Should we #settleforbiden?

The case for a more progressive Joe Biden


In 2016, President Trump ran his campaign on a series of promises: to bring jobs back from China, to build a wall, to bring troops home, etc. Four years later, America has lost 200,000 people to Covid-19, 22,000,000 people have lost their jobs and both presidential candidates are running campaigns without policy as their main selling point. After all, the majority of voters who support Biden are voting against Trump. And many Trump supporters are voting for Trump simply because he’s not Biden. But where are the policies? Voters know exactly what they could lose if this election goes wrong for them—but what exactly do we gain? 

Some Democrats argue that under a Biden presidency, we gain the ability to fight for the issues we believe in, a fight that could not exist under another Trump term. Those who believe Biden is too moderate, believe that he can be pushed to adopt more progressive positions after his inauguration. While others argue that it simply doesn’t matter whether or not we see substantive change out of a Biden presidency – Trump is infinitely, immeasurably worse. 

While all of these explanations may certainly be true, they are all flawed in one crucial way: they allow Joe Biden, and the Democratic establishment to keep their power without making any policy concessions to working class progressives. Simultaneously, Democratic establishment expects progressives to pledge full allegiance to Biden (vote blue no matter who, remember?). 

In fact, it seems that taking away any choice progressives had in the first place has become a strategy for the Democratic establishment. Many Democrats blame the Green Party for Hilary Clinton losing Pennsylvania to Trump in 2016. For this election, they are desperate not to make the same mistake. In Pennsylvania, a key swing state, Democratic activists delayed the start of mail-in voting in order to kick Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins off the ballot. 

It seems as if the Democrats are more interested in preventing progressives from voting for the candidates who represent more progressive values, than actually earning the votes of those they claim to serve. Not only is this strategy undemocratic, it also reveals their hypocrisy—the same people who are angry about Republican voter suppression are actively engaged in several court battles to kick another candidate off the ballot. Perhaps if Democrats spent as much energy actually addressing the needs of the working class, as they do engaging in voter suppression, they wouldn’t have to take away a citizen’s right to dissent. Ultimately, it is the candidate’s job to convince prospective voters to vote for them, and it seems like Democrats have lost their faith in Joe Biden to do so. 

Some argue that Joe Biden has already made plenty of concessions. After Bernie Sanders dropped out and Biden became the presumptive nominee, Biden assembled the “Biden-Sanders task forces” aimed to unite the Democratic Party. The major policy shift that these task forces yielded was on climate change, shifting Biden’s goal for a carbon free economy from 2050 to 2035

However, the integrity of that plan has since been corrupted. The Democratic National Convention removed language from the final party platform which had previously stated that “Democrats support eliminating tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuels,” without any explanation. Not only are they changing their platform, Joe Biden is also hiring representatives of the fossil fuel industry to work for their campaign. The Biden campaign recently hired former fossil fuel lawyer Ken Salazar to work as an advisor. 

I want to make something exceedingly clear—I am not advocating for Trump to win reelection; the implications of that could be catastrophic, Rather, I am advocating for Biden to become a more humane, effective and electable candidate. Becoming more progressive is not just taking the “moral high ground,” because it is actually a strategically smart political move as well. Perhaps the most convincing argument for a more progressive Biden is that it will help him defeat Trump.

A recent poll found that Biden is lacking by double digits when it comes to enthusiasm. Just 27% of Biden supporters are enthusiastic about voting for him, while 53% of Trump supporters are enthusiastic about voting for Trump. In an unprecedented election where nearly half of all voters expect to have logistical difficulties voting, enthusiasm for the candidates certainly matters.

On the contrary, voters are very enthusiastic about progressive policies. Take Medicare for All, a progressive policy Joe Biden said he would veto. Nearly 70% of all registered voters support Medicare for All. With millions of Americans now living without their employer-based healthcare, Biden could give voters something to vote for, rather than against, if he were to genuinely fight for the bill.

Currently, Biden’s enthusiasm numbers are worse than Hillary Clinton’s in 2016 at this point in the race—and we all know exactly how that turned out.