I felt so hopeful. I thought that this election cycle would be different. I was sure Bernie Sanders would clinch the Democratic nomination for president. My state, Virginia, was one of many up for grabs on Super Tuesday, and even though Sanders lost here along with the majority of other states that day, he made a significant win in California. There was still time to gain back those losses. But from Super Tuesday onwards, Sanders’ campaign faced a downward turn. One by one candidates started dropping out, and they aligned with the Democratic party’s darling, former Vice President Joe Biden. Things were looking grim, but Sanders’ campaign pushed on.
And then, of course, came the global pandemic.
In the wake of businesses, schools, universities and entire states shutting down, it seemed like the worst possible time to continue in-person voting at polling locations. And yet, that’s exactly what the state of Wisconsin did. In the end, Sanders lost to Biden in that state too. The next day, Sanders suspended his campaign.
I felt crushed to say the least—but my mourning didn’t last long when the desperate cry of “Vote blue no matter who!” swept through my social media in the form of think pieces, tweets, and Instagram stories (just to name a few). Many former Bernie supporters reluctantly fell in line in support of Joe Biden. Debates of voting for the “lesser evil” began cropping up all over the press and on my timeline. It was all beginning to feel a little too 2016-esque for my liking, except this time I actually had a choice to make—a vote to cast.
Blame it on the algorithms, but I couldn’t help but notice the kind of people making noise about supporting Joe Biden (despite a history of supporting racist laws, sexual assault allegations, and a barely comprehensible climate-change plan among 125+ other reasons). To save you the suspense, most of the people I heard from were white. They were middle-class, college-educated white folks whose ancestors probably would’ve spat on mine in the face. They were the kind of people with so much less to lose, and most importantly, the kind of people who have never lost much in the first place.
I’m not saying that everyone making this argument is white. It’s no secret that Biden won over Southern states largely due to black moderate voters. There are plenty of POC voting for Biden either because they genuinely support him or out of fear of a Trump reelection.
But I bristle at the thought of a white person telling a PoC that Biden is our last hope against 45. This particular interaction is a demonstration of privilege and power. White communities largely won’t be suffering from the “compromises” that a candidate like Biden will make. They aren’t the ones tokenized for votes.
It’s unfair to throw the phrase “Vote blue no matter who!” at the faces of people like mine, especially when it means voting for Joe Biden. The man who was the Vice President of an administration that ordered more than 500 drone strikes which murdered hundreds of civilians. The Obama administration deported the largest number of U.S. residents in history at over 2.5 million in only eight years. That presidency had so much potential, but in the end, was stymied by neoliberal thinking that has dominated the Democratic establishment for years. This came at the cost of working-class communities of color and innocent lives across the globe. Vote blue no matter what, exactly?
I know what you’re thinking. No, I’m not trying to equate Trump’s presidency to Obama’s. Trump’s rhetoric alone has been enough to terrorize the lives of those in marginalized communities. Under the Trump administration, Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) has committed atrocities against innocent people fleeing violence. But who built the cages into which migrant children were forced in the first place? Trump isn’t the first, nor will he be the last president to treat migrants like a disease.
Trump isn’t an outlier of the U.S. political system; he’s a symptom of it.
Voting for Biden requires trust in a government that was founded on white supremacy; a government that has ravaged countries of the Global South in the name of capital and empire; a government that has deceived, exploited, and murdered countless black, brown, and Indigenous communities. Liberation—honest liberation—doesn’t lie in voting for scraps from a compromise candidate.
Bernie Sanders would’ve been a step in the right direction, but he wasn’t our only hope. Voting in the presidential election isn’t our only tool against injustice. Vote in local elections. Take part in direct action (and no, I’m not talking about the Women’s March). Support and volunteer for community-oriented organizations that believe we deserve more than crumbs from the political establishment.
Or, vote for the imperialist ghoul. It’s your choice. But kindly keep that to yourselves, white folks.