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OPINION: Obsession with perfection

October 2, 2020

This piece represents the opinion of the author.
Sophie Lipset

This is my response to both the article titled “Progressives, do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” and to the ways that Bowdoin students talk about “progressive voters.”

What do you mean by “progressives?” Do you see us as some kind of homogeneous group who share the same challenges, the same social, economic and racial realities and who agree unilaterally on a solution? How do you prescribe a solution to “us,” or explain to “us” how electoral politics work? Why do you feel obligated to explain electoral politics in, of all places, the newspaper of an elite college such as Bowdoin? It’s as if you expect me not to know how old white men on Capitol Hill act, or how they see me or how they don’t. How can you hint at my “progressive values” without knowing where they come from or to where they lead?

I guess what I’m trying to ask is: why do you assign me a label and then threaten to take it away if I don’t do exactly as you say?

That is not to say that no one else should influence my decision on who to vote for, but, I’d rather vote in the name of my own family, of my immigrant community or of anyone fighting the same struggle for justice than in your name.

I will be voting for Biden, and yet I abhor the fact that I need to say this or else my argument will be delegitimized. What if I vote for Hawkins or Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL)? At least the PSL is actually doing the groundwork of organizing and mobilizing in cities most affected by anti-Black racism and police totalitarianism.

Would it be because of my, as you say, “liberal obsession with perfection” that I trust La Riva and her party over the Democrats?

What is “perfection” and what is “our obsession” with it? Is it “obsession” when I want to make sure that, once my uncle is processed for deportation, he will not have to deal with a violent agency that sees Black and Brown bodies as unworthy of dignity (and because of this I am hesitant to vote for a man who not only refuses to abolish said institution, but is willing to increase its funding in the name of “oversight” and “training”)?

By all means, get people to vote; make it easier for people of color and incarcerated people to vote. Do not, however, depict voting for Biden as some grand progressive ideal that shields you from all criticism and makes up for your lack of empathy and any true intention of building up oppressed communities.

On a final note, when the election results come trickling in, with in-person ballots counted first and preliminary percentages showing an early, and hopefully not actual, victory for Trump, you must resist that early inclination to blame me and whoever else you’ve labeled “progressive.”

While you have been attempting to paint Biden as this hero for all the oppressed people of America, as some historical anomaly (“the most progressive candidate of all time”) that he clearly isn’t, know that there were Black and Brown Americans shot in our streets and in their homes, brutalized in ICE facilities, lynched by white men in pickup trucks.

There is no “new normal,” but instead a continuation of the same historical trends that have led us to this moment. There is no rebuilding without the tearing down of all that has come before.

Again, there are ways to ask us to vote for Biden. But attacking this notion of “perfection” will get you nowhere. Ultimately, the vote is an act of self defense at best.

“Perfection,” or I guess “high expectations,” is not the enemy of the good. The true enemy, the one you refuse to acknowledge anywhere in your article, is the combination of the racial, economic and gendered barriers on the ground. Focus your energy on breaking those oppressive systems, on disclosing and alleviating these material realities that will remain long after Biden is sworn in.

Rene Cisneros is a member of the class of 2023. 

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