Throughout my writing of this blog I’ve been exploring connections between climate change and racial justice. I see them as deeply connected and I’m passionate about both. This post will focus on a connection I’ve not mentioned before — both require that Donald Trump be defeated in the presidential election in the United States this year. The re-election of Trump would be a horrible affirmation of racism and its vicious effects, and would likely doom the entire world to the horrors of runaway catastrophic climate change.
I assume that my liberal, progressive, and radical readers and friends are with me on the above. But here’s the thing. Defeating Donald Trump in the presidential election this year means electing Joe Biden. I was a supporter of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Do I agree with Biden’s policies? No. Am I enthusiastic about Biden’s vision for the future of the country? No. Do I think electing him President is a must for the future of this country and the world? YES!
I don’t think we can get through this election season with simply opposing Donald Trump. I think we need to get behind Joe Biden and support and work for his election with our passion, our time, and our money. I don’t find it easy to write this. Nor do I feel excited about getting involved in the Biden campaign. Nonetheless, when I look at the current situation and follow my thoughts to their logical conclusion, it is clear that supporting Biden is essential. In this case, how I feel about it is really irrelevant. The future of the world demands that we support Joe Biden vigorously and enthusiastically.
Can Trump Win Again?
Can a man as unethical, venal, narcissistic and incompetent as Trump, who has caused many thousands of additional deaths through his mismanagement of the COVID crisis, promoted racial hatred and division, and exacerbated economic hardship for millions, win re-election as President of the United States? I think he can and I think we must work vigorously to prevent that at all costs.
Why do I think he could get re-elected even though polls are showing Biden with a meaningful lead? (Actually Biden’s lead in some key battleground states is perilously slim.) Polls are not votes. Republican politicians have admitted openly that they can’t win if everyone votes, so they are going all out to make sure that doesn’t happen. Thousands of Republican leaders all over the country are working hard every day to take away voting rights and reduce the number of Trump opponents voting in this election. We know that they will purge voting rolls unethically, require unavailable identification, reduce polling locations, reduce early voting, spread misinformation, and make the lines at key polling places unbearably long.
COVID and Voting
They have already demonstrated their willingness to manipulate the COVID crisis so as to force millions of voters to choose between keeping themselves safe by practicing basic public health recommendations or voting. Trump and most of his minions are opposing voting by mail. I have no doubt that come election day, fear of the virus will be manipulated to further reduce the vote. Voter suppression is an issue not only for the presidential election, of course, but also for thousands of critical down-ballot elections.
Trump has invited (or extorted) the help of foreign governments, including some with highly sophisticated computer hacking capabilities, to illegally interfere in the election to see that he wins. There’s significant evidence that Russia has reaped many benefits from its interference in 2016 and will be motivated to repeat that success.
We must remember that Trump got elected the first time while making his racism evident, with a recording of him bragging about sexually abusing women becoming public, and with absolutely no experience in government or public service. Clearly a large proportion of the electorate is prepared to ignore his lying and his many faults, no matter what his opponent says. Now Trump also has the power of the presidency and operatives who are skilled at creating fake scandals implicating his opponents, some of which will undoubtedly become public too late for effective rebuttal.
But I Don’t Believe In Compromising My Values
Some of my friends are considering writing in Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. I understand that this may make them feel better, but I see this as unwise and possibly irresponsible. Either Donald Trump or Joe Biden is going to win this election. In most states, anyone eligible to vote, who doesn’t vote for Joe Biden, makes the election of Donald Trump more likely. Even in solidly blue states a large margin of victory is important to repudiate all that Trump has stood for. It may also be necessary to keep Trump from trying to stay in office even if he loses. Only a large margin, a decisive victory for Joe Biden, can assure a successful outcome.
Angela Davis – Vote For Ourselves
Life-long radical feminist African American activist Angela Davis said recently, “I don’t see this election as being about choosing a candidate who will be able to lead us in the right direction. It will be about choosing a candidate who can be most effectively pressured…. Biden is far more likely to take mass demands seriously, far more likely than the current occupant of the White House, so that this coming November the election will ask us not so much to vote for the best candidate, but to vote for or against ourselves. And to vote for ourselves I think means that we will have to campaign for and vote for Biden.”
I don’t worry about being too conservative when I’m on the same page as Angela Davis. Biden will not take the lead on some vital issues, but with sufficient popular support he would sign a Green New Deal, a bill to study reparations for slavery, an economic recovery that truly helps working people, an immigrant rights bill, an expansion of voting rights, and legislation that would take some of the wealth from the 1% to address the common good. Trump could not be pressured into any of these. (Just thinking about this list of possibilities is getting me more excited about working to elect Biden.)
For all of us who care about the nation, the climate, and racial justice, it’s time to go public and enthusiastically proclaim our support for electing Joe Biden!
Russ Vernon-Jones was the Principal of Fort River Elementary School from 1990-2008. He is a co-facilitator of the Coming Together Anti-Racism Project in the Amherst area. He co-chairs the Racism-Climate Change Connections working group of Climate Action Now of Western Mass, and blogs regularly on climate justice at www.RussVernonJones.org.