It has come to my attention that many young progressives are angry at the Democratic party in general — and its choice of Joe Biden in particular — and that they’re considering either voting for a third party or not voting at all.
Is this you? If so, my two sons — both concerned progressives in their twenties — have asked me to talk to you. Both want me to urge you to reconsider, for the sake of the things we — they, you, and I — all want.
I’ll start by saying that we’ve come to a unique moment. That the virus has changed everything, including the prospects for change.
It’s a moment that presents more opportunity for progressive causes than we’re likely to see again for many years.
Expanded healthcare. Livable minimum wage. Criminal justice reform. Action on the environment. These are all things we’ve always wanted, and now they’re all tantalizingly close. All of them are looking more possible than ever in my lifetime.
Anyone can see that big ideas are on the table. Big programs. Big government. Big spending. Big clawbacks of those tax breaks for large corporations. Big shifting of the resources and tools of society. Big focus on the real needs of real people.
Republicans would call that socialism. And for once, they’d be right.
Because if socialism is what you’re looking for, now’s your chance. This might well be the only moment you’ll ever see where socialists have a real shot at serious structural change.
I fully understand your disappointment with the Democratic party. I’ve been disappointed with them for fifty years. Yet I’ve never voted any other way.
Democrats are fractious. They’re often in disarray. They often bow to corporate interests. They’ve never been as progressive as I’ve wanted them to be. But we’ve lived in a two-party system forever, and that’s not going to change in the next three weeks.
I learned long ago that voting for Democrats is not optional. Because if there’s one thing that’s always been inarguably brilliant about Democrats, it’s that they’re not Republicans. This alone is worth your vote. Please don’t learn that the hard way.
Democrats live in the real world, a world Republicans no longer even visit. Most Democrats believe in progressive values, even if we don’t think of them that way, or don’t adhere to them consistently. We revere reason, science, critical thinking, equal justice, and economic opportunity. Yes, we disagree on how to achieve them. And yes, we fall short on delivering them.
But Republicans have shown repeatedly that they want no part of any of it. They have no interest in the well-being of anyone who’s not already wealthy. And they’re depending on you to throw away your vote.
I also understand your feelings about Joe Biden. He’s old. He’s not attuned to you or your generation. He’s a “centrist,” unable to grasp the need for radical change in our rapidly devolving society.
I get it. I wanted Elizabeth Warren. I still do.
But I’ve watched Biden for twenty years. Yes, he’s a centrist, an incrementalist. He’s always believed in small steps, even though there weren’t many big steps available to him. His entire career — first in the Senate, then as vice president — was spent facing down the fierce Republican obstruction that was ultimately impregnable. He was, and still is, mired in the dark age of progressive causes, and he’s been as badly burned by it as anyone.
But I submit to you that what matters now is not so much the man, as the moment.
The moment we’re in demands that we attend to the deep wounds exposed by the virus. Healthcare reform will take on an urgency it’s never had before. Lives will quite literally depend on it. Biden gets that. He’s a deeply compassionate person, and he will rise to this moment.
He will preside over a huge national discussion, driven by national hardship. It might lead to Medicare for All, or it might not. But one thing is certain — that discussion only happens if Biden wins.
If Biden loses, Obamacare is doomed. And you will dearly miss it when it’s gone. Surely you see this.
So healthcare is very much on the ballot. Democrats think it’s a right. Republicans think it’s socialism. I think it’s worth your vote.
Likewise with justice reform. It’s no accident that James Clyburn put the entire weight of South Carolina’s Black electorate on Biden’s side in the primary, in effect giving him the nomination. Clyburn was convinced — and he ought to know — that Biden was his people’s best chance of moving the needle on racism.
Let’s be clear. There is no greater threat to either your present needs or your future prospects than the Republican party. They are dragging the country inexorably into fascism, and it isn’t pretty. This might be our last chance to vote them out.
So if you’re a progressive who feels let down by Biden, by Democrats, by the entire rancid system, I sympathize. But please don’t take it out on yourself. Or my sons. Or me.
Hold your nose if you must. But vote for Biden.