Written by Mitali Shukla
June brought Black Lives Matter protests and nationwide outcry to defund the police. Just last week, Joe Biden was named the projected winner of the 2020 election. I found this a bit ironic given Biden’s support for past legislation like the 1994 Crime Bill, which worsened mass incarceration. This begs the question: are politicians simply opportunists? Some of them certainly are, in the sense that they exploit circumstances like the election to their advantage without following through on promises.
Progressives like myself rallied behind Biden after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the 2020 presidential race. After the March primaries, many of us were left high and dry after the candidates we voted for dropped out. The grassroots group “Settle For Biden” emerged as an attempt to unify the left, and the general consensus among the left has been that it’s better to vote for Democrats you don’t agree with than not vote at all, since there’s a potential to push them further left.
This sentiment allowed progressives and moderates alike to get behind the same candidate, but Biden now has his work cut out for him. He has to unify the Democratic Party, but the left struggled to secure a majority in the House of Representatives and two runoff elections in Georgia will take place for the Senate race, which may make it more difficult for liberal Democrats to push leftist policies.
Members of the House Democratic caucus argued that liberal ideologies such as defunding the police and “Medicare for All” had cost them seats, according to The New York Times. Representative Conor Lamb (PA-D), who presents himself as a moderate, said the loss of seats should be a wake-up call for the left. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-D) echoed Lamb’s statements, saying the Biden team must tackle the delicate balance that is the left and ensure they won’t squash progressive policies that might hurt them in the end.
Biden’s presidential success has been largely attributed to liberal representatives, including former Georgia congresswoman Stacey Abrams, who is credited as helping flip Georgia blue. To keep that momentum going, Edward Rendell, former Pennsylvania governor, suggested starting with policies both moderates and Democrats seem to agree on, like the $15 minimum wage. This, he said, will show progressives that Biden is serious about upholding policies that helped him win the election.
Choosing the lesser of two evils yet again leaves much to be desired, but it’s nothing new when it comes to the two-party system. Even American abolitionist Frederick Douglass had to cast his vote for the lesser of two evils. Crisis and mass movements were able to transform previous presidents such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson in a way that pushed them to enact policies the public never anticipated from these politicians.
Following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, we’ve seen the power that mass movements from protests have to transform legislation. The long history of police brutality is coming to a sort of reckoning. Moreover, we saw the impact of the pandemic on Black, Brown, immigrant and impoverished communities and how it further proved the inability of our society to meet the nation’s needs.
This launches us into an era where we need to at the very least consider implementing policies, such as Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, a wealth tax, universal child care, eliminating student debt and increasing minimum wage, to name a few.
We hit Trump where it hurts by voting for Joe Biden, because he seemed to be the only candidate who was posed to challenge the previous administration. But we must continue the momentum garnered by nationwide protest and outcry to solidify legislation that actually represents what the people want, not the desires of the ultra-rich and lobbyists for gigantic corporations.
We cannot allow politicians like Biden and Harris to exploit circumstances without follow-through. The possibility for radical change begins in January 2021 after the Trump administration comes to an indefinite end. It’s time.