I wrote recently about my firm decision not to vote for Joe Biden if he becomes the Democratic nominee. As a life-long progressive, I’ve had more incrementalism than I can stand. Enough, I say. If my choice is Biden or Trump, I’ll write-in a candidate I can actually support.
Predictably, I have gotten a lot of push-back from my liberal friends. Anyone but Trump, they’ve all said. We can’t cope with four more years of Trump.
They’ve also accused me of allowing my privilege to get in the way of reason. As an older, white, heterosexual, middle class, educated woman, I stand to be hurt less than many of my fellow citizens by four more years of racist, homophobic policies.
I understand their thinking. But I disagree.
In fact, it is that very life of privilege that makes me more determined not to vote for the former Vice President. A Biden administration would give us, at best, a continuation of the economic and social status quo. Nothing would change.
Let’s think about healthcare first. Joe Biden has been lukewarm on the topic of Medicare for All. His position is that providing health insurance to all Americans would just be too expensive to implement now. He prefers a slower, more cautious approach. He promises to maintain the Affordable Care Act. That means that under a Biden administration, roughly 27 million Americans would most likely remain uninsured.
But that’s OK. I’ll be fine. I’m privileged. I just turned 64. Before you know it, I’ll be safely protected by my own personal government-sponsored health insurance. Medicare for me. Yay.
I want to think about women’s rights, too. Think about a woman’s right to make her own personal choices about her body. Joe Biden has been a longtime supporter of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal dollars from paying for abortion. This obviously means that lower-income women have yet another hurdle to cross when looking for necessary medical care.
But I’ll be fine. I’m too old to procreate. My own personal kids have health insurance right now and wouldn’t need federal money to provide an abortion if one became necessary. You know, we have that middle-class privilege.
So what about military issues? Progressives like me have been adamantly pushing for an end to America’s endless wars in the oil-rich Middle East. We firmly believe that the financial costs of the war are obscene. The costs in human lives and casualties are even worse, and even more indefensible.
Joe Biden has a long history of supporting American adventurism in the Middle East. He voted for the Iraq War, although he tries to twist that truth now. He was a strong advocate for American military involvement in the Balkan crisis of the 1990s. It’s safe to assume that our ongoing involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen would continue under Biden.
But I’ll be fine. I’m too old to fight. My kids are not in the military, and as middle-class young adults, they have options other than military service. At this point in my life, in my retirement and having been able to save for my old age, I’m not impacted as much by the cost of war as some people in need of government help. Like people in Flint, Michigan, whose water was poisoned and then ignored while Biden was Vice President.
I’m privileged to have that safety, aren’t I?
Let’s think about the mass incarceration situation in the US. Our country currently incarcerates a higher percentage of citizens than any other country on the entire planet. Well over half of those in jail are people of color. Communities of color see more police violence, have a higher rate of arrests and convictions and are suffering most from the “school to prison pipeline.”
Then Senator Joe Biden was one of the key authors of the Crime Bill that was passed in 1994. In crafting the bill, Biden worked closely with segregationists with whom he served on the Judiciary Committee. Biden also opposed busing as a means of desegregating public schools, a position which also endeared him to his segregationist colleagues.
Although times have changed since the 1980s and 90s, Biden’s past history on racial issues makes him a risk for Americans of color. He isn’t going to be as progressive in terms of prison reform and issues of race relations as Bernie would be.
But that’s OK. I’ll be fine. I’m white.
So I hope I have made my point. I don’t think it’s my privilege that allows me to vote against a politician with whom I completely disagree. I don’t it’s my safe, white, cis-gendered middle-class background that lets me vote for a progressive I’ve admired for years.
I think that to vote for Joe Biden just because of the “D” next to his name is to take my privilege and simply look away from the desperate need for change that faces millions of my fellow Americans.