Monday, August 24, 2020

Eight Leading Progressive Voices on Why They’re Voting for Biden

. . . and the work that will be necessary
if he is elected president

In his recent In These Times piece, Max B. Sawicky provides a timely reminder that the actions of the Trump administration and its Republican enablers that are undermining the democratic and humanitarian ideals of the United States have their roots in the neoliberal ideology of past Democratic administrations. Sawicky's article focuses on the current attacks on the U.S. Postal Service, but we can see the same historical pattern at play with regards other issues as well, such as immigration.

Make no mistake, Donald Trump must be defeated in November as he has, without doubt, taken the U.S. to the brink of neo-fascism, with democracy under threat in a way it has never been before. But let's not delude ourselves: the neoliberalism of the Democratic establishment (of which both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are enmeshed) feeds the momentum towards this brink. The austerity measures and push for privatization inherent to neoliberalism, give people legitimate cause to be angry and to despair. Such measures have broadened the wealth inequality gap and have made the authoritarian populism of someone like Trump very appealing to many Americans.

Writing in Jacobin, David Sirota puts it this way:

We’ve seen this parable over and over again – elite-run, neoliberal governments are democratically elected and then do not economically deliver for the vast majority of the population, creating popular frustration and the political space for a right-wing strongman to seize power.

This is the taboo tale tying together the Obama and Trump eras. Though oversimplified, the broad strokes are clear: a populist campaign won the election, before an elite-run administration capitulated to corporate power, sowing frustration and disillusionment, which helped a demagogue peddling racism and sexism to successfully vault himself into the presidency.

Given not only the current state of affairs under Trump but also how as a society we're constantly lulled into amnesia by both corporate-run media and government about the historical trajectory of authoritarianism, we definitely have our work cut out for us. We have to resoundingly defeat Trump, but we also have to bring about a fundamental course correction of the political and economic system of the United States so that in four or eight years time we're not contending with the rise of another authoritarian populist (perhaps even Donald Trump Jr.). This means challenging and transforming the centrist, neoliberal agenda of the Democratic party. We have to rebuild our political system so that it is truly of the people, by the people, and for the people. In recent decades it has sadly de-volved into one that is much more of, by, and for the short-term profits of corporations, with little or no regard to the well-being of individuals, communities or the environment. Both parties have embraced this system to varying degrees and both benefit from it in terms of unlimited corporate funding (made possible by the anti-democratic Citizens United ruling of the Supreme Court in 2010).

As I've said previously (see here and here), Trump is not the problem. He is the most obvious and destructive symptom of the problem, which can be defined as a plutocratic system of unfettered capitalism which since the 1970s has come to dominate American life to the detriment of all but a very wealthy few. It's also important to remember that this system is a spectrum. The Republicans may be at the extreme end of it, bringing us all to the brink of neo-fascism, but the Democratic establishment (with its neoliberal economic doctrine) also situates itself on this spectrum, one that naturally and inexorably flows towards that same brink. Lifting both our government and economy off of this destructive spectrum is the work that is going to be neccesary, starting the day Biden and Harris are declared president-elect and vice president-elect respectively.

In recent days, a number of leading progressive voices have spoken out on the need to both defeat Trump and transform the system that, in so many ways, led to his rise and to the existential threats we are now facing. Following are eight of these voices: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Noam Chomsky, Robert Reich, Cornel West, Ben Jealous, and Marianne Williamson.


I just spoke at the Democratic National Convention, and my 60-second message at the DNC was simple: the movement for guaranteed healthcare, racial justice, labor rights, and a just economy is here, it is growing, and is committed to winning in November.

We are, and must be, laser-focused on organizing the mass-mobilization necessary to defeat Donald Trump. A key part of that task is winning over crucial margins of swing-voters towards Vice President Biden in precincts across the country. But that task alone will not win us this election – we must also add those margins to an unprecedented, mass turnout event of young people, people of color, and working-class people of all identities in order to be successful. And one of the best ways to do that is to allow the movement for 21st-century social, economic, and human rights to flourish.

While Senator Sanders didn’t win the nomination, the mass movement of everyday people demanding systemic solutions to social, racial, and economic injustice is not going away anytime soon. It is a defining generational cause, one that has been slowly building for decades, and is only getting stronger with recent, shocking victories like Jamaal Bowman’s, Cori Bush’s, Mondaire Jones’, and Marie Newman’s. For generations, the progressive movement has been working and organizing to win the fight for civil, economic, and social liberties. Today, it is stronger than ever. The future of the Democratic Party, and the future of this country, are everyday people like you.

We must defeat Donald Trump. Doing so will require progressive, mass-movement politics that dramatically expands the electorate in November and unapologetically fights for working-class and marginalized people. And a major element of that task is sincerely and honestly addressing the slow-growing yet massive injustices that contributed to the apathy and anger that helped bring the chaos of Trump’s presidency in the first place.

As progressives, we are here to fight for guaranteed healthcare, higher education, living wages, and labor rights for all people in the United States. We are here to recognize and repair the wounds of racial injustice, colonization, misogyny, and homophobia, and replace the structures perpetuating them with more just ones.

We are here to reimagine our systems of immigration and foreign policy in a manner that turns away from the violence and xenophobia of the past, so we can lead a sustainable future that we are proud to leave to future generations.

That’s the future of our movement. That’s the future of the Democratic Party. That’s the future of the country that we are committed to building together.

– Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D. NY-14)
August 18, 2020

Our great nation is now living in an unprecedented moment. Facing the worst public health crisis in 100 years and worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. We are confronting systemic racism and the enormous threat to the planet of climate change. And in the middle of all of this, we have a president who is not only incapable of addressing these crises, but leading us down the path of authoritarianism. This election is the most important in the modern history of the country. In response to the unprecedented crisis we face, we need an unprecedented response. A movement like never before of people who are prepared to stand up and fight for democracy and decency and against greed, oligarchy, and bigotry. And we need Joe Biden as our next president.

Let me take this opportunity to say a word to the millions of people who supported my campaign this year and in 2016. My friends, thank you for your trust, your support, and the love you showed Jane, me, and our family. Together we have moved this country in a bold new direction, showing that all of us, Black and white, Latino, Native American, Asian American, gay and straight, native-born and immigrant, yearn for a nation based on the principles of justice, love, and compassion. Our campaign ended several months ago. Our movement continues and is getting stronger every day. Many of the ideas we fought for a few years ago were considered radical are now mainstream. But let us be clear. If Donald Trump is reelected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy.

At its most basic, this election is about preserving our democracy. During this president’s term, the unthinkable has become normal. He has tried to prevent people from voting. Undermined the U.S. Postal Service. Deployed the military and federal agents against peaceful protesters. Threatened to delay the election. And suggested that he will not leave office if he loses. This is not normal. And we must never treat it like it is. Under this administration, authoritarianism has taken root in our country. I, and my family, and many of yours, know the insidious way authoritarianism destroys democracy, decency, and humanity. As long as I am here, I will work with progressives, with moderates and yes, with conservatives to preserve this nation from a threat that so many of our heroes fought and died to defeat.

This president is not just a threat to our democracy, but by rejecting science, he has put our lives and health in jeopardy. Trump has attacked doctors and scientists trying to protect us from the pandemic while refusing to take strong action to produce the masks, gowns, and gloves our healthcare workers desperately need. Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Trump golfs. His actions fanned this pandemic, resulting in 170,000 deaths and a nation still unprepared to protect its people. Furthermore, Trump’s negligence has exacerbated the economic crisis we’re experiencing. Since this pandemic began, over 30 million people have lost their jobs, and many have lost health insurance. Millions of working families are wondering how they will feed their kids, and they’re worried they will be evicted from their homes.

And how has Trump responded? Instead of maintaining the $600-a-week unemployment supplement that workers were receiving, and the $1,200 emergency checks that many of you received, instead of helping small businesses, Trump concocted fraudulent executive orders that do virtually nothing to address the crisis while threatening the very future of Social Security and Medicare. But the truth is that even before Trump’s negligent response to the pandemic, too many hardworking families have been caught on an economic treadmill with no hope of ever going ahead.

Together we must build a nation that is more equitable and compassionate and more inclusive. I know that Joe Biden will begin that fight on day one. Let me offer you just a few examples of how Joe will move us forward. He supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Giving 40 million workers a pay raise and push the wage scale up for everyone else. Joe will make it easier for workers to join unions, create 12 weeks of paid family leave, fund universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds, and make child care affordable for millions of families. Joe will rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and fight the threat of climate change by transitioning us to 100 percent clean electricity over 15 years. These initiatives will create millions of good-paying jobs all across our country.

As you know, we are the only industrialized nation not to guarantee health care for all people. While Joe and I disagree on the best path to get universal coverage, he has a plan that will greatly expand health care and cut the cost of prescription drugs. Further, he will lower the eligibility age of Medicare from 65 to 60. To help reform our broken criminal justice system, Joe will end private prisons and the detention centers, cash bail, and the school-to-prison pipeline.

And to heal the soul of our nation, Joe Biden will end the hate and division Trump has created. He will stop the demonization of immigrants, coddling of white nationalists, racist dog whistling, religious bigotry, and the ugly attacks on women. My friends, I say to you, to everyone who supported other candidates in the primary and to those who may have voted for Donald Trump in the last election: The future of our democracy is at stake. The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake. We must come together to defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and vice president. My friends, the price of failure is just too great to imagine.

– Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT)
August 18, 2020

love a good plan, and Joe Biden has some really good plans – plans to bring back union jobs in manufacturing and create new union jobs in clean energy. Plans to increase Social Security benefits, cancel billions in student loan debt, and make our bankruptcy laws work for families instead of the creditors who cheat them.

These plans reflect a central truth: our economic system has been rigged to give bailouts to billionaires and kick dirt in the face of everyone else. But we can build a thriving economy by investing in families and fixing what’s broken. Joe’s plan to “build back better” includes making the wealthy pay their fair share, holding corporations accountable, repairing racial inequities, and fighting corruption in Washington.

. . . Donald Trump’s ignorance and incompetence have always been a danger to our country. COVID-19 was Trump’s biggest test. He failed miserably. Today, America has the most COVID deaths in the world and an economic collapse – and both crises are falling hardest on Black and Brown families.
Millions out of work. Millions more trapped in cycles of poverty. Millions on the brink of losing their homes. Millions of restaurants and stores hanging by a thread.

This crisis is bad – and didn’t have to be this way. This crisis is on Donald Trump and the Republicans who enable him. On November 3, we hold them all accountable.

We all need to be in the fight to get Joe and Kamala elected. And after November, we all need to stay in the fight to get big things done.

We stay in this fight so that when our children and our grandchildren ask what we did during this dark chapter in our nation’s history, we will be able to look them squarely in the eye and say: we organized, we persisted, and we changed America.

There is a traditional left position, which has been pretty much forgotten, unfortunately, but it's the one I think we should adhere to. That's the position that real politics is constant activism. It's quite different from the establishment position, which says politics means focus, laser-like, on the quadrennial extravaganza [of presidential elections], then go home and let your superiors take over.

The left position has always been: You're working all the time, and every once in a while there’s an event called an election. This should take you away from real politics for 10 or 15 minutes. Then you go back to work.

At this moment, the difference between the candidates is a chasm. There has never been a greater difference. It should be obvious to anyone who's not living under a rock. So the traditional left position says, “Take the 15 minutes, push the lever, go back to work.”

Now, the activist left has not been making [that] choice. . . . It's been doing both.

Take Biden’s campaign positions. Farther to the left than any Democratic candidate in memory on things like climate. It’s far better than anything that preceded it. Not because Biden had a personal conversion or the DNC had some great insight, but because they’re being hammered on by activists coming out of the Sanders movement and others. The climate program, a $2 trillion commitment to dealing with the extreme threat of environmental catastrophe, was largely written by the Sunrise Movement and strongly endorsed by the leading activists on climate change, the ones who managed to get the Green New Deal on the legislative agenda. That’s real politics.

This is not support for Biden. It is support for the activists who have been at work constantly, creating the background within the party in which the shifts took place, and who have followed Sanders in actually entering the campaign and influencing it. Support for them. Support for real politics.

The left position is you rarely support anyone. You vote against the worst. You keep the pressure and activism going.

Noam Chomsky
Quoted in Anand Giridharadas's article,
Noam Chomsky Wants You to Vote for Joe Biden
and Then Haunt His Dreams

August 11, 2020

Given who Trump is and the direction we're headed, the Biden-Harris campaign needs to be America’s anti-fascist popular front. If your friends aren’t yet on board, help them understand the stakes. If Trump gets another term, we won’t have a democratic process. Please. Between now and Election Day, we must all work harder than ever before.

And after that, we will work even harder to enact a bold, progressive agenda.

Robert Reich
August 20, 2020

[We've] got to move on up from poverty. And in order to do it, you’ve got to talk about poverty. If you’re going to move on up from Wall Street greed and Wall Street crimes, you’ve got to talk about Wall Street greed and Wall Street crimes. If you’re going to move on up from the Pentagon militarism around the world, you’ve got to talk about it. Those are the taboo issues that we don’t get serious wrestling with. So when you really talk about the soul of America and the battle for the soul of America, much of that soul has been evacuated by the Pentagon greed and the Wall Street greed and the inability of the police and other institutions to treat Black people and Brown people, Indigenous people as human beings.

So . . . in terms of being part of an anti-fascist coalition, that I think we’re forced to vote for Biden. But we’re not going to lie about Biden, we’re not going to lie about Harris. We’re going to tell the truth about their captivity and their refusal to hit Pentagon money spending and militarism around the world, to hit Wall Street greed and to also speak substantively to issues of poverty.

You can’t have massive protests all around the country, the largest in the history of the country, you can’t have Brother Barber and Sister Theoharis out there talking about poverty, and then, when you get to the convention, you get this spectacle that has nothing to do with wrestling with poverty.

. . . We’ve got to vote for Biden, but never, ever lying about him, and not coming to terms with the fact that at this moment, with the decline and fall of the American Empire, it looks as if the system is unable to generate enough energy to seriously reform itself. It remains sanitized, superficial. We’re getting Lawrence Welk’s bubbles rather than Prince’s Revolution. I want to go to Prince’s Revolution concert. I want fundamental change.

. . . [T]he distinctive features of a decline of an empire, military overreach — 53 cents of every dollar is going to the military, 53 cents of every dollar in the city of Chicago goes to the police — militarism domestically, militarism abroad. But at the same time, you say to yourself, “Well, the people themselves are moving in a progressive direction . . . but there’s no translation.”

That’s why we didn’t hear enough serious progressive voices during the spectacle [of the convention], because you’ve got this big money still rendering captive so many of those in the Democratic Party, and they want to speak and give a lip service to justice, but there’s no real substance there in terms of sustaining an attack on poverty, sustaining an attack on the mass incarceration system and the new Jim Crow, sustaining a redistribution of wealth downward. You can’t talk about racism if you don’t talk about Black people having access to wealth. It could be reparations. It could be redistribution. We have to have access to wealth and income. And this is true for Black, for Brown. This is true for Indigenous peoples. This is true for Asians, across the board.

And so, what has happened is that we’re getting a sad spectacle that remains on the surface, and yet the massive suffering and misery that’s taking place is intensifying. And we’re getting the unraveling of public life with the post office and a whole host of other public institutions, education, and we’re getting the inability to envision a substantive alternative to the present, so we end up tied to this nightmarish reality.

So, yes, a vote for Biden as an anti-fascist vote, that’s different than in any way falling prey to illusions. We have to be able to keep our hopes while we kill the illusions. And if we can’t walk that tightrope, we’re not going to make it as a country.

I think that the theme of this convention was really one of unity. This was a time when we have to come together to defeat a president who is the most evil, the most corrupt that any of us have seen. And that says a lot.

It also was a time when we saw two nominees who we, as progressives, know we can work with. . . . These are people who, at their best, represent our best values. . . . So I’m very hopeful.

Joe Biden today needs Bernie, needs everyone who voted for Bernie, to become president. Joe Biden today has moved with the party to the left. And Joe Biden today gets, in his core, that we have to protect Medicare, that we have to protect Social Security. I won’t deny he’s a politician who has been at different places at different points. But I know where he is now. And I think we have to take a cue from Bernie and be very clear that everybody needs to vote against Trump and for Biden in this moment, so we have a president that we can move. There’s no moving Trump, but it is definitely possible to move Joe. And every organizer ultimately needs a president that they can move.

It’s taken me some time to get to where I am tonight, having experienced firsthand what a presidential campaign season is really all about. But by the end of the convention tonight I was fully there – all in for Joe and Kamala – emotionally as well as intellectually.

Do I have some critiques of the system? You bet I do. Do I have some deep issues with certain elements in the Democratic Party? Indeed I do. And I’m not quiet about that. But this is not the appropriate moment for any of it. This is the moment to elect Joe Biden.

I met Joe several times on the campaign trail and he was always kind and respectful, as was Jill. I only met Kamala once and she was wonderful as well. Do I think that everything they’ll stand for in the White House will be something I agree with? Absolutely not. But do I believe their sincerity as people and their genuine desire to do well by the country? I absolutely do.

This is not the time to roll the dice with our democracy. Donald Trump represents nothing short of a menace to the world, and Joe Biden’s genuine decency is a homeopathic remedy to Trump’s brazen disrespect for everything this country stands for.

I will not always agree with Joe and Kamala, or the direction of certain elements within the Democratic Party. And you know me . . . I won’t be quiet about any of it. But we can never vote for a candidate thinking we’ll agree with everything he or she will do in office. For the next 73 or however many days are left before November 3, I’m all in for Biden/Harris. This won’t be an easy time for them and it won’t be an easy time for us.

This country is in a downward spiral and nothing is more important than that we lift it up. Electing Joe Biden is the beginning of the process, a pause in the action that will give us time for some repair, a chance to begin what is one of the most important transformations in America’s history and in ourselves.

God bless America. And God bless the world. Let’s make America loving again.

Marianne Williamson
August 20, 2020

Related Off-site Links:
Bernie Sanders Just Made the Progressive Case for Joe Biden – Cameron Peters (Vox, August 18, 2020).
“I Guess If You Hold a Gun to My Head.” Sanders Voters in NC Come to Terms With Biden – Matt Goad (The News and Observer, August 20, 2020).
In 60 Seconds, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Shows She's the Future of the Democratic Party – Aaron Ross Coleman (Vox, August 21, 2020).
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Chides NBC News Over Misleading Tweet About Convention Speech – Ted Johnson (Deadline, August 19, 2020).
Michael Moore: How Democrats Paved the Way to Trump – Jon Wiener (The Nation, September 21, 2018).
Cornel West: There is “a Neo-fascist in the White House”Al Jazeera (November 29, 2019).
Unlike Republicans, Democrats Can Govern. But Can They Fight? – Robert Reich (Newsweek, August 17, 2020).
Noam Chomsky: Trump Is Quite Capable of an “October Surprise” – C.J. Polychroniou (TruthOut, August 11, 2020).
US “Third Party”: How New Progressive Movement May Further Divide Dems and Challenge BidenSputnik (August 21, 2020).
Marianne Williamson Is Back – to Talk About Forming a Third Party in 2024 – Holly Otterbein (Politico, August 19, 2020).
Marianne Williamson Won the Democratic Primary – Tom Scocca (Slate, August 21, 2020).

UPDATES: First, Stanch the Trump Bleeding. Whatever Progressives Think of Biden, We Can't Sit Out 2020 – Todd Gitlin (USA Today, September 21, 2020).
Dump Trump, Then Battle Biden – Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Sonali Kolhatkar, and Juliet Schor (Common Dreams, September 23, 2020).
“Fascism at Our Door”: Asked to Condemn White Supremacist Groups, Trump Tells Them to “Stand By” Instead – Jon Queally (Common Dreams, September 29, 2020).
Why Biden Must Win: It Is Not About Democracy, It’s About Fascism – Richard Falk ( via Common Dreams, October 13, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Branko Marcetic on the DNC: “Progressive Symbolism and Empty Rhetoric in Place of Real Political Vision”
My Summer of Supporting Progressive Down-Ballot Candidates
Progressive Perspectives on the Biden-Harris Ticket
Ricardo Levins Morales on the “Deepest Political Fault Line” Separating Democrats Ilhan Omar and Antone Melton-Meaux
“We Have an Emergency On Our Hands”: Marianne Williamson On the “Freefall” of American Democracy
The “Freefall” Continues
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor: Quote of the Day – June 9, 2020
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – June 2, 2020
Progressive Perspectives on Bernie Sanders' Suspension of His Presidential Campaign
Deep Gratitude
“A Beautiful Message, So Full of Greatness”
Marianne Williamson: “Anything That Will Help People Thrive, I’m Interested In”
Progressive Perspectives on Joe Biden's Presidential Bid
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – April 24, 2019
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Quote of the Day – March 10, 2019
Ben Ehrenreich on the Global Uprisings Against Neoliberalism
The Neoliberal Economic Doctrine: A View from Australia
Making the Connections . . . Then and Now
Mick Schommer: Quote of the Day – June 8, 2017
Bernie Sanders: Quote of the Day – November 9, 2016
Arundhati Roy: Quote of the Day – September 15, 2016
Progressives and Obama
In a Blow to Democracy, U.S. Supreme Court Affirms Corporate Personhood
A Lose/Lose Situation

Images: Photographers unknown.

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