Trump’s obnoxious minority — let’s be clear: his base is neither silent nor a majority — it won’t stay that way for forever. And if Trumpism is allowed to metastasize, I’m convinced that it will be the end of liberal democracy in America.
My vote for Biden is not a vote in support of establishment neoliberalism; it’s a vote in support of the idea that the cancer of Trumpism must be excised or radiated from politics and the state immediately, or we won’t have a chance to treat our diabetes later anyways. Which leads me to my next point: the GOP has become an illiberal party whose very future depends on the decay of democracy.
Both major parties are obviously corrupt. Both have authoritarian trends. But only the GOP is anti-democratic. Their continued electoral success in state and national elections is reliant on three things: gerrymandering, disenfranchisement, and voter disengagement. This is not a trend that started with Trump, but it is one that has greatly accelerated with him at the helm of the party. As far as I can see, as the GOP gains power, they keep it through warping congressional districts, they protect de jure disenfranchisement and promote policies that result in de facto disenfranchisement, and they encourage voters to disengage from the democratic process.
Whether you agree or disagree with that assessment is a whole different conversation; personally, I believe there is ample evidence available to support my conclusions. The issue at hand is what to do with a political party that is hellbent on transforming a liberal republic into an illiberal aristocracy. I think the answer is simple: you smash it. The GOP needs to be as thoroughly rebuked at the ballot box this November as possible. Cutting off their head is a great place to start. Denying them a popular majority, let alone any semblance of a popular mandate, is a worthwhile way to spend a vote.
If the GOP continues down their current path, democracy will continue to contract across America. That’s bad for the national temperament, that’s bad for those without economic capital, and it’s bad for those without social power. Democracy is worth defending, and even if Biden won’t be a democratic expansionist, he and the Democratic Party will certainly not actively seek its gradual abolition.
Obviously, I’m not terribly optimistic about the good Biden will do. My vote for Biden is almost purely out of a sense of damage control. That being said, I do think there are some things to look forward to in a Biden administration. He’s shown a willingness to at least listen to and involve people like AOC in policy discussions. It’s likely that a Biden Administration will have Andrew Yang in its cabinet. He’s at least aware enough to admit that climate change is a real threat that demands action.
Biden has also shown a penchant towards governmental reform in the past several months. If the Democrats can gain even a small majority in the Senate, the Biden Administration would have a real shot, and some real motivation, to pass a wide-array off progressive and reformist agenda items. Obviously, some of these items would be more desirable (please reinstate the Iran Deal and expand DACA) than others (give up on that Frankensteinian ACA already), but I am hopeful that the Democrats’ mixed bag would be far more benevolent than the GOP’s, especially towards the most vulnerable among us (and it’s their interest that I am most morally obligated to vote for).
Any honest assessment of the two main parties will realize that there are a whole host of important social issues that only have hope of being advanced by the Democrats. Easing immigration will not happen under a Trump administration. Expanding amnesty for undocumented immigrants will not happen under a Trump administration. Block right-to-work at the Federal level will not happen under a Trump administration. Protecting and expanding the civil rights and dignity of gender and sexual minorities will not happen under a Trump administration. Preventing the further restriction of a woman’s right to choose will not happen under a Trump administration. etc. etc. However, all those these may — and many of them likely will — see advancement and protection under a combined Biden White House, Democratic-controlled legislature, and liberal-leaning Supreme Court.
I’m almost certainly casting my vote in red-state Missouri for Biden in November, though my motivations are much more to cast a vote against Trump than voting for Biden per se. I view the whole 2020 general election as little more than a referendum on Trump and Trumpism, and I am willing to sacrifice some of my “moral high ground” to align all my opposition towards preventing a second Trump term, or failing that, to deny a re-elected Trump any sort of popular mandate or braggable victory.
It’s a classic trolley problem — actually, no. It’s far simpler than a classic trolley problem. If I don’t “pull the switch”, the Trump Train will run over a whole host of vulnerable people, and soon. Or, I can pull the switch (vote for Biden) and send the careening trolly down another set of tracks that likewise has people tied to it. However, in this latter case the collision is further away and (mostly) involves less-vulnerable people. In a moral sense, these two differences don’t matter a great amount, but in a practical sense they matter tremendously. More time before the collision means more time to further divert or stop the trolley. Less-vulnerable victims means more likelihood that they will have the means and/or ability to escape from the tracks before the collision.
There are no good options this go around. This is no Gary Johnson this time for me to opt out with while respecting the seriousness of the presidency. There is no Vermin Supreme for me to opt out with while maintaining my moral mission. I don’t want to disparage either the Libertarian or Green Party tickets, but I also cannot in good conscience vote for either one of them either. If I have no good options, I might as well take the one most likely to take down the truly bad one and with the greatest chance of pursuing at least modestly desireable goals.
Of course, I hope that most of you who read this will choose to vote for Biden as well (and I hope you will do so in-person, to deny Trump’s USPS any chance of hijacking your vote). I hope that you will make your support public. I hope that you will talk to your families about voting for Biden. And I hope that you will donate to his campaign and the campaigns of other Democrats over the next few weeks.