With less than one month until the 2020 presidential election and around two weeks left to request an absentee ballot, voting has become a popular topic of discussion on campus. As these discussions arise, so have feelings of voter apathy among young students. It is no secret that young people do not vote. In the 2016 presidential election, less than half of Americans ages 18-29 cast their ballot. Among these young people, those who are minorities, poor or less educated are even less likely to vote. To be clear, this is not symbolic of disinterest, but, as University of California, Berkeley doctoral candidate Charlotte Hill says, “disparities [which] are inseparable from a legacy of slavery and racism.” That being said, the United States is observing a greater sense of political interest and activism from young voters this time around. In fact, last January, 53 percent of Generation Zers stated they did believe they could make a difference. Despite all of this, there seems to be a new wave of apathetic voters coming from the inner conflict in the Democratic party.
As younger voters become more and more progressive, leftists are gaining more traction. Politicians such as U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are some of the progressive movement’s most prominent leaders, often being mentioned through name or policy in passing presidential debates. The issue arises when these leftist voters refuse to vote for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, in favor of a write-in candidate like Sanders or refuse to vote at all. Recently, the National Political Committee of the Democratic Socialists of America officially voted to decline encouraging residents in swing states to even “grapple with the question of voting for Biden.”
Allow me to concede that leftist and socialist parties have the right to criticize Biden’s candidacy. We all do. With a number of sexual assault allegations, right-leaning policies and simply his old age, young voters are undeniably concerned about his fitness for office. The problem lies in the fact that this leftist stance is rooted in Biden’s problems while failing to assess Trump’s. Biden and Harris admittedly have problematic histories, but in a presidential election, we as voters have a responsibility to acknowledge the vast disparity between Harris’ history of cannabis prosecution or Biden’s role in the Iraq War and the history of Trump and Pence. Just to quickly brief readers on Trump’s history, it spans over 45 years of documented racism, dozens of his own sexual assault allegations, ongoing attacks against the LGBTQ+ community and, of course, rampant disbelief in science that led to his abysmal COVID-19 treatment plan.
Choosing to write in your preferred candidate is a lofty ideal under our current two-party system. And I’m not saying that is right. Looking at our current candidates, I am often ashamed of how our country has made it so that these two men, in all their defects, are somehow presented as the best our country has to offer. As a young Asian student, I want what many leftists want. I want a woman in charge, a ballot that has more than one nonwhite candidate and a president that cares about climate change not because they want my vote, but simply because they should. Our two-party system doesn’t give me that.
Despite all of that, I recognize that now is not the time to express my disdain for our system with a write-in candidate or a refusal to vote. I choose to both support women like Tara Reade while voting for Biden because I cannot allow myself to give any leeway to the current administration, whose racism, sexism and scientific views are irrefutably worse. A write-in may not sway the historically blue state of New York, but the importance of voting for Biden and other progressive candidates remains extremely important in swing states. For example, the recent favoring of Democratic candidates in Colorado and Arizona could, according to CNN, “give them control over all eight Senate seats from those states plus New Mexico and Nevada for the first time since 1941.” My vote for Biden is for progress. Painfully, resentfully slow progress.
For those who remain adamant about abstaining from this year’s presidential election or writing in your candidate, I strongly urge you to reflect on how that decision is a direct reflection on your position of power in a hierarchical society. Additionally, if you, especially as a white person, are encouraging people not to vote for Biden with the claim that it is not what Black, Indigenous and people of color want, you should question why you feel qualified to speak on our behalf. Because if millions of nonwhite people are telling you it’s not about Joe Biden, it’s not about Joe Biden.
Kaitlyn Liu is a junior majoring in English.