The author at a Rally for a Better Candidate, Denver, CO

In her speech at the Democratic National Convention, Michelle Obama said, “But this is not the time to withhold our votes in protest or play games with candidates who have no chance of winning.” I wholeheartedly disagree with this statement. In the following, I will explain why I cannot vote for Joe Biden and provide what little insight I have on where we go from here.

I ran to be a delegate for Bernie Sanders because I believe in progressive policies — a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, College for All, Workplace Democracy, and so many other policies that would actually benefit the people and not the corporations. During my campaign in Congressional District 2 of Colorado, I called and emailed delegates to our Congressional Convention. On one of these phone calls, a delegate asked me if I would support unity between the Biden and Sanders camps. I told her that I would not be a unity delegate. Her response was that she would call other delegates and tell them to vote against me. I have no idea if she actually did this or not — but I ended up winning the delegate election with the most votes out of any candidate in my district. Another delegate to the Congressional Convention emailed me asking, “Would you, under any circumstances, vote for Biden?” I responded simply, “I will not under any circumstances vote for Biden. I am Bernie or bust, Bernie or vest, Bernie for life. This may not be a popular opinion with some people, but that is how I feel.” Their response was that they would vote for me. Under the Democratic Party’s 2020 Delegate Selection Rules, Rule 13. J. “Delegates elected to the national convention pledged to a presidential candidate shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.” This means, as a delegate to the national convention, I was representing those 121 people who voted for me in one of the most progressive districts in the country. This is why I voted for Bernie Sanders as the nominee and voted no on the platform.

Now that the convention is over, I am no longer a delegate — Democratic party rules no longer apply to me as an elected official. This includes rule IX. N. from the Call to the Convention which states that a delegate “expressly agrees that he or she will not publicly support or campaign for any candidate for President or Vice President other than the nominees of the Democratic National Convention.” Now that the Democratic Convention is finished, I am free to publicly support any candidate. Personally, I still support the man I consider to be the rightful nominee, Senator Bernard Sanders. Even though the Senator has endorsed Biden, I am not obligated by any means to follow this. The following are just a few of the myriad of reasons why I will never vote for Biden.

Medicare for all

Medicare for all was a cornerstone of Bernie’s campaign. In late May, Joe Biden stated, “I do not support Medicare for All. I will not support Medicare for All.This was in the middle of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. He actually argued that this was not a case for single payer healthcare and used Italy as an example. Italy and other countries with socialized medicine have mostly controlled the outbreak, while the US outbreak continues to spread. Even a deadly pandemic could not force Biden to change his views on Medicare for all.

This was backed up when the amendment to include Medicare for All in the Democratic national platform was voted down by Biden members of the platform committee. This was in spite of Medicare for All being incredibly popular with Democrats, being included in the majority of state Democratic platforms, and supported by a majority of delegates. It appears that the Biden campaign specifically chose platform committee members who would not support Medicare for All being included in the platform.

The lack of support for Medicare for all, especially during a pandemic, is an endorsement of the social murder of thousands of United States citizens. In “The Condition of the Working Class in England,” Friedrich Engels defined the concept of social murder. “But when society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; when it deprives thousands of the necessaries of life, places them under conditions in which they cannot live — forces them, through the strong arm of the law, to remain in such conditions until that death ensues which is the inevitable consequence — knows that these thousands of victims must perish, and yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual; disguised, malicious murder, murder against which none can defend himself, which does not seem what it is, because no man sees the murderer, because the death of the victim seems a natural one, since the offence is more one of omission than of commission. But murder it remains.” The omission of Medicare for All from the Democratic Platform condones the social murder of 68,000 citizens a year whose lives would be saved by the implementation of a single payer system.

Biden has gone so far as to state that he would veto a Medicare for All bill if it came across his desk. The reason given is a lie — he considers the cost to be too much. Yet twenty-two studies show that Medicare for all would save money. Medicare for All would save lives and save money — but Joe Biden is against it. The reason for this is simple — Biden has taken over 17 million dollars from the health sector. Steve Richetti, a Biden campaign chair, was once a lobbyist for the healthcare industry. He is just one of many lobbyists working for the Biden campaign. This is why health insurance stocks rose when Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill would have made it illegal for private health insurance to cover anything covered by this improved and expanded Medicare, effectively ending predatory health insurance industries. Biden’s milquetoast public option would not end the predatory practices of the health insurance industry.

Even in the unlikely event that Biden changes course and pledges his sup[port for Medicare for all — there is no reason to believe him. This would be meaningless pandering. It is important to remember that Joe Biden was ready to “prostitute himself” for the big donors when he first ran for senate. He happily has accepted money from them throughout his career. In another speech, which should not be forgotten, Biden told us that lobbyists aren’t bad people and it is human nature for politicians to give them a seat at the table if they raise money for them. Biden would have to go against all his insurance and pharmaceutical donors to support Medicare for all, but his nature would not let him. I see people saying all that Biden has to do to win is add Medicare for all to his platform — but that will not get my vote. Biden is a liar. Biden lied during the last debate about his fight to cut social security and Medicare, which he has consistently done throughout his career. The debate moderators, being employed by corporate media, did not call him out on these lies. Replacing one liar with another is not progress. That Biden was willing to lie about the man involved in the crash that killed Biden’s first wife is incredibly disturbing. If he was willing to lie about that, then there can be no doubt he would lie about supporting Medicare for all if it seems the only way to get the votes to win the election. Biden has shown us who he is, and that is a man who works for the lobbyists and corporations, not for us.

Foreign policy

Both Joe Biden and his chosen running mate, Kamala Harris, support the military industrial complex. On July 21st, a Democratic controlled house voted down an amendment to cut the defense budget by 10% — the final vote count was 93–324. The military industrial complex controls both parties — instead of cutting the budget, it will now be increased to 740 billion dollars. In comparison, tuition free college would cost around 79 billion dollars a year. Congress does not serve the people, they serve the ruling class, the wealthy, the plutocrats and oligarchs, and lobbyists. The presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, represents the wing of the party that voted against this bill. Kamala Harris, voted against this bill in the Senate.

Biden’s history on foreign policy is one of supporting disastrous wars. As Bernie said to him during one of the debates, “You got the disastrous war in Iraq done.” This is true — Biden was instrumental in pushing for the war in Iraq. Biden went so far as to say, “I do not believe this is a rush to war, I believe it’s a march to peace and security.” Even though he framed this as a march to peace, he knew the realities of war. Before cosponsoring the resolution to begin hostilities, he said, “Let loose the dogs of war. I’m confident we will win.” These are the words of a hawk. Even after it was revealed that the war had been launched based on false pretenses, Biden still defended it, saying “I do think it was a just war.” Biden played a pivotal role in starting this war — a war which he has now admitted was a mistake.

In a move reinforcing Biden’s support of the Iraq War, Colin Powell spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Colin Powell was instrumental in backing up the lies that started the Iraq War. During his speech at the Democratic National Convention, Powell said of Joe Biden, “He will stand up to our adversaries with strength and experience. They will know he means business.” This is a very hawkish statement.

The Democratic National Convention also highlighted Joe Biden’s friendship with John McCain. This is very concerning since John McCain was a war hawk, who joked about bombing Iran. The entire history of this friendship was not revealed during the DNC — one key part of this friendship was when in 1999, John McCain and Joe Biden co-authored the Kosovo Resolution which called for war in Kosovo. This authorized President Clinton to use “use all necessary force and other means” including a ground war in Yugoslavia. This resolution was not mentioned at the Democratic National Convention.

The Kosovo Resolution and the Iraq War vote were a long time ago. It might be reasonable to think that Joe Biden has changed his views since then. But his choice of foreign policy advisors indicates otherwise. Top foreign policy advisor Antony Blinken has ties to drone warfare. Another top advisor, Michele Flournoy recently said, “We want to augment our manned forces with unmanned systems that are still controlled by a human being, but that dramatically improve … our ability to project power to defend an interest or an ally who’s under threat.” This should not be a surprise considering that the Obama/Biden administration was infamous for their drone strikes. It seems likely that the Biden/Harris administration would continue the war crime legacy of previous US presidents. This is a depressing thought considering that we could have had Bernie’s foreign policy.

The dangers of foreign policy in a Joe Biden administration were reinforced by Michelle Obama in her speech at the Democratic Convention. She said, “Internationally, we’ve turned our back, not just on agreements forged by my husband, but on alliances championed by presidents like Reagan and Eisenhower.” The Democrats may have short memories when it comes to these two Republican presidents, but their record on foreign policy is quite clear. Eisenhower oversaw the CIA backed coup in Guatemala in Operation PBSUCCESS He also supported the failed effort to overthrow the Shah of Iran in 1953 and attempted to assassinate Patrice Lumumba — leader of the Congo. Reagan has a record that is not all that different. He supported the Contras in Nicaragua. He oversaw the invasion of Grenada. He funded the rebel forces in Angola. Are these the alliances that Michelle Obama was referring to? Or maybe it was when Reagan considered giving asylum to the brutal Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet? There can be no doubt that Reagan and Eisenhower were deliberately included in her speech. This simply highlights the Democratic Party’s shift to the right. Biden’s stance on Venezuela is virtually indistinguishable from Trump’s. Michelle’s husband, former President Obama once wrote a USA Today Op-Ed in praise of Reagan. Every indication points to the corporate Democratic Party of today desiring to carry on the legacy of Reagan.

If we look at the Democratic Party in this light, the nomination of Joe Biden makes perfect sense. He is the ideal candidate to cement Reagan’s neoliberal economic legacy. He has even gone so far as to recently pull directly from a Reagan speech. However, we can’t read too much into this, as Biden has quoted Mao before as well and we can be sure that Biden is not a Maoist. Nevertheless, we must not forget that Joe Biden was a senator while Reagan was in office. And during this time, he pushed Reagan to be tougher on crime. Biden has himself bragged that “Every major crime bill since 1976 that’s come out of this congress, every minor crime bill has had the name of the Democratic senator from the state of Delaware, Joe Biden, on that bill.” And he still proudly declares, “I do not support defunding the police.” He is currently airing an advertisement saying, “Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. It is lawlessness plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted.” It would seem Biden still supports an increase in mass incarceration — even his running mate, Kamala Harris, who has her own poor record with criminal justice, has said that Biden’s 1994 crime bill increased mass incarceration.

Working with Republicans

Biden has a long history of working across the aisle to achieve Republican goals. Within the Obama administration, Joe Biden was the man who worked closely with Mitch McConnell to make sure Republicans got what they wanted. During a speech at the University of Louisville McConnell Center, Biden praised McConnell and said, “We agreed we have to cut spending and get the deficit under control.” The way that they worked together to achieve this was by extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. When it came to supporting disastrous Republican policies, Biden was McConnell’s man.

Biden was happy to accept $200,000 to give a speech that praised Fred Upton, a Republican running for reelection in Michigan. This was not just reaching across the aisle to make bipartisan compromises in favor of Republican policy, this was actually working directly to help get a Republican elected. On the campaign trail, Biden said he was open to choosing a Republican as his running mate. Although in the end, he did not choose a Republican for the VP slot, it would come as no surprise that a Biden administration could include Republicans in the cabinet. This would fit well with Obama’s cabinet that came straight from Wall Street. A Biden cabinet would likely also have democratic members such as his economic adviser, Larry Summers. As neoliberals and Republicans took the highlighted speaking spots at the DNC, so would they take prominent positions in a Biden administration. Aesop once said, “A man is known by the company he keeps,” and the company that Biden keeps is right of center, whether they have a D or an R by their name.

Let’s talk about #BelieveWomen

Allowing Biden to run after the numerous allegations of sexual harassment came to light was a betrayal of the #BelieveWomen and #MeToo movements. Making him the nominee is the final nail in the coffin of any Democratic support of those movements. When Christine Blasey Ford came forward with her allegations regarding Brett Kavanaugh, the Democrats did everything they could to support her and attempt to stop Kavanaugh’s appointment. Yet when Lucy Flores, Amy Lappos, D.J. Hill, Caitlyn Caruso, Ally Coll, Sofie Karasek, Vail Kohnert-Yount, Alexandra Tara Reade, and Eva Murry came forward with their accounts of Joe Biden’s inappropriate behavior, there was not only silence but actual defense of Biden. This is disturbing considering that on October 9, 2016, @TheDemocrats, the official Twitter account of the Democratic National Committee, tweeted the following, “Grabbing women is sexual assault. Take it from the author of the Violence Against Women Act. #debate” and then quoted @JoeBiden’s tweet from October 8, 2016 saying “The words are demeaning. Such behavior is an abuse of power. It’s not lewd. It’s sexual assault. — Joe.” Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee agree that grabbing women is sexual assault. By their own definition, this makes Joe Biden a perpetrator of sexual assault.

Joe Biden himself said in 2018, that we should presume that women are telling the truth when they come forward. Joe Biden’s chosen running mate, Kamala Harris, said of Biden’s accusers in April 2019, “I believe them and I respect them being able to tell their story and having the courage to do it.” Yet when it came to accepting the VP nomination, she did not bring this up. When Biden finally did break his silence of the Tara Reade accusation, he told us, “I wouldn’t vote for me if I believed Tara Reade.” While Biden has claimed he never acted inappropriately, these accounts say otherwise. His response to the accusations is inappropriate behavior — he actually joked about it and said “I’m not sorry for anything I’ve ever done.” This in and of itself is plenty of reason to not vote for Joe Biden. Joe Biden stands for a white male patriarchal society that laughs off sexual assault allegations.

Biden chose Chris Dodd to head up his VP selection team. Chris Dodd has his own history of sexual assault. In 1985, together with Ted Kennedy he was involved in the assault of a waitress. This incident has become known as the “waitress sandwich.” The full account of this assault can be found in this 1990 GQ article, which includes this disturbing passage, “With Gaviglio on Dodd’s lap, Kennedy jumps on top and begins rubbing his genital area against hers, supporting his weight on the arms of the chair.” This should have ended the careers of both Ted and Chris — but it did not. A recent New York Post article mentions that “The scared waitress never saw Dodd again but was hounded by the media and allegedly threatened by one ex-Arkansas congressman who said that if Gaviglio spoke out, the restaurant, which she described as “a very close family,” would be blacklisted by lawmakers, she said.” Sexual assault should be disqualifying, but it did not stop Biden from picking Dodd.

Another famous incident involving Biden and sexual harassment came during the confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas. Anita Hill had accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. This accusation led to her being relentlessly questioned during the hearings — one of the questioners being Joe Biden. During the questioning, Biden actually said of Anita’s reluctance to testify “that is not conduct inconsistent with someone who has been harassed.” Although he has expressed regret about her treatment, that was not enough for Anita herself, who has said, “I will be satisfied when I know that there is real change and real accountability and real purpose.” Biden has not shown this — no true apology has been forthcoming.

Joe Biden’s History of Racism

In addition to his history of inappropriate behavior with women, it is important to address Joe Biden’s history of racism. This would be true even without the added urgency brought about by the killing of George Floyd. Joe Biden’s own words paint himself as a civil rights champion — unfortunately the truth is far from that. Essentially all Joe Biden did during the civil rights movement was work at a swimming pool — and he has told some stories about that — he was not active in the civil rights movement whatsoever.

Not only was he not active, once he was elected into the senate, he actively fought against civil rights. Much has been said of his fight against busing. This includes the well prepared attack of Kamala Harris against him on the debate stage. Harris was that little girl and she believed Biden’s accusers, but that was not enough to stop her from attempting to advance her career by accepting the VP nomination. But the fight against busing was not the only time that Biden has demonstrated his racism throughout his long career. As Branko Marcetic writes, “But surveying Biden’s record, one is left with a different impression: that Biden has, in fact, built a career on the back of steadfast African-American support while consistently betraying those same voters.” This is apparent in Biden’s legislative record, which includes the Biden-Thurmond Violent Crime Control Act of 1991. This crime bill failed to pass, but it is noteworthy that he worked on it with noted segregationist Strom Thurmond, who Biden would later go on to eulogize. His 1994 crime bill did pass and was influential in increasing the amount of minorities in prison. Biden has refused to apologize for the 1994 crime bill and has defended it throughout his campaign. He recently said, “Everybody forgets a third of that bill that I wrote was to put more cops in the street, not in their automobiles, but getting out and knowing the community — knowing who owns the local grocery store, knowing everybody in the community, and crime will drop.” This goes against what the experts say, as more police do not result in a reduction in crime. Nevertheless, Biden’s criminal justice plan includes an increase in 300 million dollars for community policing.

In addition to his racist legislation, Biden has not stopped making racist statements. On August 5, 2020, Biden said, “Unlike the African American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly diverse attitudes about different things.” While he has tried to back track on this, like so many of his other statements, there can be no doubt that this was another racists statement as concerns the black community. This comes as no surprise from the man who said “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” During the same Breakfast Club interview, he lied about being endorsed by the NAACP, which does not make endorsements, and asked people to “take a look at the record.” Anyone who actually does take a look at his record, will see that it is one of consistent racism.

Perhaps Biden does not actually know what racism is. After all, he recently said of Trump, “We’ve had racists and they’ve existed, they’ve tried to get elected president but he’s the first one that has.” It would be difficult to find a president who has not been racist in a list that includes George W. Bush, Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Andrew Jackson, just to mention a few. Biden’s racist past and statements show that if Trump was the first racist president, Biden would like to be the second. This is all nonsense of course — every United States president has supported systemic racism and the capitalism that enables it.

What is to be done?

“We are not a movement where I can snap my fingers and say to you or to anybody else what you should do, because you won’t listen to me. You shouldn’t. You’ll make these decisions yourself.” — Bernie Sanders

Voting is a very personal decision. As a voter, you should make this decision on your own, using the facts and information available. This is what I have done with Joe Biden and why I will not vote for him. My only recommendation is that everyone make the best decision they can given what they know. Just because I’m not voting for Joe, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t if you believe he is the best choice.

I am fully aware that such great people as Angela Davis, Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, and Bernie Sanders have said they will vote for Biden. This does not impact me — that is their decision and I can see why they have made it. My decision is to follow Chris Hedges, Tim Black, and Ajamu Baraka and not vote for Biden. While they will be voting Green, I will be writing in Bernard Sanders — fully cognizant of the fact that my vote will not count.

While Angela Davis may be voting for Biden, so are Richard Spencer, Colin Powell, John Kasich, and 70 Republican former national security officials. As much as I generally align with Angela Davis’ views on abolishing the police and prisons and enacting communism, I do not align with Richard Spencer’s views on white supremacy and nationalism or John Kasich’s views on women’s rights or LGBTQ+2S or labor issues. When it comes to voting for Joe Biden, I suppose I am too revolutionary for that but I guess Richard Spencer isn’t.

I also find justification for this decision with some of the greatest figures of our history — Eugene v Debs, W.E.B. DuBois, Jerry Garcia, and others who have called out the failed democracy of the US in the past.

The great socialist candidate for president and founding member of the IWW, Eugene v Debs gave a speech in Chicago in 1912 in which he said, “In this campaign there are but two parties and but one issue. There is no longer even the pretense of difference between the so-called Republican and Democratic parties. They are substantially one in what they stand for. They are opposed to each other on no question of principle but purely in a content for the spoils of office. To the workers of the country these two parties in name are one in fact. They, or rather it, stands for capitalism, for the private ownership of the means of subsistence, for the exploitation of the workers, and for wage-slavery.” This has not changed in over 100 years, the Republican and Democratic parties still remain the parties of capitalism — supported by corporate interests, they do not represent the people or the working class. Debs continued by saying, “The baseness, hypocrisy and corruption of these twin political agencies of Wall street and the ruling class can not be expressed in words. The imagination is taxed in contemplating their crimes. There is no depth of dishonor to which they have not descended-no depth of depravity they have not sounded.” These words could just as easily have been said about the 2016 or the 2020 election cycle. Debs still remains relevant today. George Bicknell once said of Debs, his neighbor, “During this time I have been a close observer of him and his public utterances, and I can repeat here, as I have often stated, that he is one of the kindest, humblest, most chivalrous men I have ever known.” The world would be a much better place if Eugene v Debs had been elected president and we would do well to study his history and listen to his words.

In 1956, in an article titled “I will not vote,” the great W.E.B. DuBois outlined a similar belief as that of Debs. His advice seems very apt for the modern day as well, as he wrote, “I have no advice for others in this election. Are you voting Democratic? Well and good; all I ask is why? Are you voting for Eisenhower and his smooth team of bright ghost writers? Again, why? Will your helpless vote either way support or restore democracy to America? I will be no party to it and that will make little difference. You will take large part and bravely march to the polls, and that also will make no difference. Stop running Russia and giving Chinese advice when we cannot rule ourselves decently. Stop yelling about a democracy we do not have. Democracy is dead in the United States. Yet there is still nothing to replace real democracy. Drop the chains, then, that bind our brains. Drive the money-changers from the seats of the Cabinet and the halls of Congress. Call back some faint spirit of Jefferson and Lincoln,and when again we can hold a fair election on real issues, let’s vote, and not till then. Is this impossible? Then democracy in America is impossible.” These words ring true today — democracy is indeed dead. And yes, perhaps it is even impossible.

In a speech in 1969, Peter Camejo said, “There is no real democracy in the sense that we don’t run this country. The elections are totally phony. The ruling class simply gets up and picks two people, or three, and they say: ‘Okay, everybody, we’re having elections.’” Unless Democracy is restored, it is a fruitless endeavor to spend our time arguing over electoral politics. I gave everything I had to the Bernie campaign and we were cheated out of his win — it was never possible in this corrupt, capitalist system. The Bernie campaign set world records — it fought for the people, it inspired us. We will never forget that. Bernie and what the corporate oligarchy did to stop him has exposed the system for the lie that it is. I cheered the loudest when Bernie said “We are taking on the establishment.” Sadly, the campaign was killed by the establishment and Bernie is now backing Biden, the neoliberal face of the corporate establishment Democratic Party. Nevertheless, the struggle continues. It gives me some small amount of hope that Bernie sent his volunteers to help progressive organizations such as Democratic Socialists of America and Dream Defenders, and not the Biden campaign. Both of these organizations specifically are working towards the abolition of capitalism. This must be our ultimate goal — no matter which way we vote or how the 2020 election turns out. As Norman Solomon puts it, “The future is up to us.” Let us work together to achieve a future where the workers own the means of production.

My only advice is to vote (or don’t vote) your conscience — no matter whether you live in a swing state or not. As Nina Turner (HELLO SOMEBODY) put it at the People’s Convention, leave the vote shaming to the professionals. As the great activist Lucy Parsons once said, “Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth.” Votes are of little or not consequence in a corporate oligarchy. If you vote for Biden or Trump or Mickey Mouse, we will get the same result — continued corporate oligarchy, oppression of the people, and an expanded global police state. Wall Street has shown that it makes little difference to them whether it is Trump or Biden. What is more important than your vote is making sure your friends and neighbors are alright during this time of crisis — the government isn’t going to help the people, so we must form mutual aid networks and work toward a true anarcho-communist society.

Author’s note:

I am aware I have left out much of Joe Biden’s awful policy position such as his “I am not banning fracking” climate plan or the time he told immigration activists to vote for Trump. And that his plan for college is a means tested mess. There is simply too much awful about Biden to cover it all in one place. Thank you for reading — you can follow me on Twitter @birrion or find me on Mastodon hanging out at kolektiva.social.

Birrion Sondahl is a former Bernie volunteer and 2020 delegate. He believes in a better world where socialism wins.

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