Would it be better for the left if Biden loses? This progressive believes so

Would it be better for the left if Biden loses? This progressive believes so
Source: The Associated Press

In the run up to the presidential election taking place in the United States this November, The Millennial Source is publishing a series of interviews showcasing different opinions about President Trump and former Vice President Biden to give readers insight into the views of candidates’ supporters and detractors.

Our first interview was with a Trump supporter involved in local government who also served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2016 and 2020, Andrew Shecktor.

For the next interview, we talked with a critic of Joe Biden’s from the left. Our source is an economist working in the public sector who prefers to remain anonymous in light of the current political climate in the US.

Each interview will be published with only minor edits made for clarification purposes and readability. If for any reason the content conflicts with the accepted facts of a given situation from nonpartisan sources or if some additional information could provide clarity, the reader will be informed in the “Editor’s note” (in italics) following the interviewee’s answer.

TMS: After dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Joe Biden and has since attempted to rally the party around him. According to a poll from USA Today/Suffolk in late April, a few weeks after Sanders dropped out of the race, about a quarter of polled Sanders supporters reported that they were undecided or unwilling to support Biden. Sanders has stated publicly, however, that the “vast majority” of his supporters will end up voting for Biden.

From your perspective, is there a credible argument for Sanders supporters to reject Biden in November? If so, what is it and what would doing so accomplish?

Routinely, people who supported Sanders but will not support Biden are seen as two things; purist and emotional. I’d argue that the decision to not support Biden actually shows two different things; a willingness to break from Bernie and a pragmatic approach to rebuilding the Democratic Party in a new image. The goal is to trigger another, admittedly rare, era of political realignment incorporating everyone (yes, even white, working class people in the Midwest).

From 2008 to the 2018 midterm, Democrats lost 900+ local seats, Republicans held governorships in 33 states and eventually all three branches of federal government. The Democrats saw a surge in 2018, but it had to come at the cusp of the most erratic presidency in modern times. Being a centrist is a political ideology and one that has spun itself into a leviathan over Democratic politics disallowing any dissent. I’d argue the centrists are the purists.

I believe that every election cycle the Democratic Party survives off fear. They promote this sentiment that every Republican will trigger the next doomsday. Every election we’re told, “this time is especially bad! We’ll change, promise! Just not now, next time!” I do think Trump’s presidency is one of the worst in modern times, but I also believe Bush’s presidency was equal. His presidency ended in the second worst recession in US history, hundreds of thousands of dead Middle-Eastern civilians and created the Patriot Act. Yet, history is being written that because of his presidential decorum he wasn’t as bad as he was and is some “cute grandpa” figure who can’t put on a poncho during inaugural rainfall. Well, that view has expired for some. No more votes of confidence or entitlements to votes you didn’t earn.

Below I outline in more detail, but basically I believe if the Democratic leadership goes zero of two against Trump’s wing they will be pushed to embrace expanding the big-tent, not closing the party door to grassroots movements. Our defeat nationally in 2020 can lead to a renewed focus at the local-level and new-fresh faces in leadership winning back the public’s consent to govern. Similar to how Romney losing was one of the best things to happen to the GOP.

TMS: Why don’t you support Biden? Is it based on his policies or are there other reasons?

It is one-part policy and another part political pragmatism. I believe that 4 years of Trump allows the progressive movement to continue building on its momentum at the local level. The Democratic Party has shown a reluctance to change. This reluctance has killed enthusiasm and made their only worthwhile pitch, “We’re not the Republicans.” We do want our Tea Party moment. They didn’t just begin by wiping out the Democrats in 2010 or unseating [Republican House of Representatives member] Eric Cantor in 2014. Their momentum started at the local-level. Investing in local-level politics, winning school boards and city councils until they were a staple for disillusioned conservatives who felt ignored by moderate Republicans like McCain who considered Lieberman, a Democrat, for vice president. Once the enthusiasm was built, they came for primaries. Having just been defeated in 2008 and then 2012 [presidential elections], the Republican leadership was in disarray. They opened the floodgates to the Tea Party’s grassroot movement and in an era that many of us thought wouldn’t see the Republicans back in power for decades we then saw them running the show. Michael Steele, Eric Cantor, John Boehner are fading in our minds and the House Freedom Caucus reigns [in] Congress.

The Democratic Party could have had our own moment and I believe they will albeit slowly, but the Democratic Party works as its own barrier to change. 2008 was a historic election and the first time the internet was [effectively used] for political purposes [due to] the unprecedented and massively successful digital campaign Obama ran, but there was a cost. The Democratic Party siphoned the lion’s share of their focus and resources from local-level organizations to the DNC for the sake of Obama’s reelection. Robby Mook and so many others continued to try to copy-paste the Obama 2008 election, but the result was an outdated campaign style, underfunded local-level organizations and a disgruntled growing voter base. It was about building more barriers between elected officials and their voters, not fewer.

I believe Biden serving his hinted one-term will continue the dissatisfaction many of us feel and continue the status-quo political arena where a candidate like Trump can even be competitive. We may rescue decorum and have marginally better policies, but the short to midterm political consequences I believe are unsustainable. Whereas, 4 [more] years of Trump will hopefully prove to the Democratic Party their way can’t continue, they will have to ally with the progressive movement and then we can create a new era of political realignment where we can continue our gains with people of color while also bringing back voters in the Midwest and South who likely care more about earning a fair wage than the scapegoats Republicans feed them.

Biden’s policies continue the same policy platforms that have incrementally led to a declining standard of living for more than half the country. Whereas Democrats continue to champion incremental gains, the mom coming off her second shift or the construction worker whose body physically can’t take another 5 years of hard-labor have lost hope and Republicans at least speak to their anger, even if they scapegoat immigrants as the cause. The Democrats do perform better than the Republicans with jobs and economic growth, but they both perform worse than the base year we should be comparing them to. Being marginally better than the other team while also still underperforming historical standards of living is not enough evidence to give you a vote of confidence, especially when you not only don’t seem to understand people’s anger but resent it.

Editor’s note: Although a segment of Democrats, especially those on the progressive left, felt disgruntled by Clinton’s campaign platform and tactics, she also won the overall popular vote by nearly 2.9 million votes. After she lost the election due to the US’ electoral college system, her campaign received more widespread criticism. According to data released in 2017 from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, 12% of democratic voters who supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries ended up voting for Trump.

Editor’s note: Economic inequality continues to be a feature of American life, with the US having the highest rate of inequality among advanced economies, but household median incomes have continued to rise over the past several decades. The wealth gap between the richest and poorest Americans more than doubled from 1989 to 2016, but overall Americans’ material standard of living is comparable to that of other rich nations and significantly better than developing nations. Nevertheless, middle class incomes in the US have grown at a slower rate than upper-tier incomes: from 1970 to 2018, middle class incomes rose 49%, but upper-tier incomes rose 64%.

TMS: Biden has been known to work with those with different perspectives to get things done. Supporters characterize this as a pragmatic and much-needed approach in an era of intense political gridlock and polarization. However, critics argue that America needs a leader who will fight for economic and societal change and will refuse to compromise when dealing with adversaries who disagree.

How important do you believe it is to elect someone who values compromise and pragmatism in our current political landscape?

What is pragmatic about the “third-way” Democratic strategies? They result in severe [electoral] losses, they’ve allowed the Republicans to copyright “patriotism,” and my generation today is worse off than our parents. Income inequality is worse, first-time home buying is worse, wage growth is stagnant and how many thousands have died in pointless wars? There are kids born after 9/11 who are dying in those wars. The idea that progressives are not open to compromise because we aren’t giving credence to conservative perspectives in our platforms is not an unwillingness to compromise. You compromise during negotiations, not before. With Biden’s wing, they compromise their platform, then they compromise at the negotiating table and then when McConnell reneges on acting in good faith the Democrats flinch then compromise again. We are left with policies, even during times where Democrats are in majority power, that are mostly conservative. Progressives will compromise, but only at the negotiating table and not on areas that are demanded by our principles like a woman’s right to choose or support for black lives.

TMS: A recent article in The New York Times outlines the ways Biden’s political career has been marked and shaped by personal loss. Allies have said that this makes him uniquely capable of leading the country during our current time of crisis (with the coronavirus, severe economic turmoil and racial strife).

Do you agree? How do you view Biden’s past reckoning with grief and adversity and those who argue that his experiences can help move the country forward?

I feel great sympathy for Biden’s losses. None of my perspectives are personal. I think Biden is likely a very nice man, but I disagree with his policies and political strategies. That being said, how his political ideology doesn’t impact my view of him personally the opposite is also true. His personal life does not impact my view on his politics. I don’t care about personal details, unless they mar his integrity like committing sexual assault. I want to know what your policies will do and how you will accomplish them. Everything else is just biographical. I was sad to hear how many losses he has experienced.

TMS: Traditional political thought held that the primary was the time to speak to the party’s base, while winning a general election required more moderation in order to appeal to a broader swath of Americans. Trump’s win in 2016 upended that thinking in many ways, as divisive language and policies helped catapult him to an election win. While Biden seems to be betting that a majority of Americans are fed up with divisive language and the “us vs them” style of politics, he’s also incorporating progressive ideas into his campaign and has set up a joint task force with Bernie Sanders to help shape party policy moving forward.

Do you find this encouraging or are you skeptical of Biden’s efforts?

I find this narrative confusing albeit mainstream. Biden’s platform is more conservative than Hillary’s but is routinely championed as some great olive-branch. For example, he wants to let 60-year-olds age-in into Medicare but Hillary’s plan let 50-55 year olds. With videos like this one here, I do not believe his efforts are in good faith. You’re right, traditional Democratic politics view the primary as a time to reach out to the more left-leaning folks and then we should expect an inward shift. Should we now expect an inward shift with Trump’s Republican party, which gives Trump an 85-95% approval rating, being one end of the parameter of this shift? This outdated political phenomena we know the Democrats are likely to do, shows me not to put any faith in Biden’s platform until he revises it during the general. Did FDR compromise to the center, or Reagan, or Trump? No, they did not. I find it almost insulting that a “task force” is set up and we’re supposed to assume the leading voice speaking out against progressive platforms will now champion our causes? Show me, don’t tell me.

Editor’s note: While it’s true Clinton ran on allowing those at 55 years old to buy into Medicare and Biden’s plan would only lower it to 60 (the current threshold is 65 years old), others, like former President Obama, have called Biden’s platform one of the most progressive in history, which PolitiFact called “half true,” noting that Biden’s platform could be characterized as one of the most progressive in history, but that past Democrats, like George McGovern in the 1972 presidential race, were more progressive in the context of their era.

In one example where Biden could be viewed as more progressive than Clinton, he supports a federally-mandated $15 dollar minimum wage, while Clinton only supported a $12 per hour mandate with assistance from state governments and unions to raise that further in local situations when appropriate.

Editor’s note: Although often viewed as models in their respective parties, both FDR and Reagan did make compromises. For example, FDR’s social security platform was significantly altered before it became law. Initial ideas about implementing universal health care and a provision to guarantee the federal government as an employer if no other work could be found, among others, were later scrapped during the process of compromise. Reagan also routinely compromised with Democrats, including on issues such as Medicare. Notably, Reagan remarked that he would “rather get 80 percent of what I want than go over the cliff with my flag flying.”

TMS: In your view, what kinds of structural changes are needed in America? Do you doubt that Biden can help deliver on that change and, if so, why?

Some have argued that Biden has the potential to be one of the most progressive presidents in modern history, despite his reputation as a relative moderate. On Biden’s website, for instance, his platform includes a US$15 federal minimum wage and proposed expansions to Obamacare to give all Americans a choice to opt-in to a national insurance plan, similar to Medicare.

What do you make of that?

I believe our first and foremost issues are income-inequality, the environment and health care access/quality in no particular order. They all tie into the same structural issue of an imbalance of power and political will that leans too heavily toward corporate interests. I do, and this may sound surprising, feel some solidarity with libertarians. We all actually want the same thing. Let me go to work, earn a fair wage for my labor, go home and [then] leave me alone. Whereas they believe government is the barrier to prevent, I believe both government AND corporate entities (with their imbalance of market and political power) create barriers to allow for change. I believe more popular consultation through the reversal of the Citizens United decision, banning of I.D. voter laws and proportional district representation is what we need. I believe we should remove the filibuster and put more justices on the bench once we take power since the SCOTUS has been conservative for 30 years and will continue to be even if Biden wins. These last two things Biden and Bernie are actually opposed to. With his campaign contributions from big-ticket dinners, his willingness to use Super-PACs and him wanting to fill his cabinet with more corporate champions … no I do not believe he will do anything other than throw workers a bone here or there.

Editor’s note: While some court ideology methods developed by scholars, such as the Martin-Quinn Score, have indicated that the US Supreme Court has generally leaned right over the past generation, others have noted the ambiguities in justice’s ideological stances and the positions they take. On June 15, for instance, the Supreme Court backed federally-mandated job protections for LGBTQ workers in a 6-3 vote, including support by Chief Justice John Roberts and Neil Gorsuch, two justices considered to be on the conservative side of the court.

Editor’s note: Biden has not made any announcements on potential cabinet positions.

TMS: In your view, does the media generally cover Biden fairly? What about Sanders? Why or why not? What is your primary news source?

Biden is treated too fairly. All he has to do is just not speak and he gets gushed over. He has to do the bare minimum for positive coverage. I believe there is an immense amount of evidence Sanders is not treated well. There are many examples of Bernie receiving negative media-bias by news outlets like The New York Times, including the DNC working with Politico to peer-review articles to be more anti-Bernie and pro-Clinton during 2016 as well as Donna Brazile being fired from CNN for offering questions to Clinton ahead of time. In 2020, the coverage was basically characterizing Bernie as someone too old, too grumpy and too sick to win. Bernie had a routine heart-procedure and was given a clean-bill of health by not only congressional physicians but respected physicians at UVM. Then Bernie is lambasted as a liar for releasing his medical records related to his condition and not releasing a 70+ year old man’s lifetime of medical records, which is not common. Meanwhile, Biden says things like this, or rambles on somewhat incoherently but god-forbid we question his mental fortitude. This isn’t just a gaffe; this is worthy of questions.

Editor’s note: a significant number of political observers have questioned Biden’s mental fortitude, especially in the context of his age.

Editor’s note: in October 2019, Sanders had a heart attack and two stents were put into a blocked artery. He has reportedly made a prompt recovery.

TMS: What would you say to Biden supporters? Is there anything you wish they looked at differently from your point of view?

The amount of, “I like Bernie more, but I want someone who can beat Trump!” is just falling to fear. How is choosing a candidate just like the last candidate that lost to Trump and is not the candidate of the next growing era of young families being practical is beyond me. I do think Biden will win, but only because of COVID-19. Pre-COVID, my belief and many others [was] that Biden was not in a good place to beat Trump and polling showed him less competitive than Bernie. If you want to finally stop losing, join the next generation of young families and help us create a new way forward that can bring together all workers regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion. If you look at demographics of our primaries, Bernie wins every demographic across the board for young people and young families. If you spend a primary belittling our experiences and grievances do not be awestruck that we won’t entitle you with support for your preferred candidate.

Editor’s note: Although Biden struggled early on in the 2020 primaries, he consistently polled well against Trump both before and during the COVID-19 crisis. In late 2019, Biden’s largest lead over Trump was just over 10 points in mid-to-late November and his smallest lead was 4 points in late January. Sanders, by contrast, had his highest margin against Trump in November with 8 points, with his smallest lead just over 2 points in late December, suggesting that Biden was consistently polling better than Sanders in a head-to-head matchup with Trump.

TMS: What are your thoughts on the Tara Reade sexual assault claims and do you feel the media has covered the claims fairly?

This topic really disgusts me and it makes me incredibly upset to talk about. I was raised by a family of feminist women. I am and will always be an enormous supporter of #MeToo and #ibelieveher. #Ibelieveher does not mean [to] believe every accusation that comes up. It means, to me, giving women an open arena to say their story and have it looked into without the court of public opinion or legal barriers, especially if it’s against a man of power. Reade can absolutely be making it all up for political purposes being a Bernie supporter. But we won’t know because she was cannibalized by the media and older Democrats the moment she said her story. The Democrats jumped to impugn her character with stories like her stealing $800 from a horse ranch, saying her story changed too significantly, or that she said positive things about Putin. All these non-sequiturs were just used to silence her. I’m not sure how stealing a few hundred dollars, which wasn’t proven, means she was also not a victim of sexual violence in the 90s? We won’t know the truth, ever, and the Democrats made sure of it. I don’t hate, but it’s one of those topics that I don’t like talking about so I don’t start.

One of my heroes, Christine Blasey-Ford, was accused of her story changing routinely, had her character attacked and had less evidence than Reade did. Let’s remember, Reade had divorce documents from the 90s talking about this attack, her mother called into Larry King to talk about it, she told friends, family, and we know that she worked in Biden’s office.

Do I think Biden assaulted her? I have no idea and am not convinced one way or another. I do know Democrats immediately slut-shaming, silencing and attacking her has damaged #MeToo and shown they want to use it when it’s politically advantageous.

TMS: What are your thoughts around the “if you aren’t voting for me, you ain’t black!" comment that Biden made but then later apologized for? Do you think the media overreacted?

No. I think the media gave him a pass. During this rise in the BLM movement, it didn’t get enough coverage. The man who supported and championed the crime bill, who attacked Anita Hill as a liar, who praised segregationists in Congress and who said “if you aren’t voting for me, you ain’t black!” got quite a lot of leeway on this.

Editor’s note: When speaking at a fundraiser in 2019, Biden commented that although he “didn’t agree on much of anything” with segregationists during his early days in Congress, he was able to form working relationships with them to “get things done.” Biden did not praise them for their views, but lamented the ways modern politics, in his opinion, has too often made the opposition party “the enemy.” At first, Biden defended the remarks, highlighting his involvement in the civil rights movement, but later apologized for any “pain or misconceptions” they may have caused. Critics say that Biden’s willingness to support legislation that limited the power of courts to enforce school desegregation by busing students to different schools shows the drawbacks of such compromise.

Editor’s note: Recent polling data suggests that Biden has a huge lead among black registered voters, 92% to Trump’s 5%.

TMS: Do you feel that Biden is incapable of enacting the kind of political change you would like to see? Some progressives have argued that winning the ideological battle within the party is more important than winning the national election in 2020. Do you think that reelecting Trump would do more to further political change?

I do think he is incapable, yes. With a Biden presidency we will still have our unaffordable consumer and student debt, we will still have our unaffordable health care, we will still be beholden to Wall Street (isn’t Jamie Dimon on Biden’s shortlist for a cabinet position?), we will still be militarily hawkish and our standards of living will still continue to decline. We will have more of the same for 4 years and then what? Donald Trump Jr. in 2024? I want real progressive change even if it takes 4 years of rebuilding locally. I will not vote for Trump but I also will not vote for Biden. Biden does not earnestly reach out to us so his supporters shouldn’t have some entitlement to our support. A vote must be earned and he hasn’t earned it. I feel like political science taught us winning elections is the political party’s only reason for existing, but now I’m told they don’t have to vie for my vote and are actually entitled to it.

Editor’s note: It was reported by Axios that Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, was a potential consideration for Biden’s Treasury Secretary. This has not been publicly confirmed by the campaign and some political observers have criticized the alleged finding as unlikely.

Editor’s note: Biden claims to be reaching out to progressives for their votes. Regardless of the efficacy of these attempts, there are no statements from him or his campaign suggesting he is entitled to their votes.

TMS: At the end of the day, who do you believe will win in November and why?

I believe Biden will likely win in November, but only due to the impact of COVID-19 and the effect it has had on everyone. Especially with the surge we’re seeing in states like Texas and Florida.

Prior to COVID-19, I think the overall thinking was that Biden was in trouble. Primarily because of a huge lack of enthusiasm from younger people and families as well as the shrinking base of support. The Democrats feel they can win without broadening their support or extending a true olive branch to progressives. I mean, you can’t spend an entire primary casting progressives as unrealistic idealists for not wanting to keep the status quo trucking along then expect our support. The primary wasn’t a battle of ideas, it was the Democrats questioning the very right to consider progressive economic platforms. Now that COVID-19 has thrown everything into disarray, the Democrats are looking like they’re going to be able to use fear and anxiety to squeak in a victory. Which I believe will be at the detriment of longer term political victories for left of center causes.

Editor’s note: While Biden did critique a number of policies during the primary from candidates considered to be in the progressive wing of the party, such as a universal Medicare for All scheme which would have virtually eliminated private insurance plans, in the past he has also praised the progressive wing of the party for its idealism. He has more recently criticized some of the thinking and tactics of younger generation activists, as has President Obama, but after Sanders dropped out of the race, he characterized his movement as “a good thing for our nation” despite their disagreements.

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