Does Biden Deserve Your Vote?
If Joe Biden wants our votes, he has to be more than the lesser of two evils
The night of April 14, I turned to my partner and asked, “If you were Elizabeth Warren, what would you do?” She looked at me, pained, and answered, “She has to, right?” The following morning, we heard the clip of Warren meekly saying she’d accept Joe Biden’s offer to be Vice President if asked. I felt humiliated for her, something akin to watching the survivor of sexual assault testify before her abuser knowing he’s going to be acquitted. Not only is she forced to be publicly demeaned for the sake of the party, but the humiliation will come again when she’s rejected, when Biden chooses someone else to be his running mate. While Warren may “have to,” the rest of us do not.
Many of us — the queer, black, brown, underprivileged, overlooked voters — are tired of being told we have no choice. The Obama debacle, when we pounded the pavement of hope to get a previous so-called centrist elected only to be given the middle finger when he chose bigot Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his presidential inauguration, laid the groundwork. This symbolic gesture was followed up with punishing action — instituting a profits over people bailout, deporting more immigrants than any President in US history, and betraying Flint’s population in a Trump-like hoax where he feigned sipping contaminated water in an effort to silence protesters, just to name a few highlights.
So, when Biden references the Obama legacy to bolster his campaign platform, he needs to know he’s alienating many of us not rallying us. For us, the election of Joe Biden is merely the replacement of one groper-in-chief with a kinder, gentler one. While Biden can’t change his past actions, he can do something to make us feel like voting for him isn’t one more opportunity to vote for the lesser of two unimpressive white men who haven’t done remotely enough to earn their position of power and privilege, never mind being intelligent or accomplished enough. I’m tired of the assumption that Biden should have my vote because I have no other choice. If Biden wants my vote, he has to work for it.
New York Times opinion columnist, Thomas Friedman, has alluded to this sentiment with his call for Biden to create a National Unity Cabinet consisting of people across the political spectrum, but he simultaneously drives home the fact that white men in powerful positions just don’t get it. I can buy into Friedman’s call for Biden to give us a spectacular cabinet and running mate to make voting for him feel somewhat less self-deprecating, but don’t insult my intelligence by recommending a team whose highlights include a bevy of exploitive business executives and a Mitt Romney-Bill Gates-Michael Bloomberg trifecta. A cabinet with Gates, Romney and Bloomberg isn’t diversification. It’s homogenization. To add insult to injury, Friedman anoints Warren to the position of overseer of his elite team. Isn’t that the place for any good woman?
The call for unity was Placater-in-Chief Barack Obama’s problem from the get-go. He spent so much time worrying about his reelection and his legacy that he ended up pandering to his detractors and alienating his supporters. The result was a Tea Party insurrection that set us up for the fascist in the White House who is single-handedly overthrowing the government. I’m agnostic about political parties, but if bailing out the powerful while abandoning the everyman starts dressing itself up as change we can believe in once again, it’s time to take out the smelling salts.
Whoever is sworn in as President in January 2021 will be faced with a socioeconomic crisis unlike any we have seen before. If Biden wants to be the person raising his right hand to take the oath of office, he needs to get specific about the new world he envisions will be left standing four years from now when we go to the polls again and how we’re going to get there. Call up Joseph Stiglitz, Elizabeth Warren, Tsai Ing-wen, Tarana Burke, Jose Antonio Vargas, Bill Frist — the list of untapped experts goes on. He needs to consult people capable of real creativity and thought leadership, people who cannot only imagine the United States of the future but the international community of the future. Then, create a platform no less visionary than the Marshall Plan and New Deal combined. He needs to turn the Contract with America on its head. Anything less than that and we’re going to wake up to another Republican coup in November, and this time, I’m afraid, there won’t be any bailout big enough to help the United States come back from it.