Left Wingers Don’t Have to Like Biden to Vote for Him

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U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a drive-in campaign rally in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., November 1, 2020.
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a drive-in campaign rally in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., November 1, 2020.Credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/ REUTERS
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Veteran left-wing Americans are voting for Joe Biden without supporting him, and even if they are repelled by his past politics and positions. Among them are Angela Davis, Cornel West, Noam Chomsky and, obviously, Bernie Sanders. They have called on others to do likewise.

The significance of their vote goes beyond the ballot box and the borders of the United States. It serves as an object lesson for the left wherever it may be. Their foremost, unambiguous message is that there’s no such thing as “the worse it gets, the better it is.” On the contrary. As four years of Donald Trump’s presidency have shown, for the vast majority the worse it gets, the harder it is.

The climate is the clearest, most convincing example of this. This is a problem for all humankind. There is no other leader who’s derided scientific findings and the popular realization of the risks of global warming and the need to curb it than Donald Trump. He and his close associates and supporters embody – in the extreme – the basic tenet of the left that capital, in striving for endless and immediate profits, totally disregards the social damage it wreaks. A second electoral triumph for Trump will serve as a red carpet for climate-change deniers rushing to accelerate it, while enjoying their exorbitant tax breaks.

White racism would also make gains in a second Trump term – the same built-in racism we’ve witnessed in the high incidence of coronavirus victims among non-whites, in the unbearable ease with which policemen kill them, and in the bureaucratic trickery designed to stymie Black voting.

Trump did not invent white racism, but he represents the primal fears of American whites who dread losing their numerical, economic and cultural superiority. Racial violence is a proven method to maintain racial supremacy and deter anyone demanding a change or their rights. In the U.S., it is the twin of “Making America Great Again.” Choosing Trump for a second term would empower violent racists.

The left, say those seasoned, older left-wingers, does not have the luxury of preserving its purity. In abstaining from voting, it will actually punish large groups of people who will be hit directly and hard by their opponent’s victory. The purists who object to voting, saying there is no difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party under Trump (with both of them representing the dominion of capital), believe in the uncontrollable nature of events. They believe in a natural process of empowerment and organization of “weakened” segments of society, which is bound to happen and lead to radical improvement. But many among the “weakened” parts of society do perceive the Democrats to hold some promise.

The responsibility of the left-wing voter does not end with the casting of a ballot. He or she is obliged to act unceasingly to promote a more progressive agenda than the one pursued by their elected representatives.

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a campaign rally at the Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport in Avoca, Pennsylvania, November 2, 2020.Credit: Gene J. Puskar,AP

A vote for Biden is also a vote of confidence in the others voting for him, people who are afraid of Trump and the dark forces of racism, misogyny and ignorance, which he did not invent but definitely nourished and promoted. These other voters are African-Americans, Latino-Americans, women from all walks of society, first-time voters who experienced as high-schoolers the American madness of sanctifying weapons and the freedom to sell them.

These are also young people from the middle and lower classes who cannot afford higher education. They are people who voted for Sanders, a candidate who showed other Democratic contenders (for House and Senate) that one can be free of dependence on rich donors who dictate one’s positions (such as shameful support for Israel the occupier).

This is a diverse camp that knows America’s preeminence was built on slavery, oppression, expropriation and the killing of native peoples, on terrible exploitation of workers, and on shameless intervention in the internal affairs of other countries. But it also knows that America has a tradition of protest movements that strove for change and repair.

A Democratic Party in power must learn the lesson from its sin of hubris in recent years. It will have to listen to these groups and take into account their positions and demands for policies of social welfare and rescuing the environment. This is the last thing anyone could expect from Trump.

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