The Biden Dilemma

Another year has come to pass, and the primary season has reached its conclusion. It’s been a particularly long, crowded, and divisive year, with the party’s progressive and moderate factions shining in stark contrast. The Democratic field winnowed from dozens of candidates to five, three, two… and finally, one. One man will stand opposite Donald Trump on the debate stage. One man will be the beacon of hope for liberals in the coming years. One man’s name will be printed on the Democratic ticket for president of the United States this November. That man – to the dismay and delight of millions – will be Vice President Joe Biden? 

But why him? Of all people, why Joe Biden? There’s no denying that other candidates may have been worthier of the nomination. Biden’s not a man without his issues – in fact, he has a treasure trove of problems that will dissuade voters on Election Day. The most prominent of these is apparent in his language: Joe Biden doesn’t have much of a way with words. Throughout his career, he hasn’t been known as a wordsmith – but that’s just the beginning. He lacks the charisma and charm of his younger years. Even while he was vice president, Biden had a quick wit that made him stand out in a crowd. What happened to that Joe? To put it simply, he got older. He’ll turn seventy-eight on November 20, either packing for the White House or wallowing from another Democratic defeat by then. Biden has been on Capitol Hill since the seventies, and he’s held onto much of that era’s social norms. He’s not exactly the picture of progress by today’s standards, and his legislative record fits that notion. Joe Biden’s legacy includes the 1994 crime bill, the Iraq War, the Hyde Amendment, the Patriot Act, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ – you name it. His past is marred with sexual harassment allegations, Anita Hill, and countless other less-than-progressive scandals. One look at Biden tells you that he truly stands out among the Democratic mainstream today – and not in a good way. In his current state, he’s unremarkable. He’s an easy target for a conservative feeding frenzy. All signs point to the presumption that Biden wouldn’t have lasted a second in this race had he not been Obama’s number two. Last year, he entered the race leading the polls; now, after this roller coaster of a primary, he will fulfill that initial expectation and win the nomination. It seems cheap that it was all for nothing. Biden was handed a lot by the DNC – between the big money, the endorsements, and everything in between, it seems like everything about the Biden campaign is well-positioned for success except for Biden himself. I could go on for pages about how Joe Biden is a reactionary dinosaur – but in this crucial moment, with this hand the Democrats have dealt themselves, he’s the best chance we’ve got at defeating the most dangerous president in modern history. 

The best argument for Joe Biden is derived from even the quickest glance across the aisle.  Donald Trump, the tangerine-tinted spearhead of the Republican Party, occupies the White House with Twitter in one hand and the nuclear codes in the other. By every metric, Trump is an utter embarrassment. His moral failures are more visible than ever during this pandemic: Trump ignored the coronavirus until the last minute, made blatantly false promises, played petty games with the distribution of supplies, stifled the voices of medical professionals, and is now pushing an unapproved, potentially fatal ‘miracle cure.’ Donald Trump has displayed this sort of erratic behavior since the first day of his presidency; he has the mark of a madman. He’s surrounded himself with a perpetually fluid cabinet of yes men, and his once-resilient party is on their knees at his service, trading their backbones for re-election. Trump has dealt innumerable damage to the American psyche in four years – and as of now, Joe Biden is our chance to cap that number where it stands. If he plays his cards well as president, Biden has the potential to undo the harm that Trump has inflicted. Though a disagreeable one, Joe Biden could be a viable vessel for putting Democratic policy on the table. 

Some will argue that Biden and Trump are essentially the same. Why bother voting if you’re getting the same end product under either of two parties? Why is Joe Biden better just because he calls himself a Democrat? To answer, take a look at his platform. In terms of policy, Biden may be closer to the GOP than we’d like, but he’s certainly nowhere near Trump’s ideology. He’s not Mike Bloomberg – come to think of it, doesn’t it seem like they threw him in there to scare us with a quasi-conservative bogeyman other than Biden? Bloomberg made Biden look like Coretta Scott King. Anyways, with this primary’s factional divisions, Democrats have forgotten how many policies and sentiments they share with the other side of the party. Let’s begin with criminal justice, an issue that has been Biden’s Achilles heel in the past. Biden recognizes his grave mistakes during the War on Drugs and now proposes legislation to eliminate mandatory sentencing minimums, expunge marijuana crime records, abolish private prisons, and outlaw capital punishment. Sure, it’s not the drug legalization and systemic overhaul that progressives advocate, but it’s what’s on the table right now. Biden has moved to the left on education issues since his vice presidency, including promises of free college for low-income families and expansion of student debt relief programs. His climate policies include a moratorium on offshore drilling and a carbon tax. His record on firearms is particularly strong, having long been an advocate for universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons. Biden sports an ‘F’ rating from the NRA, a gold medal for any liberal lawmaker. His healthcare positions have become controversial throughout the course of the primary when compared to Bernie Sanders’ Medicare For All bill. Biden supports an expansion of Medicare and a public healthcare option; his plan provides a government-subsidized healthcare program expanding on Obamacare without the prospect of abolishing private health insurance. This is clearly not the no-holds-barred big-government restructuring of the American healthcare system progressives desire, but it’s undoubtedly a step in the right direction regardless of its shortcomings. Likewise, Biden’s support of raising corporate and capital gains taxes is not Elizabeth Warren’s gargantuan wealth tax, but it’s a step towards it. Other policies from the liberal grab bag – funding for rural broadband, a $15 minimum wage, citizenship for Dreamers, et al. – are incorporated into Biden’s platform. In an effort to win over progressive votes, it’s likely that he’ll adopt even more Sanders-esque policy to sweeten the pot. When it’s all written out, doesn’t it sound like a good deal? All that might not be enough, but we can all be one step closer to every single one of those policies if you go out and vote. But just in case you’re not convinced, let’s compare that to four more years under Trump.

With another term, Donald Trump can sow the seeds of evil deep into America’s soil. He can corrupt its roots, leaving a long-living legacy of his strain of crony conservatism. Take an area that has already been dealt damage by the Trump administration: the Supreme Court. Trump has nominated two young conservatives to the Court over the past three years. Obviously, justices serve for life, so he’s already planted his influence for years to come. If he gets re-elected, however, it may have generational consequences. Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, both appointed by President Clinton in the 1990s, are in their eighties. If they pass away at any point during Trump’s second term, their seat will be filled by some fifty-year-old conservative. Imagine two more Brett Kavanaughs. If that happens, conservatives will outnumber liberals on the Supreme Court seven to two for years. That puts vital decisions – Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges, to name a few – at risk. Citizens United v. FEC will take off its hat and stay awhile. Landmark cases solidifying a woman’s right to choose and Americans’ ability to marry who they love could be down the drain. Beyond the Supreme Court, giving Trump power for another term could set the United States back decades in policy. Republicans could repeal the Affordable Care Act. They could pump taxpayers’ money into unilateral military efforts in foreign countries. The economy could be massively deregulated, as we’ve seen over the past few years, leaving the climate smoldering and stepping on workers’ and consumers’ necks. Four to eight years under Joe Biden wouldn’t be perfect by any means, but compared to the destructive potential of more Trump, it could be a godsend. 

Even with all this laid out, supporters of Bernie Sanders and others will undoubtedly have a hard time deciding whether to give in to the establishment. It seems unfair. Here’s a message to disgruntled progressives across America: I get it. Nominating Joe Biden inches over Bernie Sanders feels like an enormous kick in the shins. Once again, left-learning voters are asked to choose the lesser of two evils. Four years after Hillary Clinton’s stunning defeat, every Democrat’s worst fear is a repeat of that dreadful night in November of 2016. From the progressive perspective, this cycle has only mirrored the last – the DNC has erred on the side of an old, white, establishment moderate from Obama’s inner circle over Sanders once again. But to prevent the same disastrous outcome, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party needs to play an active role in preventing Trump’s re-election. Voter turnout, like always, will be an astronomically influential factor in each candidate’s success or failure. Every anti-Trump American, Democrat or otherwise, needs to do their part. 

At the ballot box, Democratic voters essentially have four options. For the sake of our own sanity, let’s not even consider those who would vote for Trump. The first is to roll with the establishment and cast your ballot for Joe Biden. This does not need to be done enthusiastically, nor with any sense of pride, but in acknowledgment of civic duty and solemn knowing of the evils that lie on the other side of the ballot. Voting for Biden will be difficult for many, but it’s simply what needs to be done. 

The second option is to write in Bernie. It’s tempting, I know, but it will get you nowhere. If every single Sanders supporter wrote him in, the only thing you’d get in the end is a split Democratic vote and a continued Trump presidency. Not to mention, Bernie Sanders himself pledged that he would support the nominee over Trump, so to write him in would be going against the wisdom of the man you wish to elect. In this widespread write-in scenario, moderates would vote for Biden, and progressives would vote for Bernie. There’s one half of the voting populace, while the other has their candidate already in mind – Trump. It’s simple math, the same which holds up for the third option: voting third party, particularly for the Greens. We have no form of ranked-choice voting in the United States yet, so third parties have never done anything but assist the victory of the man on the other side. We could criticize the two-party system all day, but right now, it’s what we’ve got. Apart from splitting the vote, the Green Party has viability issues of its own. One look at its platform makes these apparent – their 2020 nominee openly touts ‘ecosocialism.’ His pinned Tweet disparages “the essence of Capitalism.” That might be a sophomore political science major’s waking dream, but those kinds of candidates don’t win national elections in America. At least, they won’t for a while – probably twenty or thirty years, time enough for the demographics to shift – but as for now, self-declared socialists have a particularly hard time in this country. Thus, voting for anyone but Biden or Trump will not get that candidate elected, it’ll just aid another. 

The fourth and final option is to stay home in November. Several of the other choices were undesirable, but this is the worst. To withdraw from our democracy is to admit defeat. Voting is the most essential right bestowed upon citizens of the modern republic – now that we have a chance to end the reign of a sociopath, some want to throw it all away? It is not a moral failure to vote for someone you disagree with in order to hinder the success of a greater evil. It is a moral responsibility. Not voting isn’t some act of bravery or a middle-finger to the establishment – it’s an act of submission. To stay home on Election Day is to take injustice lying down. I’ve stumbled upon some niche political corners that recommend a revolution, guillotines and all, as a progressive alternative to Biden – that’s option five – but I wish them luck considering the Republicans are the ones with all the guns. You’re really kicking yourself for all that anti-2A legislation now, right? Besides all that, nothing can take away from the fact that in 2020, Americans have a duty to vote with their conscience and their brain. Sometimes we need to use our brains to make uncomfortable decisions, especially those to which our conscience might object. 

A Democratic presidency is tangible in a post-Trump America. Right now, with the state of extreme division that has overtaken the Democratic Party, it seems far away. It would be easy to lose hope in the Party, the electoral system, and this country if Joe Biden was the best candidate we could muster up. Unfortunately, that’s the way it looks – we can only hope the Democrats didn’t make another fatal mistake nominating the ‘safe’ choice – but we can make the best of a hazy situation. Liberals, centrists, socialists, conservatives, libertarians, and anyone else who’ll lend their votes are welcome in this effort. This is not a plea for Democratic unity, this is a call for American unity. Unity among friends, enemies, and all decent people. Donald Trump represents everything the United States should not be. He is an existential threat to the very idea of this nation. This is a battle for the soul of America – one in which we should all readily fight rather than throw down our arms. This won’t be one-sided, though. As of now, Joe Biden has done little to show that he deserves progressives’ votes after leaving Bernie Sanders in the dust. There is a multitude of ways Biden can earn our respect: adopting progressive policy, selecting a progressive running mate, and so on. Hopefully, we can then find the strength to put aside our differences to fight the common enemy. We can find the strength to move on from this bad dream. America will find the strength to overcome.

2 thoughts on “The Biden Dilemma

  1. Patrick: so well said and well written. Everyone take the time to read. Think about making your vote count to preserve out great nation!


  2. The thing that I don’t understand is that the blatant corruption and disregard of the Constitution continues. And that the magahatters are perfectly ok with this. The narrow mindedness and willful ignorance of many Americans is so glaring. A livable wage, healthcare for all, working for equity between poor and uber wealthy have only become leftist and radical ideas because the feeble minded have believed the lies of the corporate government for decades. It is a shame that more young people didn’t come out for Bernie. What do you think is the reason for that?


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