If You Are Progressive & Not Voting for Biden...
The other day, my 16-year-old son looked up from where he was hunched over his computer, slogging through the day’s online schoolwork, and said to me sadly, “It’s weird that I’m going to be alive during the apocalypse.”
He was not referring to the pandemic. He was talking about the “Climate Countdown Clock” in New York City, which helps ring an alarm regarding the remaining seven years before the climate emergency becomes an irreversible global catastrophe.
Watching my children lose hope for the future, is quite possibly the saddest things I have ever witnessed. I want to fight back with every fiber of my being; to throw my entire weight against the prevailing wind that is blowing, like a hurricane of hopelessness and cynicism, making my children’s future feel bleak, dark, and dreadful.
The Climate Emergency
This election is personal for many reasons, but the issue that motivates me the most is climate change. It is literally a question of whether or not we are going to prevent:
- Deterioration of the oxygen we breath to the point that it will not be reliably safe to be outside for our children and grandchildren without a special mask to filter the air.
- Increasing global unrest due to world-wide disruption of crops and food production.
- Hurricanes and fires repeatedly detroying property with ever increasing ferocity, which in turn, increases the burdens on other regions as human beings renegotiate where the earth’s livable regions are located, and struggle to pay for the damages.
- Temperatures continuing to rise with no relief in sight, making larger and larger portions of the earth unable to grow crops or sustain human life.
As NASA puts it, because “climate change is a truly global, complex problem with economic, social, political and moral ramifications, the solution will require both a globally-coordinated response (such as international policies and agreements between countries, a push to cleaner forms of energy) and local efforts on the city- and regional-level (for example, public transport upgrades, energy efficiency improvements, sustainable city planning, etc.).”
Weighing Two Viable Candidates
Leaving aside Trump’s obviously abysmal record on the climate emergency, this is a man who demonstrably believes a reasonable way to run a business is to drive it into the ground in order to extract the profits, and who has promised to run our country “like a business.” A man who appears to approach life as if it were a game show. Who is a habitual and compulsive liar. Who believes in inherited “good” and “bad” genes.
The differences between the two viable candidates for President of the United States, and their potential to impact our climate emergency, are staggering.
And although some on the left of the political spectrum would like to focus on whether or not Biden will follow through on his promises and proposals, this is simply not the most relevant issue at hand.
The real issue is which of the two viable candidates will follow standard norms of governing behavior and allow rational conversation and reasonable debate.
Politicians are notorious for doing what they will after the election. That’s a given, across the board. I’m more interested in who is capable of rational conversation and reasonable dialogue when it comes to governing, then I am in the question of who will follow through on promises.
Biden will bring us back to a more civil and reasonable, science-based place from which to work on the issues. Trump, on the other hand, is not capable of that quality of interaction with the public.
Under Trump, our world is dominated by ridiculous, outrageous, and constant norm-busting antics that delegitimize science and rational conversation in favor of magical thinking and showmanship. Under Trump, government is like a continual life-altering and nail-biting game show. Alternatively, under the establishment Democrats, government will once again allow science a seat at the table, and put the grown ups back in charge.
From my perspective, this one issue — climate change and the emergency it creates for each and every one of us — is enough to make me want to work hard for Biden. And for those who are suspicious of his ability to keep his promises: the behavior of our sitting President and his ridiculous, grotesque personal and professional antics verses the Democratic Party candidate’s professional record of surrounding himself with experts in every field, comporting himself with dignity to the best of his ability, and respecting the long-held norms of conducting business and governing, simply leaves no room for any rational person to choose anyone other than Joe Biden.
Expression of Progressive Values in This Election
Yes, of course, as a progressive I would love to see our country take the paths espoused by Bernie Sanders. (I was one of his national delegates in both 2016 and 2020.) And I will continue to advocate for those things, and follow Sanders’ lead. In fact, at this particular time, my vote for Biden is a specific expression of progressive values at work. Because it’s not about me, it’s about the greater good.
To all those Bernie Sanders’ supporters who once tweeted (way back in October, 2019), “I’m willing to fight for someone I don’t know,” and who put bumper stickers on their cars that read, “Not me, Us!” — but who are now complaining that Biden should be courting their vote and tweeting that Biden hasn’t earned your vote — let me be as clear as I can be: NOW is the time for you to actually fight for someone you don’t know, and put US before ME.
Surely, by now, Bernie Sanders has earned your vote. Biden has earned Sanders’ vote but you do not see how this is Biden also earning YOUR vote? You do not believe Sanders when he shares his confidence in Biden and his reassurances that we will continue to advocate for progressive values inside a Biden administration?
Yes, it sucks to lose a primary. Yes, it is disheartening to once against see a neoliberal, establishment candidate get the Democratic Party nomination. (But honestly, what did you expect? Did you think they were just going to give up power?!) And yes, our country desperately needs big, structural change in order to correct the decades of inequity and corporate greed that has slowly killed the middle class and created a powerful oligarchy. Yes, I believe all of that, and… the reality is we are faced with only two viable options at an absolutely critical time.
The Big Tent Strategy
Biden has strong support from large groups of people on the right, the left and the middle of the political spectrum. He has spent his entire life building relationships, and his strategy is quite obviously the “big tent” strategy.
This might frustrate and anger you. It might disappoint you personally. It might feel unfair to you. And it might make you feel that he is not prioritizing the thing that is the most important to you, whether it is healthcare, fracking, or money in politics. I understand all of those feelings. And, while I empathize (to some extent) with you, I also understand the concept of a “big tent” and I accept that this requires prioritizing compromise over everything else. At this particular moment, that means making room for other opinions at the table, and embracing diversity. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
It is time for us all to put aside our personal feelings and join the effort to defeat Trump, because if Trump wins, the environment will suffer even more. And if Biden wins, we have a fighting chance at saving our planet.
You can either encourage your inner cynic and any of your friends who may be on the fence about whether it is worth it to vote, or you can get in here and push with us as we work to move this mountain.
And although I care most about the environmental emergency we are facing, the crisis of leadership goes well beyond climate change. I think the organization called VoteTrumpOut.com says it well:
“For every undocumented family seeking asylum, for every woman seeking access to reproductive healthcare, for every young person fighting to avert climate catastrophe, for every parent afraid of gun violence at their children’s school, for every working-class family hoping for some relief from the medical and economic fallout of the coronavirus, life will be very different under a Biden presidency than under four more years of Trump.
And crucially, Biden is moveable. We’ve already shown that with mass pressure, we can push him to support more progressive policies. Trump, on the other hand, is immune to public persuasion or protest. With a Biden presidency, a disciplined and mobilized left could extract significant victories. With another Trump presidency, the left would have few options and could face new levels of government repression. Our democracy, our planet, and our human rights would continue to sustain enormous — and potentially irreparable — damage.”
That doesn’t mean never again criticize Biden. It means now is not the time. Now, it is time to find ways to help. My son, and every young person, deserves a future that includes breathable air, physical safety, and reliable food security. The next generation is counting on you.