This year I will be voting for Joe Biden and against Donald Trump for the office of President of the United States.
Here are a few reasons I’m voting Biden:
Joe Biden seems to actually be excited about the job of a President, which most of the Democratic contenders were not. In my mind, the job of the President is to enforce laws that Congress passes, lead American diplomacy and ensure international cooperation in matters of vital national interest, be the civilian leader of and check on America’s armed forces, and act as a unifying moral force in times of peace and crisis. Notice the typical campaign talking points I did not include: legislation1 or appointing Supreme Court judges. Most of the Democratic field seemed to want to legislate as President with thin plans for foreign affairs and Republicans seem to put up with infinite disgrace for the sake of Supreme Court judges who are not guaranteed to give them what they want. Biden, on the other hand, seems to relish the actual job of a President and may even be suited to aiding his colleagues pass bipartisan laws through his lack of ideological posturing and proven flexibility.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are about as moderate a Democratic ticket as you can hope for, much to the chagrin of the progressive wing of their party. You couldn’t pick a less offensive Democrat vote for moderate Republicans who are repelled by Trump. While the incumbent is busily trying to tie Biden to more extreme anti-law enforcement positions and socialism, Biden has in fact repeatedly disappointed many Democrats who actually want to defund and abolish police and aggressively pursue leftist policy positions on healthcare, student loans, etc. I believe we need to have a serious look at the impunity with which our police behave and I would be pleased with a massive shift of overfunded police budgets to things that actually prevent crimes instead of causing and punishing them, but despite Trump’s insistence Biden is not a leader on this issue. I am less and less willing to fight against single payer healthcare myself with the government already so entrenched in healthcare in less efficient ways, but Biden seems more interested in defending the ACA, a decidedly conservative healthcare reform. Biden’s moderating inclination is an opportunity for anti-authoritarian conservatives to find home, temporary though it may be, within the Democratic Party while the pro-authoritarian GOP burns itself to the ground.
Biden is a man who seems to be guided by decency in his interactions with others, tempered and humbled by sorrowful life experience, and determined to find common cause with those who disagree with him. These are characteristics that represent leadership I can respect and want my children to see in our nation’s highest office. I am under no illusion of a saintly or blemish-free record, but I do sense sincerity and a life of faith, two things I hold in high regard. I trust Biden to uphold his Constitutional duties.
A few of the reasons I will be voting against Donald Trump include:
Donald Trump is an authoritarian without any regard for law unless it is punishing his enemies. He seeks to impose his will through force. He lavishes praise on dictators and their murderous practices while cheating and insulting our allies. He corrupts every person or institution he touches. He empowers non-governmental paramilitaries to manifest their retrograde racism and white supremacy openly and proudly. He happily leads those who cheer him, but denies any obligation towards those who do not support him. He denigrates and corrupts the press. He makes wild promises and blames scapegoats when he inevitably fails. He corrupts elections by promulgating conspiracies and will not respect the voice of the people unless they shout in his favor. He divides rather than unites, leaving us nearly incapable of resisting oppression. Were he the leader of any other nation every American would call him an authoritarian, we should all recognize him as such here.
Trump is a shameless liar. He lies compulsively and then lies about lying. Weasel words are endemic among politicians, but they are usually dodges and redirects instead of outright lies because politicians at least have shame. Trump has no shame. If you believe him he feels no shame, because like all con artists he sees those who believe him as suckers. In his mind, his supporters’ trust in him means they deserve to be lied to because they’re too dumb to recognize the grift. There is no narrow policy aim that is worth allowing a shameless liar to remain in a position that our children may emulate.
Trump is a cruel bully who only abides praise and flattery. He openly mocks political opponents, targeting whatever his racist, prejudiced mind latches onto first: ethnicity, religion, disability, speech, age, gender. His crude language is only the beginning of his cruelty. He has taken the already too small number of refugees the nation committed to resettle and has slashed it to effectively zero. He has allowed the separation of parents and children to continue at the border and directed kangaroo courts for asylum seekers where denials and deportation orders are rubber stamped, and zealously encouraged the conditions where forced hysterectomies are inflicted on women. He has made a mockery of the pro-life slogan of his supporters by imposing criminal cruelty on those seeking a better, safer life. Cruel immigration policies did not begin with Trump, but they have reached a zenith of inhumanity with him and his cronies. He has encouraged elements of our society that seek to reimpose American apartheid and introduced a whole new generation to the infantilizing drug of racist ideology.
Donald Trump is dangerous. Our position in the world is being destroyed by a man who is so self-centered that he cannot imagine maintaining alliances that have been instrumental in preventing conflict and world war for over 70 years, if it means others don’t pay as much as we do. He is too much a coward to deliberately start war, but his “America First” posturing is planting seeds that we will sow in sorrow for decades to come. He is so devoid of care for others and determined to preserve his re-election chances that he bungled the pandemic response to the degree that 200,000+ Americans are dead, our economy is in tatters, and there is no improvement in sight. At the same time, other nations have taken the virus seriously and managed to preserve their economies while preventing many unnecessary deaths. There is a bitterly ironic alternative universe where Trump realized the crisis was serious, took major steps to confront and control it in January and February,2 all while getting to berate his opponents for impeaching him during a crisis and sliding easily to re-election. Trump is so blind to actual governance that he squandered one of his only opportunities for redemption and we are paying the price.
You’ll notice most of my reasons for voting against Trump begin with his character. It was common in the 90s for Republicans to say that character mattered when applied to Bill Clinton’s personal conduct. With their complete obeisance to Trump over the last 4+ years they have proven their hypocrisy, but it doesn’t mean they were wrong. Character still matters, and it is nowhere to be found in the White House.
I hope for a Biden landslide victory and a resulting Republican humiliation. The GOP made a Faustian bargain and it would be wonderful if they recognized it as such and began the long process of self reflection. But I’m not waiting. By nature I would call myself a conservative leaning centrist. There used to be a place for me in the Republican Party but no longer. My political priorities, separation of powers, fiscal discipline, and embracing a globalized world are nowhere to be found. My hopes are more limited in nature now.
What I hope begins to surface is a realization that we, as a nation, have made the Imperial Presidency a bipartisan quest that has landed us in real danger. The continuing expansion of executive power and the deference to it by the legislative and judicial branches makes fiat rule the norm, whether by executive order or the occasional control of both White House and Congress. It seems that we, like the ancient scriptural story, are begging our prophets for a king. We want our party’s king to be as powerful as possible and then act shocked and take turns on our fainting couches when the opposing party’s king exploits the rights we have ceded to their predecessor. We are now at the edge of where this leads, to ruin. I hope we as a people, will recognize it and take this power back. This may require structural reform, voting for senators who care more about the Senate’s power than their party’s power, and holding our representatives to account. If we do not fight against future Trumps preemptively we will all suffer the way authoritarian states always do.
I also hope, without much faith, that we can arrest the tendency in polarization to demand total victory. The way we speak demonstrates our self deception. “Arcs of history” and “moral majorities” are phrases we use to imply a cosmic pre-destination that our side will eventually conquer by right. In truth, we are too big and too varied for any side to ever actually win. There can only be the next fight, and then the counter-attack, and then the preemptive attack. This way lies disappointment, wasted time, misspent energy, and eventually dissolution. I hope for better, and I hope that you do too.
Presidential candidates always fill their campaign promises with things that require legislation. However, other than signing, vetoing, and brokering a bit between opposing lawmakers, legislation is something that Presidents do not own (there are notable exceptions). ↩︎
Steps may have included opening federal supply floodgates and exploiting its unique bargaining position to acquire PPE for healthcare workers, implementing a standardized quarantine procedure for international and interstate travel, establishing the CDC as a reliable partner for widespread testing, working with Democrats on sustained legislation to push aid into the economy, unifying the nation in common-sense preventative measures like mask wearing and determined purpose, etc. ↩︎