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Monday, May 20, 2024
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Opinion: Are you morally obligated to vote for Joe Biden?

Either way, we must see this election as an opportunity to fight for people that Biden and Trump aren’t helping

The following piece is an opinion and does not reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff. All opinions are edited for grammar, style and argument structure and fact-checked, but the opinions are the writer’s own.

This November will be my first time voting in a presidential election, and I’m scared of what is ahead. I can’t help but ask myself and my friends, especially after watching a video essay entitled: “Are you morally obligated to vote for Joe Biden?”

My immediate reaction is that I am obligated to vote for him, but I can’t say the same for everyone else, especially marginalized groups facing the consequences of the Biden administration’s actions. 

Marcela Valdes, a staff writer for The New York Times, wrote last month that “elections, historically, are decided not only by those who cast votes but also by those who don’t.” Important elections have been decided by just a few hundred votes.

Even though 2020 saw the biggest voter turnout in 120 years, 80 million eligible voters in the U.S. did not vote. Despite the power we, especially as young people, have to affect election results, many refuse to vote for reasons ranging from apathy and a lack of engagement to anger and protest. 

Bhaskar Sunkara’s book, “The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality,” argues that it is necessary for socialists to foster “an electoral strategy that can represent the distinct interests of working people, but without demanding that voters start immediately supporting unviable third-party candidacies.”

But how do we achieve this? If there were a way for a large collective of progressives to shift the American political system to prevent the situation in which we have to choose from “the lesser of two evils,” — the situation we find ourselves in now — why haven’t we done it already?

Whether or not leftists like myself choose to vote, it is necessary to “form coalitions, defend democracy and change real people’s lives,” as Arash Azizi, a contributing writer for The Atlantic, puts it. When we cannot significantly alter the U.S. electoral system to offer voters what they believe to be better choices, we can build coalitions that advocate for working people and support marginalized communities.

Though the Democratic and Republican parties dominate our political system, third-party candidates have the power to alter elections entirely. Some will refuse to vote for Biden or Donald Trump but still want to vote for another candidate, even though it is not a new idea that these third-party candidates are redirecting support away from a candidate that is “the lesser of two evils.” 

In the election between Bush and Gore in 2000, some argue that third-party candidate Ralph Nader took away the votes that Gore needed to win Florida’s electoral votes and the election. However progressive Nader was, votes for him reallocated liberal votes away from Gore and contributed to Bush’s win that resulted in his Islamophobic responses to 9/11 and hundreds of thousands of lives lost

In our current political system, third-party candidates are doomed to fail. America’s two major political parties are deeply ingrained in our political system, and their members do everything in their power to keep the electoral system the way it is.

This power structure makes it all the more difficult to believe that either of these candidates deserves my vote. Yet, I know that another Trump presidency would bring further abortion restrictions, violence against immigrants and even stronger support of Israel than that of Joe Biden.

Nonetheless, it is wrong for Biden to feel he is owed votes just because he is a better option than Trump. Despite his moves to lessen the effects of climate change and his basic support of LGBTQ+ people, the good things that Biden has done are overshadowed by his horrible optics. Biden is the oldest president in U.S. history, and though “he’s too old” has become a tired refrain, it’s true. 

Though it is too late for us to alter the ballot we are facing in the 2024 presidential election, this should serve as a wake-up call that things need to change. Everyone who feels at all comfortable doing so should vote for Biden to avoid a Trump presidency. Many Americans were arguably so traumatized by Trump’s presidency that we are experiencing a “collective amnesia” about all of the ways Trump has shed light on American conservatism and its dangers, but this is just the beginning if we want to prevent this predicament from happening again.

In the coming months, people will continue to see their family and friends die in Gaza, their communities violently overpoliced and their rights stripped away. And the harrowing thing about this is that it will likely continue to be our reality no matter who wins.

Though it is necessary to seriously consider the fact that a Trump presidency will likely bring further chaos and inequality, especially for marginalized communities, Biden has broken promises and proven that he does not care as much as he should about vulnerable people. To feel any sense of hope from this situation, I try to see this election as an opportunity. Not to vote for one candidate or none of them, but to reevaluate how we view politics and social change.

The coalitions advocating for progressive and socialist policy in the U.S. need to work on answering the question of how we can incorporate progressive, working-class-oriented ideas into our political work. From Capitol Hill to our communities, it is in our hands to lead mutual aid efforts and make sure our neighbors are cared for — especially when Trump and Biden have both failed to do so for many people.

Reimagining our political system as one that doesn’t force us to choose between two old white men is a desirable goal, even if it seems far away. We must take collective and tangible action in our communities to ensure people have what they need to live good lives and to advocate confidently and openly for this idea to be implemented into our government systems.

This is easier said than done, but it has long been a goal of progressives. Now, we must advocate for a future in which no one feels “morally obligated to vote,” but instead that their vote will affect real change and progress in a country that cares about its most vulnerable populations. There is a long road ahead, and until then, I will vote for Biden to avoid something even worse and continue to participate in collective action in an attempt to advocate for the communities he has undoubtedly failed and support significant changes to our electoral system that better represent marginalized people.

Quinn Volpe is a sophomore in the School of Communication and Kogod School of Business and a columnist for The Eagle. 

This piece was edited by Alana Parker, Jelinda Montes and Abigail Turner. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Isabelle Kravis and Charlie Mennuti. 

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