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OP-ED: The American left should vote for Biden

  • Published at 11:54 pm October 31st, 2020
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden
Photo: Reuters

Though he doesn’t deserve it

The 2020 US presidential elections are just days away. Every four years, we are told that the upcoming election is the most crucial, consequential election in history. Given what’s at stake, the claim is not exaggerated this time around. We are at a unique moment in history, with the confluence of existential crises like climate change and the threat of nuclear war, supplemented by a raging pandemic and possible global economic depression.

The famous Doomsday Clock, a symbol that represents the threat to organized human life on earth, has been set at 100 seconds to midnight (apocalypse) by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in their 2020 statement -- closer than ever before.

Joe Biden is a terrible candidate to get behind, especially for the left-wing that has not yet received any significant concessions from Biden or his running mate Kamala Harris. But given the alternative -- (at least) four more years of Donald Trump -- the top priority should be to get the gangster out of the White House at the ballot box on November 3.

What Biden offers

Biden represents the dominant neoliberal wing of the Democratic party, which is loathed by its left-wing, progressive flank. These progressives -- comprised largely of younger and diverse demographics -- are essentially the future of the party, given the current trends within it. Notable examples include overwhelming support for progressive policies such as Medicare for All and The Green New Deal.

To nobody’s surprise, these two essential and hugely popular proposals are missing from a Biden-Harris mandate. In fact, Biden has vowed to veto Medicare for All even if it passes both houses of Congress as well as committed to a “no fracking ban.” Harris has followed suit, rebuffing these proposals.

Moreover, Biden’s overall campaign promise of a “return to normalcy” and “restoring the soul of the nation” does next to nothing to inspire or motivate progressives to vote for him, as most of these voters hold people like him responsible for creating the circumstances that made Trump president in the first place. For them, it’s a choice between a continuation of a devastating Trump presidency and a return to the conditions which led to it.

The equation for the left

There is presently a great divide in the progressive world with regards to voting for Biden or not voting at all. Meaning, though no one will cast a ballot for Trump, a vote that isn’t for Biden is basically a vote for Trump. Progressive icons like Noam Chomsky and Cornel West are strongly for voting Biden over Trump -- essentially pushing for the “voting for the lesser of two evils” strategy, while the likes of Glenn Greenwald and Chris Hedges oppose this view. Chomsky points out: “In a system of extreme power, even the slightest differences can translate into massive differences in outcome.”

This is more felicitous than ever, when the survival of the species is in question. Therefore, however horrible a potential Biden administration may be, a Trump one is clearly worse -- as the last four years have borne witness. West states: “Biden is a potential slow neoliberal disaster, Trump a guaranteed quick neofascist catastrophe.”

For the left, it’s surely not going to be “singing kumbaya” with the Biden administration but a second Trump term would mean refighting tooth and nail on already won fights to simply preserve the progress achieved in recent times. There are promising signs for the left, such as Sanders making a push for labour secretary, part of an overall learning curve from past lapses by the left.

Sanders has also laid out his 100-day plan for the Biden presidency -- this bold and unprecedented move speaks to the increasing strength of the progressive base, especially compared to four to five years ago. Bolstering Sanders are freshman progressive lawmakers, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, who’re pulling the Overton window leftwards, while rising in political prominence and stature.

Too close for comfort

Trump’s re-election chances were very promising before the pandemic. But his dismal handling of the pandemic and the racial tensions surrounding the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police officers have completely upended the state of the race. And now -- if we were to believe the polls -- it will take a near miracle for him to pull off a victory.

With early voting shattering records, Trump can only cross his fingers and chalk it up to being solely a reflection of voters looking to avoid voting on Election Day and not Democratic and Independent voter enthusiasm or an emphatic indictment of his job and debate performance. In his desperation, he is trying everything to better his chances -- from blatant voter suppression and intimidation to even changing his religion.

However, there are a couple potential positive signs for Trump, like the NBC/WSJ poll in Trump’s favour -- arguably the only one -- which asks about whether people are better off versus four years ago. Also, the Biden team, which has been very competent so far -- from crushing the somewhat insurgent Sanders presidential campaign to minimizing Biden’s time in the spotlight during the general election campaign phase and keeping public attention on Trump’s failure to deal with the pandemic -- have urged supporters to vote and not be complacent, possibly indicating their internal polling showing the race to be closer than it appears.

In order to avoid a potential constitutional crisis resulting from a “red mirage” -- where Trump may lead on election night but Biden may end up winning sizably by the time all votes are counted -- the best outcome one can hope for is a Biden victory on election night all through to the end of vote counting.

With only a week to the election, the race is unfortunately still too close to call. Whoever thought that a contest between a stoppable force and movable object couldn’t be a nail biter might just be in for a surprise.

Imtiaz Arefin is a contributor based in Canada.

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