Can I vote for Biden after supporting Sanders? Yes, but he does not make it easy.

Aedan Henry, Copy Editor

Well, it is official: Senator Bernie Sanders is no longer in the running for president of the United States, and former Vice President Joe Biden is the presumptive nominee. Sanders represented radical positive change in government, promising policies that America needs now more than ever: Medicare for All, a $15 federal minimum wage, and a comprehensive Green New Deal climate plan. Biden comes up short on all of those. For progressive liberals like myself, this is a devastating loss. 

Bernie says that he will do everything he can to help Biden win against President Donald Trump, despite their differences and former rivalry. But for many Sanders supporters, switching their allegiance is not that simple. While Sanders has endorsed Biden, some of his far-left progressive supporters have not. For them, it feels impossible to throw support behind a play-it-safe candidate like Biden, especially after disparaging him for so many months. 

Yet again, establishment moderates beat out a youth-focused progressive movement, and that is very disheartening for the people in that movement. For myself, this development raises an ethical question: can I vote for Biden? He certainly does not make it easy.

Voting is a statement of personal value, and I definitely do not value Biden’s moderate policies and problematic past. With scientists telling us that we have to radically limit emissions by 2050, Biden’s mere $1.7 trillion for climate action feels like nothing compared to Sanders’ $16.3 trillion plan. And Biden’s infamous racist opposition to busing in the 1970s stands in stark contrast to photos of Sanders in 1960’s civil rights protests.

And then there is the sexual assault allegation. Multiple women have said in the last year that Biden has touched or hugged them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable, and former Biden staff member Tara Reade accused him last month of sexually assaulting her in 1993. Now, whether or not this allegation is true is ambiguous and complicated. The New York Times and the Associated Press did in-depth investigations that suggest evidence for both sides. But I stand with the position that liberals have been taking throughout the #MeToo movement: to believe victims and take allegations seriously. In my view, the sexual assault allegation is a massive hit against Biden. In an era where sexual assault awareness is such a cornerstone to liberal politics, it feels hypocritical and disrespectful to brush it aside. An allegation of this degree makes supporting Biden a real moral dilemma.

So that all raises the question, can I vote for Biden? Can I fill in a bubble on a ballot, declaring that I support a man who I spent months disliking, has policies I disagree with, and may have sexually assaulted someone? That was my initial question, and I think it was for many other progressives too. But over time, I have come to an answer: for the sake of the country, I think I have to.

The way I see it, the presidency is more than the president. Yes, a Biden vote puts Joe Biden in power, but it also gives America its first ever female vice president, puts the executive bureaucracy and cabinet departments under Democratic leadership, re-enters the country in the Paris Climate Agreement, keeps veto power out of Republican hands, and permanently gives the next Supreme Court seat to a liberal. Think about how much good that would do.

Joe Biden is not nearly as progressive as Bernie Sanders would have been, but he would still be the most progressive president in American history, even farther left than Barack Obama. This is why Sanders endorsed him. Sanders knows that he can work with Biden, in fact their campaigns are already organizing joint task forces to move Biden’s policies farther left. Biden will listen to progressives, Trump does not.

Because the simple fact is, in an election this close, a nonvote for Biden is a vote for Trump. And another Trump term would be disastrous to democracy and progressive politics. As Bernie Sanders likes to say in interviews, Trump is a racist, sexist, homophobe, narcissist, pathological liar, and probable rapist. While Biden’s policies have the right spirit but just do not go nearly far enough, Trump’s policies are actively dangerous to America and go against everything that Sanders believes.

So, I understand why some people will not vote for Biden. It is a difficult ethical dilemma to figure out, especially when considering the sexual assault allegation. But unless more comes out, I think Biden being in office will do more good than harm.