The Bowdoin Orient recently published an article titled, “Progressives, do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” in which the author admonished progressives who are critical of Biden and may opt to vote for a third-party candidate. The article concludes, “Bowdoin progressives, do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Too much is at stake. November 3, 2020, stand by your progressive values and vote for Joe Biden. Otherwise, witness another four years of a president completely antithetical to your cause.”
Like the author, I am terrified by the prospect of four more years of Trump, but in the midst of our terror we must continue to fight for and dream of a better system. The author blames third-party voters for the disaster that was the 2016 election instead of demanding more of the DNC. We must remember that no candidate is entitled to votes. They must earn the support of the people by advancing policies that will improve the lives of their constituents. Most importantly, the author fails to mention that Maine is currently the only state in the country in which voters can rank their choices in the 2020 presidential election. Thus, one can still prevent four more years of tyrannical Trump while not capitulating to the backwards DNC agenda.
Why does the author place the onus on the disenchanted, on the skeptical, on the marginalized to “fall in line” behind an agenda that barely speaks to their needs? It is Biden’s responsibility to address the interests of countless Democratic voters, independent voters and non-voters who fear that he does not represent change. It is Biden’s job to demonstrate to voters that he no longer holds his previously harmful positions on healthcare, war, criminal justice and the environment. It is Biden’s responsibility to earn the trust of voters who are victims of sexual assault and do not want to vote for a candidate who has had credible sexual assault allegations levied against them.
The author scolds third-party voters, arguing that they were responsible for Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016. This is an inaccurate assessment of the 2016 election employed by individuals who don’t believe in holding candidates accountable for their errors. According to the author, Hillary Clinton lost Michigan in 2016 because of the 31,000 progressives who opted to vote for Jill Stein. He fails to mention that only 65 percent of registered voters in Michigan voted in the presidential election at all. Furthermore, in Michigan, Hillary Clinton garnered 295,000 fewer votes than Obama received in 2012. The electorate was profoundly disenchanted with Clinton, who failed to speak to their political or economic interests. Clinton did not put in the work to capture the imagination of these disgruntled voters. She did not campaign in Michigan during the final days of the election, she never spoke to the United Auto Workers Union whose headquarters are in Detroit, she never hired a field organizer in Dearborn, Michigan, which is home to the largest Arab-American population in the United States.
Instead of scolding those who are fed up with a system that forces voters to choose the lesser of two evils, we should re-evaluate our democratic system and embrace alternatives such as ranked-choice voting. Ranked-choice voting allows constituents to not just vote for one candidate but to instead rank the various candidates in order of preference. For example, I could rank Howie Hawkins from the Green Party first and Joe Biden second. If neither Trump or Biden win a majority of Maine voters, candidates who received fewer votes (presumably Hawkins) would be eliminated and my vote would be allocated to Joe Biden. We are lucky to be from the only state in the country that has passed ranked-choice voting for federal elections.
Maine progressives: On November 3, please vote according to your values.
I am the progressive voter that this author speaks of, and I refuse to “overcome my sadness about Biden’s nomination.” I will continue to demand that the DNC and Biden do better. I have personally chosen to phonebank for Joe Biden because I am committed to preventing the re-election of Donald Trump, but on November 3, I will be ranking Biden second.
Livia Kunins-Berkowitz is a member of the Class of 2022.