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Current Affairs

A Magazine of Politics and Culture

In Defense of Litmus Tests

Having principles is not an indulgence. It’s essential if we’re going to be better than the right.

Imagine (presuming you don’t already) that you live in a swing state.

Is there a single issue, or an approach to governance, or a character deficit, or a past vote that you would consider to be disqualifying for a Democratic presidential nominee? A commitment to preserving the for-profit healthcare system, perhaps? Waffling on the right to choose? A yes vote for the Iraq War? Would you decline, maybe, to vote for a candidate who had accepted corporate money to fund their campaign? Or one who had been credibly accused of sexual assault? What about a candidate with a record of trying to cut social safety net programs like Medicare? Or one who had eulogized a segregationist?

If your answer is no—that no single issue or “litmus test” is disqualifying—was there once a time, before Trump perhaps, when you would have answered “yes”? 

What changed your mind? Was it the Muslim Ban or Trump’s record-setting volume of federal court appointments, or the gassing of George Floyd protestors for the sake of a White House photo-op? Has defeating Trump become a goal that, well, trumps all else? Would you, like Nation journalist Katha Pollit, “vote for Joe Biden if he boiled babies and ate them”? Would you vote for him even if he shot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue? What if he shot them in the leg?

The idea that most Republicans would vote for Trump, even if he committed murder on one of New York’s most iconic streets, was once evoked to illustrate how craven—how lacking in standards—Republicans can be. But since the beginning of the Democratic primary contest, long before it was even clear who, exactly, would be throwing their hat in the ring, Democratic voters and candidates have been repeatedly asked the same question: Will you vote blue no matter who?

“Vote blue no matter who,” has become a sort of gospel among moderate Democrats and “Never Trump Republicans.” The logic is simple: Trump is so cruel and presents such an enormous threat to, well, nearly everyone, that he must be stopped at all cost. As my former colleague Mehdi Hasan has argued forcefully and often, no matter what Biden’s flaws are, Trump is worse.

Certainly, the threat posed by Donald Trump would be difficult to overstate. The Federal judiciary is already lost for at least a generation. His withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords is but one example of his contempt for the environmental crisis that threatens life on earth as we know it. And his 2020 budget stands poised to cut essential social programs that keep the most vulnerable Americans barely afloat. 

But although I agree Trump must be defeated, I don’t think it must come at the price of abandoning the values which ostensibly motivate our opposition to him. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what this “vote blue no matter who” orthodoxy really promotes.

Last November, former New York mayor and 9th richest man in the world Michael Bloomberg made a late entrance into the Democratic primary as a “stop Bernie” candidate. “Senior aides to Bloomberg’s campaign have been discussing how they are going to use some of their resources against Sanders,” NBC reported. “Already, the campaign has spent over $500 million on media ad buys.”

But Bloomberg’s effort was quickly hamstrung by damning videos which revealed his racist, authoritarian politics—already familiar to Black and Brown New Yorkers—to all. “Ninety-five percent of your murders and murderers and murder victims fit one M.O.” he said in one recording. “You can just take the description, Xerox it, and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities, 16 to 21. That’s true in New York, it’s true in virtually every city in America.” On transgender rights, he once opined: “If you wanna know is somebody a good salesman, give them the job of going to the midwest and picking a town and selling to that town the concept that some man wearing a dress should be in the locker room with their daughter.” 

Yet despite the outcry from civil rights leaders and anti-racist activists, many pundits, politicians, and journalists continued to pressure candidates about their commitment to support Bloomberg if he were to become the nominee. It seemed clear that only one answer was politically viable, Bloomberg’s racist, authoritarian, oligarchical, and misogynist tendencies notwithstanding: Yes. 

If you’re doubtful, recall Elizabeth Warren’s memorable attack on Bloomberg during the last debate before Super Tuesday. She said, “I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians. And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.” It was a sharp and effective volley, but the impact was dimmed somewhat by the disclaimer uttered in the same breath: “I’ll support whoever the Democratic nominee is.” 

The rationale for potentially endorsing a Bloomberg candidacy was murky at best. For one, it was not at all clear that Bloomberg presented a better alternative to Trump. Trump is certainly more obvious in his boorishness, but as the saying goes: the devil you don’t know is often more dangerous. Trump is authoritarian but so is Bloomberg: this is a man who lobbied to change New York State law so he could rule for a third term. Both men are oligarchs who openly use their wealth to wield political power. Neither has any respect for the civil liberties of Blacks or Latinos. And of course, to Warren’s point, they’re both infamous misogynists. 

Moreover, the risk of a Bloomberg win was remote. At the time, Biden and Sanders led in the polls, and a half dozen other, more qualified candidates remained in the race. It’s difficult to imagine how declining to endorse Bloomberg on principle would have hurt the party. Quite the opposite: by affirming that Bloomberg—a sexist Republican-until-recently who embraces racial profiling and financial croynism—is unqualified to top the Democratic ticket, Warren (and the rest of the Democratic field) would have done a rare and important thing: affirm that Democrats stand for something. That we have our limits.

To allow that Bloomberg could adequately represent the party was a serious concession of principle. And the thing is, when you set the bar low, you tend to attract things that slither and crawl.  

Now that Joe Biden is the nominee, “vote blue no matter whoism” is principally deployed to shield him from personal accountability and calls to move left — where the bulk of American voters are on policy. To criticise him or merely decline to endorse him is to “cast a vote to support Trump,” according to prominent pundits. 

But, of course, it’s possible to defend the choice of Biden over Trump without pretending he’s flawless.

If we accept the binary that your vote is either unconditional or pledged to Trump, it removes our ability to affirm the values which will remain important long after the election is over. The establishment reaction to Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegations made this clear. Long before any substantive investigation of her claims, #MeToo activists bent over backward to revise their approach to sexual assault claims from “believe women” to the same “due process” arguments Republicans leveraged in defense of Kavanaugh. “I believe that even though we should believe women,” explained #MeToo “activist” Alyssa Milano, “that does not mean at the expense of not giving men their due process.” She added, “I just don’t feel comfortable throwing away a decent man whom I’ve known for 15 years.” 

Recall also the cable news commentary following the June 26, 2019 debate, when television personality Donny Deutch argued, early in the primary process, that substantive policy concerns were secondary to beating Trump. “It’s not issues, it’s not universal healthcare, it’s not a woman’s reproductive rights — as important as that is, he argued. Just Trump. And while that may be an appropriate descriptive claim, it’s not the normative one journalists should have been making.  The idea that voters only cared about beating Trump led journalists to assess candidates through that lens almost exclusively, and in doing so, they collapsed important distinctions between candidates that voters might have cared about had they been made clear.

This is a problem inherent to “vote blue no matter who”:  It can lead us to substitute “pragmatic” or normative arguments for moral ones, and in so doing demote the substantive, ethical considerations that should be driving our decision-making. It blurs the line between accepting a bad outcome and validating an unacceptable one, making bad outcomes more likely to come to pass.

Yet perhaps because of Hillary Clinton’s hard-felt loss in 2016, many Democrats’ appetite for even the most humble critique is close to nil.

New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman described Joe Biden as a “flawed candidate” in a recent CNN interview. This mild remark was enough to provoke a fierce establishment backlash. “Joe Biden won the Dem nomination earlier than anyone expected, united the Dem party, assembled a top flight campaign, currently beating an incumbent president by 10 points in polls. But is simply dismissed as flawed,” kvetched Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden. 

“Flawed? Joe Biden won the nomination earlier than any candidate since 2004,” echoed Alyssa Milano.

Former White House press correspondent Tommy Christopher dramatically warned followers to brace themselves before viewing the CNN clip of Haberman’s remarks: “It’s much worse than you thought it was.” 

Short of a deity, it’s difficult to imagine who could reasonably dispute an accusation of being flawed. The reaction seems especially hyperbolic given that the trait Biden is most known for is his tendency to make “gaffes”: (He famously described then-Senator Barack Obama as the first Black presidential candidate who was “clean” and “articulate,” he has a long history of plagiarism — including an incident that caused him to drop out of the 1988 presidential race, and most recently, he told radio host Charlamagne Tha God that voters who hadn’t committed to vote for him “ain’t black.” Plus, the accusation of “possessing flaws” certainly pales in comparison to the insults slung about other candidates. After all, unlike Sanders, no one has suggested that a Biden win will result in Central Park executions.)

But the urgent desire to beat Trump—an urgency I share—has given rise to an approach to politics that refuses to admit error, concede flaw, or consider improvement. A world where Trump must lose is also one, according to influential members of the corporate political and media establishment—in which any criticism of the Democratic nominee, no matter how mild or factual, is unwelcome. “No matter who.” No matter what.

“We tear each other down so much that by the time it’s time for an election—and we’ve seen this happen obviously with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders—by the time it’s time to go vote, it’s like: ‘ Well, I’m a Bernie supporter but now I can’t support Hillary,’ said Breakfast Club co-host Angela Yee in a recent conversation with former Daily Show host Jon Stewart. “And I think with the Republicans, whoever their candidate is it doesn’t matter, they are behind them 100 percent.” 

“[Republicans will] switch what they think depending on what their leader tells them, there’s no principle behind it anymore, agreed Stewart. “There is no principle but power.” 

I’m not sure that Yee’s assessment is accurate. The 2016 Republican primary was incredibly “divisive,” and yet they won the general election. Trump nicknamed front runner Ted Cruz “Lying Ted,” attacked his wife’s looks, and implied his father killed JFK. In Utah, right-leaning Independent Evan McMullin won a shocking 21 percent of the vote, and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson received three times as many votes as Green Party candidate Jill Stein, suggesting a larger number of anti-Trump Republicans than left-wing Hillary defectors.

But look closely at what’s happening in The Breakfast Club exchange above: both Yee and Stewart express a sort of envy for the Republican position which, they admit, is lacking in integrity. 

In any other context, “there is no principle but power,” would be read as a moral indictment. But here it’s intoned almost wistfully, as if an absence of principle is something to which Democrats should aspire—as long as it helps us win. 

I don’t think that’s what either Yee or Stewart believe, but their failure to accurately assess what’s driving Republican “unity” leads them to the edge of an unacceptable conclusion. And that’s a real problem. 

What is it that actually drives Republican message discipline? Too often, liberals cast party differences as a battle between “good guys” and “bad guys” — principles vs power — but more often than not, the answer is “money.”  Republicans present a united front because the party leadership is committed to core conservative economic principles shared by both leadership and, sadly, much of their base. The Republican establishment ultimately coalesced around Trump because they believed he would protect the most fundamental conservative economic interests. And they were right. Trump’s first major action as an executive was a $1.7 trillion tax cut for the rich. He has stacked the courts with judges who protect corporate interests, and has worked to discourage antitrust litigation. Conservatives don’t do anything which fail to advance those ends.

The problem is that corporate Democrats serve the same masters, but must operate under a veil of pretense. Their corporate donors are equally motivated as Republican donors to cut the social safety net, preserve for-profit health insurance, protect private real estate against profit-undermining housing laws, and slow the pace of environmental reforms. The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republican messaging aligns straightforwardly with their economic goals: Cut taxes for the rich. Protect “individual freedoms” from government overreach. Encourage “self sufficiency.” They’ve branded austerity so that it’s welcomed by their constituents. Meanwhile, Democrats attempt to disguise that they’re offering versions of the same wrapped in rainbow flags and kente cloth, but have the clumsy task of rationalizing why they fail to deliver more than tokenism and lip service. 

For Republican corporate donors to be happy, Republicans must win, and they do. For Democratic corporate donors to be happy, Democrats must lose. And they do. 

Candidates like Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Pramila Jayapal and Jamaal Bowman excite voters and are able to message differently exactly because they don’t take corporate PAC or lobbyist money. And in the context of the 2016 and 2020 primaries, millions of Americans got a taste for what it felt like to be offered concrete, people-funded plans to advance their lives.

“When I graduated in 2011, I owed $137,000 in student loans. Today I have $175,000 even as I continue making monthly payments. I will never own a home, start a family, or live debt-free. @BernieSanders is the only person running who will cancel ALL student debt.” writer David Ian Robin tweeted as part of the Sanders’ “#MyBernieStory” campaign. “I got a bill for my miscarriage because my insurance only covered my child as long as the child was ‘viable.’ What a wonderful country we live in, huh? #whyIamForBernie #MyBernieStory” tweeted a supporter named Georgia, who, like millions, was inspired by Medicare for All.

Now, establishment Democrats want the base to put their substantive differences aside and coalesce behind Biden. But for millions of voters, what they’re getting for that exchange feels inadequate. 

If Democrats want the same party cohesion conservatives enjoy, the answer isn’t to become more like Republicans and coalesce behind a flawed candidate. It’s to start acting like Democrats. It’s time to regain the public trust. And you don’t do that by asking them to vote for a “D” before an idea. 

Being clear about what you’re fighting for matters. Especially in the shadow of the incredible health and economic crises currently facing America, universal healthcare still matters. Abortion rights still matter. Climate change absolutely matters. And backing popular, progressive solutions to the COVID crisis — solutions like monthly relief checks — would certainly go a long way toward proving that the country wouldn’t just be better under a Biden administration, it could thrive. 

“Can we all just admit this,” New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow recently wrote, “the transformational changes that COVID, the economic crisis, police brutality and racial turbulence will force are precisely some of the things Bernie Sanders was talking about but may have sounded too extreme to some just months ago.” Blow is right, but it’s not enough to admit that reality has endorsed Bernie. Biden should endorse his policies too. And we shouldn’t be sheepish about pushing him to do so.

But despite the obvious benefit of maximizing contrasts with Trump by backing popular progressive policies, Biden refuses. 

“Democrats be like “I hear you, and I understand why you’re upset. Here’s how we’re going to do nothing to address your concerns,” tweeted NFL player and Sanders supporter Justin Jackson. “The orange man is bad, and you have nowhere else to go. Now, would you like a hug? No free healthcare but we offer free hugs here.” With nearly 100,000 “likes,” Jackson’s is hardly a niche opinion. But rather than respond to voters frustrated by the former Vice President’s platitudes, Team Biden seems to have made a sport out of lowering the bar. “I’ll read my daily briefings,” he tweeted July 1st, a day millions of Americans struggled to pay their rent. This celebration of the bare minimum is what “better than Trump” has wrought. 

Adopting ideas that galvanize voters without “vote blue no matter who” shaming shouldn’t be difficult for Biden. After all, the progressive platform is a popular one and presents little-to-no electoral risk. Fifty-five percent of voters—including a majority of Independents—support Medicare for All. On the subject of a wealth tax, sixty-four percent of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, agree that “the rich should contribute an extra share of their total wealth each year to support public programs.” A majority of all Americans favor requiring public companies to let workers elect one-third of corporate board members. Eighty-three percent of Democrats and left-leaning Independents support free college for all, and fifty-nine percent of Americans favor a Green New Deal

Although the fact that Biden beat Sanders for the nomination is often leveraged as evidence that Americans don’t want a progressive platform, both polling and anecdotal evidence confirms that Biden’s victory was rooted in his perceived electability—not, say, his plan to double Pell grants. 

But Biden declines to support popular progressive policies because, frankly, he, and the people who run his campaign, are paid not to. Biden’s senior advisor, Steve Richetti, is a former healthcare lobbyist. The organizers of his super PAC include Larry Rasky, whose lobbying firm works for Raytheon, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, and the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. More billionaires donated to Joe Biden’s campaign than any other—at least forty-four billionaires, in fact, representing the real estate industry, the finance industry, and big tech. Voters may want Medicare for All, but what incentive do these men have to kneecap the for-profit healthcare industry? How will the needs of renters and unemployed gig workers stand up against the interests of real estate and life insurance billionaire Eli Broad, who contributed $25,000 to a Democratic Party PAC? 

Biden has openly admitted the influence corporate donors have on politicians. At a 2007 campaign event, he explained: “If you, Lynn, bundle $250,000 for me, all legal, and then you call me after I’m excited & say, ‘Joe, I’d like to talk to you about something. You didn’t buy me. But it’s human nature, you helped me, I”m going to say, ‘Sure, Lynn, come on in. The front of the line is always filled with people whose pockets are filled.”

“It’s human nature,” he added.

During those 2007 remarks, Biden advocated for campaign finance reform. But absent those reforms, what incentive does he have to change his staffing so that those who advise him aren’t working against the interests of those who will elect him? What incentive does he have to pick a cabinet that isn’t vertiginous from the proverbial revolving door?

If we all “vote blue no matter who,” what incentive does Biden have to listen to anyone not holding the checkbook?

 “Joe Biden needs to pick a black woman as VP. That’s it. That’s the tweet,” averred MSNBC correspondent Zerlina Maxwell recently. But the logical follow up is: or what? What are you going to do about it if he doesn’t? 

“Vote blue no matter who” fundamentally demands that Americans abandon their most essential concerns at the moment at which they have the most leverage. Voting blue may be necessary, but that doesn’t mean the vote can’t be contingent upon adoption of popular, progressive policies. As Frederick Douglass famously observed, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” 

At present, the moral onus for a Trump win is being framed in a way that puts the full burden of a Trump win on voters. Don’t criticize Biden, we’re told, and vote for him no matter what because Trump is much worse and he cannot be allowed to win.

Fair enough. But it could be framed differently. For example one could argue: “Biden will be more electable, draw stronger contrasts with Trump, and encourage more voter participation if he moves left. And until he does, I withhold my vote. If he loses, it will be because of his choice to put donors over voters. He alone will be responsible.”

Imagine, for a moment, what might be gained by taking that stronger position.

Now, consider what we lose by not doing so.

Recently, after a year of talking about Medicare for All non-stop as Sanders’ National Press Secretary,  I found myself hesitating before launching a Medicare for All tweet. Suddenly it felt obnoxious—off message somehow—to advocate for a policy that, even before COVID-19, was estimated to save 68,000 lives a year. I asked myself why, and found myself reflecting on the pushback I tend to receive online. Biden is unlikely to adopt Medicare for All. He has said he would veto a Medicare for All bill if one were to pass the House and Senate. So why tweet? Who is my audience? What is my goal? Why “attack” Biden when we need him to beat Trump? 

But despite Biden’s indifference to them, the ethical, moral, and yes, pragmatic arguments for progressive policies remain. Americans won’t stop rationing their insulin simply because Biden is in office. Biden should be pushed to back a plan that doesn’t leave 10 million people uninsured by design in the middle of a global pandemic. The consequences of global warming exceeding 1.5 C will be cataclysmic, and we only have about a decade to prevent them by limiting carbon emissions. We have a responsibility to push Biden to adopt a climate plan that actually stands a chance of meeting the IPCC’s guidelines, or our planet may rapidly become uninhabitable for billions of people.

Those who defend “vote blue no matter who” argue that the presidency is too important to allow Trump to have a second term.” But that (true) statement is irreconcilable with the notion that it doesn’t matter if Biden does a mediocre job of meeting the people’s needs. If the presidency is important, it matters that Biden isn’t just a relatively “better” president, but a good one. And the presidency has rarely been more important than it is now. 

Refusing to push Biden left, and committing to shaming voters with “vote blue no matter who,” is not as safe a strategy as it appears. In fact, it might ultimately backfire and make Biden less electable. 

Already, anxiety is growing about the lack of grassroots engagement with Biden’s campaign. At the end of March, ABC News reported that “[S]trong enthusiasm for Biden among his supporters—at just 24 percent—is the lowest on record for a Democratic presidential candidate in 20 years of ABC/Post polls. More than twice as many of Trump’s supporters are highly enthusiastic about supporting him, 53 percent.” 

The Democratic party’s share of the Black vote is declining. (The decline is slight, but so are election margins). Even the Democratic party’s anointed “firewall”—Black women—are drifting. According to a 2018 study, twelve percent fewer Black women supported the Democratic party in 2017 as compared to 2018. And only forty-five percent of Black women believe that the Democratic Party best represents our interests. 

A 2018 study out of Wisconsin, where nearly 88,000 more African Americans voted in 2012 than in 2016, asked Black Milwaukeeans why they stayed home. The most common answers? “Unhappy with choice of candidates or issues” (33 percent of responses), “not interested” (8.8 percent), and “vote would not have mattered” (6.6 percent). To maximize turnout among historically disenfranchised groups, it seems important that voters feel that something will fundamentally change.

And it’s no surprise why. As author and scholar Keeanga Yahmatta Taylor has recently written, massive world-wide protests are evidence of how the state is failing Black Americans, and not just with respect to police violence. COVID-19 has exposed the network of inequity that threatens Black lives under even the best circumstances. “Young black people must endure the contusions caused by rubber bullets or the acrid burn of tear gas because government has abandoned us,” she wrote. “Black Lives Matter only because we will make it so.”

But none of that seems to matter in the context of Biden’s campaign. Perhaps because Biden is currently polling well against Trump, moderates continue to advise Biden to remain silent on calls from the Black Lives Matter movement and progressives to cancel rent, issue monthly stimulus checks, and, of course, to provide free-at-point-of-service healthcare

“Shut the hell up and grow up,” advised Obama pollster Cornell Belcher when asked to respond to Biden critics who’ve noted the low level of enthusiasm for the Democratic nominee. “We’ve got a guy who is an existential threat to everything you believe in. Right? Shut up. Get in line. Lets get rid of this guy. And then we can argue on the other side of this.”

2016 should be a lesson in why complacency is a dangerous bedfellow. But I’m afraid it will be a lesson that goes unlearned. 

Some pundits and politicos have blamed Sanders for the enthusiasm gap, saying he should do more. He should “direct” young voters to fight for Biden online, and be an “ambassador” for the means-tested half measures Biden has offered, argued CNBC founder Tom Rogers and his daughter in a co-written Newsweek op-ed. But curiously, they stopped short of encouraging Biden to adopt the policies which they acknowledged “galvanized young people,” suggesting instead that Bernie’s supporters will simply follow his direction. 

Sanders’ influence, despite popular opinion, does not stem from a “cult of personality,” but from his commitment to humanistic, populist policy. Without it, his influence wanes. He would never be trusted as an “ambassador” for a program that bucks his long established values. “That’s just not the way it works in a democracy,” he explained in a recent New Yorker interview. “In fact, that’s not the way it should work.”

Most Democratic voters can accept that they need to vote for Biden to prevent a second Trump term. But more voters, particularly new or formerly disaffected voters, would be convinced to turn out (and volunteer and donate) if party leaders truly recognized what’s at the root of Sanders’ appeal. In his platform, millions of working class and poor Americans felt their most fundamental concerns were genuinely being addressed — often for the first time in their political lives. They saw in him a candidate with a values-based vision of what this country could be: a belief that the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was not just a slogan, but a bedrock principle that life shouldn’t be contingent on a co-pay, race shouldn’t influence liberty, and happiness shouldn’t be held hostage by corporate titans too stingy to pay a living wage. I suspect that many can’t forget the feeling, cultivated by Sanders’ movement, that a better world was possible and that yes, they deserved it. And frankly, they shouldn’t ever forget. 

The way to put together a massive coalition that will be unstoppable against Trump is not to shame Americans—struggling now more than ever—into a fidelity pledge. The way forward is to put together a platform that so completely meets voters’ needs it becomes irresistible. 

I am deeply concerned that each time a corporate Democrat attempts to disavow us of our principles by smearing our values as  unreasonable “litmus tests”—each time they tell us that a policy implemented the world over is “pie in the sky,” that demanding healthcare as a human right is akin to whining for “a pony,” that women’s rights are conditional on who the woman is and how powerful the man is that she’s crossed—we lose our ethical moorings.

And with each election cycle, as progressive candidates are openly thwarted by big monied interests who are deeply invested in the status quo, I’m concerned that we have no strategy to ratchet back the rightward creep that “lesser of two evilism” enables. 

“Vote blue no matter who” lowers the floor of what Democrats stand for to a hair’s breadth above Trump’s scalp. And the effect of repeatedly lowering the standards of the only powerful resistance party is grave. It establishes a slippery and ever inclining slope, a race to the bottom that has skewed American politics such that the “liberal party” is well to the right of American voters on all but certain social issues. 

I agree that Donald Trump presents a unique and grevious threat to this country. But it’s also true that every four years we’re told the same. Republicans are becoming more right-wing, more reactionary, more openly white supremacist. But it happens, in part, because Democrats chase them to the right, thinking electoral victory can be found in splitting the difference rather than taking a stand for good. Year after year, Democrats vote to keep Republicans from winning “at any cost.” At some point, the conscience coffers will be empty. 

Contrary to misleading headlines, Bernie Sanders has never said it is either irresponsible to decline to endorse Joe Biden, or to criticize him. In fact, Sanders has said that we should be “doing everything we can to move Joe and his campaign in a more progressive direction,” and that it’s “irresponsible for anybody to say ‘Well, I disagree with Joe Biden’—I disagree with Joe Biden!—’and therefore I’m not going to be involved.’” 

I (unsurprisingly) agree with Sanders in this, and will continue to be “involved” by pushing for Biden to be responsive to the exigent needs of the vulnerable populations he’s relying on to put him in office. And humbly, I think you should too.

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