Victoria Freire is a campus corps leader for the Bernie Sanders campaign and founder of GW Students for Bernie.
For many young and working class people across the country, the Bernie Sanders campaign brought hope for the first time in their lives. Now that he has suspended his campaign, a new reality has emerged: Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee.
I cannot vote for him.
Having spent the last six months knocking on doors, phone and text banking and organizing for Bernie, I have seen firsthand how desperately Americans need his life-saving policies. I cried with folks who had lost everything because of pharmaceutical industry greed, natural disasters and crushing student and medical debt. From listening to them, one thing is certain: the kinds of policies Bernie championed throughout his campaign are necessary and crucial to save lives. Without policies like Medicare For All and a Green New Deal, working class people will continue to die. Compromise will not save them.
I refuse to vote for Biden because he has consistently favored the wealthy elite over the working class. At a time in which radical policy changes are the only way to prevent climate catastrophe and mass deaths from COVID-19, Biden’s platform instead includes a want to not “demonize” the wealthy and have “no one’s standard of living change,” as he told rich donors at a fundraiser last June. When he attempts to glorify former President Barack Obama’s years in office, he notably neglects those who suffered the most as a result of the administration’s mass deportations, record civilian drone strikes and infamous Wall Street bailout. These policies have most directly affected low-income communities of color, communities Biden has not been particularly sensitive to. Biden has idealized his work with segregationists as work of “civility,” opposed integrated busing and worried such desegregation policies would cause his children to grow up “in a racial jungle.” He also authored the 1994 crime bill, which led to mass incarceration of disproportionately black and brown Americans. Just a few months ago, Biden gave a speech in Iowa claiming “poor kids are just as bright as white kids.” We have always known Biden was a racist, but Democrats only care about racial oppression when it’s their opponents who perpetrate it.
Just as horrifying is Biden’s longtime pattern of sexual harassment, and now, Biden has an allegation of sexual assault. Regardless of who you decide to vote for, I implore you to listen to Tara Reade’s story. Any Democrat who dismisses these allegations as uncredible or illegitimate is a hypocrite. I believe Reade, just as I believed Christine Blasey Ford and E. Jean Carroll. And as much as Democrats want me to, I do not believe in voting for the “lesser” of two rapists.
We must not forget that Biden voted for the Iraq war, voted for NAFTA, has consistently supported corporate bailouts and opposes Medicare for All amid a pandemic (one that he has been largely absent from). While Bernie Sanders held daily coronavirus town halls and round tables with medical experts, proposing $2,000 per month to every American, Biden was nowhere to be found. The only coronavirus response policy he has been vocal about, other than criticizing President Donald Trump, is advocating to hold in-person elections and putting thousands at risk.
Biden’s record is also relevant with respect to the U.S. Supreme Court. While many Democrats seem to think a blue vote will return the Court to liberal order, I wouldn’t be so certain. After all, Biden voted to confirm both conservative judges Sandra Day O’Connor and Antonin Scalia. More importantly, Biden was the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman during the Anita Hill hearings where Clarence Thomas, now the most conservative justice on the Court, was accused of sexual misconduct. Biden refused to allow an investigation take place and cast doubt on Hill while his committee of white men verbally abused and humiliated her to no end.
For many Bernie supporters, we were in a similar position in 2016. We knew Trump was dangerous, so when it was clear Bernie was not winning the nomination, he stepped aside and endorsed Hillary Clinton. He put on 39 rallies in 13 states over the final three months for Clinton, urging his base to vote blue no matter who. He and his supporters were still largely blamed for her loss, despite all of their efforts, with the mainstream media claiming a large number of Bernie supporters “defected” to Trump. But those key Bernie-Trump voters were never Democrats in the first place – they were self-identifying independents and traditional non-voters who distrust establishment politicians. Those who identified as Democrats, despite their preference for Bernie, knocked on doors and organized for Clinton. We will always be blamed for the loss, often by liberals who never participate beyond electoral politics.
Voting is a deeply personal choice. I respect those who have painfully decided to vote for Biden in the general election, because I know they don’t take that decision lightly. But neither have I, and neither have the sexual assault survivors or former incarcerated people whose lives were affected by Biden’s decisions. Their experiences are painful and valid and Democrats must stop putting blame on individuals and start questioning their own institutions. Start by asking why the DNC would choose such a weak candidate for Democrats to consolidate behind. The answer? Corporatist democratic leaders would rather have a fascist in the White House over a democratic socialist.
Trump is a dangerous figure, but he exists only by virtue of the prevailing establishment and status quo. He is a symptom of the late capitalist neoliberalism that the Democratic establishment embodies. By continuously voting for the lesser of two evils, I have effectively taken away the power of my own vote and allowed our country to move further to the right. If we continue to elect centrist figures like Biden, we will get another dangerously fascist candidate in 2024 and beyond.
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