This op-ed is part of Signal, an editorial project trying to talk about the Presidential elections in the USA while avoiding informational noise, presenting sharp points of view and taking into account geographical differences across States. While some of the facts authors mentioned might need further investigation, the goal of the project is to read and listen unflitered electoral preferences. The article was translated in Italian by Alessia Biondi, and it’s available here. Peter Fowler writes from Michigan.
[cover image: original graphic by Stefano Grassi]
On Tuesday, November 3rd, I will shamefully vote for a rapist whose seminal role in the establishment of the racist war on drugs has led to the largest incarcerated population on the planet, which many have likened to a reimagined version of Jim Crow segregation, a reputation that has earned Joe Biden the nickname Jim Crow Joe.
As someone who started to become politically active during the Obama administration, I have always been in opposition to the Democratic Party. Under Obama, we saw the Wall Street bail out that spurred one of the largest mass movements in recent history, Occupy Wall Street. During this movement, which came on the heels of the Arab Spring and the subsequent Wisconsin teachers strike, many people saw, for the first time, the violently militarized police oppression that is an everyday reality in communities of color.
Under the Obama administration we also saw the construction of a massive surveillance system aimed at Muslim American communities, the escalation of proxy wars in the Middle East, which included the assassination of United States citizens, record numbers of immigrant deportations, the violent dispossession of Indigenous land at Standing Rock, and the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement in response to increasing awareness of the role police play in communities of color. These injustices all played out under Obama, who was complicit in some situations, but more often actively engaged in their perpetuation. In fact it would be hard to imagine Donald Trump being able to engage in such outright racist, xenophobic policies if Obama had not spent the last eight years laying the groundwork.
That being said, the Donald Trump presidency presents new concerns that make another four years a threat, not just to US citizens, but to the survival of the human species. While both Democrats and Republicans have a well proven track record for ignoring science in lieu of business interests, the steps taken by the current administration have put the doomsday clock closer to midnight than it has ever been since its inception in 1947. With the input of some of the world’s leading scientists, including 13 Nobel laureates, the doomsday clock was set to 100 seconds to midnight in January of 2020. This clock takes into account, not only international policy and the capacity for complete annihilation through nuclear war, but the catastrophic events set in motion due to anthropogenic climate change. No President in recent history has been as oblivious to the advice of the scientific community as Donald Trump. This alone makes voting for Jim Crow Joe an imperative.
As a medical professional, and someone focusing on infectious disease research, it was baffling to watch this science denial on full display during the tragically mismanaged response to Covid-19. Instead of taking the advise of infectious disease experts, Trump continues to minimize the effects of the virus, deflect blame with racist and xenophobic statements and promote unproven treatment protocols, including the ineffective and possibly harmful use of hydroxychloroquine and the even more dangerous systemic administration of disinfectants and UV light. It seems that each day provides new revelations about the depths of his stupidity. This ineptitude has led to the additional death of tens of thousands of US citizens, disproportionately impacting communities of color, and has resulted in the US leading all other countries in infections and deaths by a wide margin.
Would Biden be different? I think that if Biden were President during the last 4 years, there would have been less silencing of public health professionals in the Covid-19 response and thousands of US citizens would still be alive today. We know that business interests have a firm grip on both parties. But within the Democratic Party, there is at least a capacity to have a conversation with scientists, even if they have proven unwilling to implement any substantial change. The current Republican Party seems to have mostly written off modern science as fake news and anti-American propaganda. This also seems to have opened the door to the mainstream normalization of conspiracy theories like those of Q-Anon, who now have supporters being elected to Congress, and of sexist cult followers being nominated for the Supreme Court.
But more substantial change under a Biden presidency will be difficult. He has strongly opposed a single payer health care system which is in place in nearly every other industrialized country, and would have played a central role during pandemic response. He has opposed the Green New Deal, which even if fully adopted may be fully insufficient to stave off the effects of anthropogenic climate change. He has ignored the primary demand from the largest movement for racial justice since the civil rights era, to defund police departments and reinvest in communities impacted by his racist war on drugs. All of these things make me ashamed to vote for Biden.
Additionally, I believe survivors and I believe Tara Reade. I have huge conflictions about casting a vote for a rapist. Only in the context of a truly vile alternative can Biden be considered the “lesser evil”, and my vote for him should not be conflated with support for all his disgusting policies. I hope that the mass movements we have seen in recent years around climate change, racial justice, indigenous rights, women’s rights, immigrant rights and LGBTQ rights will continue and even amplify to force the change needed. In the words of Howard Zinn “What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but ‘who is sitting in’, and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change.” My hope is that no matter who wins, people continue to mobilize, speak up and speak out. The survival of our species depends on it.