To Progressives Still Bashing Joe Biden on Principle
Hold up. The dream’s not over. But if Trump wins again, it might be.
A dream deferred, to borrow from the great Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, doesn’t dry up like a raisin in the sun. Even when it sags like a heavy load, it doesn’t necessarily become an impossible dream. It can still explode.
Black people know this. LGBTQ people and women do, too. At least they should.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the road to equality for Blacks, gays, and women has taken even longer to pave. That path remains a work in progress. It still doesn’t extend all the way to the realm of straight white men.
But if location is everything in real estate, climate is everything in politics. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, for the second time in four years, has had to concede defeat to a Democratic challenger. That doesn’t mean his progressive agenda must go down, too. The Presidential dream may be over for him, but for now, his platform remains loaded with possibility. That is, however, only in a political climate where his goals can be achieved.
Universal health care, like the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and marriage equality in previous decades and centuries, is the chief progressive cause of the day. It may feel like it’s still forever away, but the fact that it’s even being discussed and taken seriously by a powerful and visible political contingent is progress. If President Donald Trump defeats the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in November, the dream will be, if not impossible, indefinitely deferred.
It was always going to take more than two Presidential election cycles to overhaul more than 250 years of capitalist thought. Hard-core progressives — those so-called “Bernie Bros” whose stubborn one-track mindedness gives them something in common with Trump’s so-called “deplorables” — may feel like the Democratic primaries were a slap in the face not only to Sanders but to human decency. But does human decency have a better chance of prevailing under four more years of Trump?
Sanders is smart enough to see reality staring him down. Five days after suspending his bid for the Democratic nomination, he endorsed Biden. (It took him weeks to do the same for Hillary Clinton in 2016.) He clearly realizes it’s easier to keep the discussion going and effect change from the sidelines than it is to do so when you’re locked outside. Why is it so hard for some of his staunchest supporters to snap out of it and have their come-to-Jesus moment?
If anything has been proven by our current global threat, one the President spent months dismissing as a Democratic “hoax” and underestimating as under “tremendous” control,” it’s this: 1) The U.S.’s health-care system is an antiquated beast that needs to be demolished and rebuilt. 2) American lives are at stake to a higher degree than at any other point in U.S. history. Trump’s hubris and negligence has contributed to the death of thousands of Americans since March.
Four more years of him will do further damage. Think of the Supreme Court. Think of LGBTQ rights. Think of Roe v. Wade. Think of the ever-increasing racial divide. As a gay, Black man, I’d rather defer some of my my progressive dreams than risk having them all extinguished under another round of Trump.
There’s so much more at stake than principle, but if that’s all that matters, isn’t the leadership of someone who is at least open to collaboration and capable of evolving preferable to that of a despotic narcissist? When Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, he had no intention of freeing the slaves, only in halting the expansion of slavery. Two years later, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. When Barack Obama was first elected President in 2008, he was not on board with marriage equality. When he ran for reelection in 2012, he was. Three years later, it was law.
Had Stephen A. Douglas won the election of 1860, the South wouldn’t have seceded and emancipation certainly would have been a dream indefinitely deferred. Had John McCain won in 2008, gays might still have to settle for domestic partnerships.
So while Sanders’ holdouts are stubbornly biding their time deciding when and if they’ll support Joe Biden, they should consider this: When one endorses a candidate or votes for a President, one doesn’t only endorse/vote for a candidate/President. One endorses/votes for a political climate as well.
Bashing Biden has become such a favored social media pastime among some progressives that it’s like they’ve completely forgotten about Trump’s ongoing threat to the fundamentals of democracy. How did their unyielding adherence to their progressive principles work out for the country in 2016?
Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it and possibly suffer even greater consequences. So let the election of 1912 be another lesson. The Republican Party was split between the incumbent 27th President William Howard Taft’s moderate branch and his predecessor Theodore Roosevelt’s progressive branch. When Taft won the nomination, Roosevelt and his followers left the Republican Party to form the Progressive Party, aka the Bull Moose Party, effectively clearing the way to a Woodrow Wilson victory for the Democratic Party.
It was the beginning of an ideological shift that would define party politics in the second half of the 20th century. TR’s progressives began migrating to the Democratic Party, which had become increasingly liberal by the Great Depression Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. When the dust settled some 50 years later, Team Republican, once the anti-slavery party, had become a bastion of right-wing conservatism, and the Democrats slanted left.
A similar political shake-up within the Democratic ranks might be what the party needs if it’s ever going to go full-steam behind a populist candidate like Sanders. But progressive goals like universal health care, free college, and a tax-system overhaul aren’t necessarily DOA without one.
Now is not the time to demand all — an extreme party makeover — or nothing. The country has more pressing immediate concerns. Ensuring that Trump is a one-term President should take precedence over everything else.
If Biden wins, progressives can continue to push Sanders’ agenda. If he loses, their dream will, too. The time is now for moderate and progressive Democrats to think like Republicans and embrace party loyalty with evangelical zeal.
The divided Democrats need to unite, armor up, and proceed with bulldozer force. If they do, in November, Trump won’t have a wing or a prayer against them. They’re the only thing standing in their way.