A begrudging request for you in November

Monday, September 14, 2020 - 10:17am

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This election cycle sure has been a hell of a ride. I didn’t think anything would be able to top 2016, but tensions have escalated to a whole new level this year. At least that’s what it seems from what social media would present to you. This year has been chaotic for everyone, but a plague and long-standing hierarchies being challenged hasn’t stopped anyone from being involved in the soap opera-level drama of the election. President Donald Trump’s ineffective policies concerning the rise of COVID-19 have done nothing to stop his fervent base — a stark contrast to the quarrels going on in the Democratic Party. Remember when people thought the Republican National Convention would be in shambles? People aren’t even sure if the election’s only constant, the date, is secure. Many theorize that some kind of delay may manifest itself out of the Trump administration, even if it’s incredibly unlikely. However, even after all that’s transpired, Trump’s second term is still a likely possibility.

I don’t have a lot of faith in former Vice President Joe Biden. I never liked the guy; In fact, the first piece I ever wrote for The Michigan Daily was about my distaste for the former VP. His history on minimum sentencing leaves a foul taste in my mouth. It’s especially pronounced when colligated with his own choice in VP, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. Harris’s history is arguably worse than Biden’s: Her individual cases as a prosecutor led to at least 1,560 arrests for petty marijuana charges. Harris is undoubtedly more competent and clever than Biden, I’ll give her that, at least. It may surprise you, but this long-winded roundabout was to stage my argument as to why disillusioned college kids like myself should vote for Biden this November.

I’m not here to mince words. Here’s the practical, realpolitik of the situation. If reelected, Trump will cause more material harm to the average American than Biden could possibly dream of. Let’s look at the issues that have framed 2020 in the minds of the masses, COVID-19 and racial injustice. It’s easy to see where Trump has failed on containing the virus.

At the beginning of the pandemic, when the virus first hit America’s shores, his insistence on keeping the country running normally was a hindrance that inhibited America’s ability to respond effectively. Trump has been notoriously stubborn to acknowledge his own failings, over the course of the pandemic continuing to claim that it would “go away” like a miracle. Even when he acknowledges the virus, he continues to try and find a way to weasel his way out of conceding to his failures. His testing practices have continued to lag behind the rest of the world, placing us in fourth place behind Canada, the UK and Italy back in May. In fact, the United States is currently squandering its time when compared to most other places. 

For countries that have had cases as long as the U.S., we still lead the world in confirmed cases of COVID-19, at more than 45,000 new cases confirmed on Aug. 20, according to the European CDC. The upper echelons of daily cases are peculiarly reserved for the U.S., along with India and Brazil, the three countries with the highest cases per day. Interesting how countries with strongmen who are unable to acknowledge weakness are ineffective at dealing with the virus. As of Aug. 5, John Hopkins University placed the U.S. seventh in COVID-19 deaths per capita. Not the worst, to be entirely fair, but considering the fact that the U.S. is the wealthiest country on the planet, I feel like we could do better.

Additionally, America experienced its worst economic quarter on record, collapsing by a whopping negative 32.9% GDP. The virus is to blame, obviously, but the rebound towards recovery is still tenuous. Trump’s brute force policy of “reopening” is ineffective as the restrictions for containing the virus are being blamed while not acknowledging that the effects of the virus itself are to blame for the downturn. There is no doubt that the virus could’ve been handled better. 

Biden’s outlined plans are obviously half-baked, as he isn’t in office just yet. It’s hard to predict what will happen in November, so counting on a clear party majority in the House and Senate isn’t the way to go. However, in the little he has provided, Biden seems to show that he plans to ease the strain upon the workers of this nation, which is undoubtedly disproportionately affecting low-income people more. Paid leave for sick workers will prevent people from having to go into work despite their sickness just to survive on their paycheck. Guaranteed testing will make the information more accessible and infections easier to prevent. The gestures towards safer policy makes me think that even the most banal of changes will be comparatively better than 45’s attempts.

In March, we were all so naive about what the year had in store for us. COVID-19 would go away in a month or two. The quarantine was rough but it would get better. But in May, events transpired that left the nation in even deeper disarray. George Floyd was murdered. That much is obvious to anyone who paid any attention to what really transpired between the officer and citizen in Minneapolis. The brewings of upheaval were always there, but Trump exacerbated these tensions beyond a reasonable doubt (Black Lives Matter was founded in 2013 under former President Barack Obama’s tenure, actually). Trump’s entire term has been marked by playing up to the wants of white supremacists. Remember Charlottesville? The “blood and soil” tiki torch folk? “Good people on both sides,” in the words of our president. A banal instance to some people, sure, but it marks a trend rather than an exception. Though our institutions have maintained themselves relatively well, the Republican Party’s continued sympathetic rhetoric towards white nationalists has led to a 55% increase in registered numbers of racist skinheads, neo-Confederate groups and Ku Klux Klan groups, among others, since Trump was elected into office. 

The “law and order” president continues not to acknowledge the empirical facts behind Black Americans’ continued disadvantages in this country. Black men are, accounting for all variables, unjustly sentenced longer and more frequently than their white counterparts. Breonna Taylor’s killers, who killed her in her own home, are still free. Biden’s policies on racial injustice aren’t as comprehensive as many would hope for, but the mere acknowledgment of the racist institutions that led us here is leagues better than what we currently have. Biden — even if to a minuscule extent — is partially beholden to the more progressive wing of the party. If he staffs his cabinet with competent leaders, perhaps he could be swayed to a more comprehensive policy. Trump’s cabinet, no way; if his aides can even stay longer than a couple of months, that is. 

Joe Biden isn’t cool. He isn’t amazingly charismatic or intelligent or inspirational. Many of you, presumably college students who consider themselves progressives, liked Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. I loved Bernie. I loved him in 2016. He was a beacon of hope in a party that continued to prove itself stalwartly against changing itself. I understand that. It may sound strange to you, but the strongest argument for voting Biden in my eyes, even if it prioritizes “feelings over facts,” is staying true to Sanders’s legacy. He has been an ardent democratic socialist for most of his life, from Vermont to the Senate in Washington, D.C. Socialism is on the rise, and it’s arguable that he popularized it here in the U.S. As a product of Sanders's influence on the party, Biden’s campaign can lay claim to the most “progressive platform of any Democratic nominee in the modern history of the party,” — which is pathetic, if you think about it. 

Nevertheless, Sanders’s life project was to further the cause of socialism. He wanted to fight for the little guys, and he did all he could to secure that goal. The Democrats hate us. They hate that we challenge their old guard, and they hate that they’re beholden to our whims. If you want to keep it that way, you vote for Biden. Solidify yourself as a voter, and they’ll know that you’re here to stay. Taking a myopic intellectual grandstand can stroke your ego, and I totally understand inclinations towards that, but engaging in your civic duty is a surefire way to make sure that the Democratic National Convention can’t get rid of us. And if/when Biden is ill-equipped to handle the problems that come his way? The last stand of the old guard will prove to be ineffective, and we will be there to pick up the pieces and show them how it’s done, giving us more progressive types the chance to say “we told you so.”

Now that my tirade is over, I honestly don’t blame you if you feel disillusioned. Realpolitik is frustrating. I wish I could be an ideologue all the time, rather than just most of the time. The DNC is easy to hate, almost as much as the RNC. The neoliberal ideology that is the foundation of, let’s be real, both parties, is malignant and destructive. But reform is the most easily accessible way to achieve what we want. I hope Biden is prepared to stuff his cabinet with smarter people. Because as it stands now, he isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. I’m not confident in Biden winning, and a second Trump term is as equally likely as a Democratic victory in my mind. If this article proves itself to be moot, with Trump winning in 2020, feel free to call me out. But coming from somebody just as bitter and cynical as you, dear reader, I urge you to vote blue in November. Remember, things can always get worse. 

Sam Fogel can be reached at samfogel@umich.edu