How do I vote in this hellscape election?

Dear Commie,

My absentee ballot arrived and I can hardly bring myself to look at it. I know that Donald Trump is a POS monster from hell, but unlike my liberal friends I am unable to delude myself into thinking that Joe Biden is a decent human being, much less a good political leader. Over the past few months, he’s gone out of his way to make it clear that he doesn’t support the policies we desperately need, from a Green New Deal to Medicare for All. Furthermore, he flat out said that anyone who believes Tara Reade shouldn’t vote for him. The idea of voting for him makes me physically sick to my stomach with shame and rage and I’ve considered writing in a third party candidate. But when I think about four more years of Trump, my bowels turn to liquid. Commie, I’m in a gastrointestinal electoral hell. How are you going to vote this year?

Sincerely, 

Filled With Loathing

Dear Highly Relatable Human,

Your question is tricky in that you will get a different answer depending on which socialist you ask so we’ve featured two opposing perspectives here, with the recognition that even this offering does not encompass the myriad views of socialists on this question.

We deserve better, is all I’ll say.

With love,

Dayna Long

From Peter Jurich, who will be voting for Biden

I joined DSA when Joe Biden swept Super Tuesday.

That the Democratic establishment would try to hand feed me yet another milquetoast candidate prompted me to seek a group that fully represented my socialist values. Biden’s policies are weak, his positions on important social issues have been too variable, and there are sexual assault allegations that he has yet to confront publicly.

And yet, he will get my vote Nov. 3.

I want to be clear: This essay is mainly for my white comrades. People of color who don’t support Biden have a rationale I can’t fully know and, frankly, far outweighs mine. That said, I don’t think a third party vote is a waste or that it’s a vote for fascism. However, I do think there’s a great deal of unchecked privilege that comes with the willingness to even consider a third-party vote a viable option. It’s a privilege that looks like a lack of urgency to change the circumstances we are in today. It’s a privilege that comes with being able to wake up on the day after Trump’s reelection and say, “I wish this were not the outcome, but my life is not threatened by it.”

What I value is impact. I’m looking to have the biggest impact on the election that I can with the options available. Not once since the 1854 creation of the two-party system as we know it now has a third-party candidate won the presidential election — or has even come close to winning. They’ve averaged only about 5 percent of votes since the 1970s and have only won any electoral votes in 12 out of the last 45 presidential elections1. These are pretty unreliable odds for anyone looking to make an impact. With there being a positive correlation between Donald Trump’s election and the increase in hate crimes, I cannot in good conscience offer my vote to something with a 0 percent success rate.

Data from the General Social Survey (GSS) shows that, while third party voting has been rising since 2012, it still only represents around 5 percent of the population. Even then, the survey combines third party voting with “Other”, which really just means any candidate that isn’t Democrat or Republican. So unless every single one of those votes are write-ins for Mickey Mouse, I don’t see enough organization in the numbers that suggests escaping the two-party system anytime soon. In Wisconsin in November 2016, for example, Donald Trump won by less than a percentage point. It was the same with the swing states of Michigan and Pennsylvania. Frustration with the Democratic Party political establishment is very real2, but how many people would still be alive today had Donald Trump not become president?

Voting third party is an exercise in white privilege and the data back that up. Of the total number of people who responded to the question of party affiliation on the GSS, 7 percent who answered third party/other were White and 2 percent were Black3, a 250% difference.

I despise the two-party system. Republican and Republican-lite are terrible options and I look forward to a day when anything else isn’t stigmatized as an angry protest vote. Unfortunately, today is not that day. In voting Biden, I at least have some hope that it’ll come a little faster. (Or at least it won’t come slower). Simply put, too many of our friends won’t survive another Trump presidency. I’d love to someday look at my ballot and feel inspired and proud to cast the vote I do — shout out to Nada Elmikashfi! — but I’m willing to hold off on that and settle when the stakes are so high. A Biden presidency is going to bring its fair share of challenges, but all I can promise is that I’ll support him up until November 3. And on November 4, we hit the streets (while maintaining a 6-foot distance, of course).

 1. The most successful run was that of Alabama governor George Wallace in 1968. He won 46 electoral votes on a platform that appealed to racist animosities.
 2. A 2016 study in the journal American Politics Research by Jeffrey Koch says that “high-aggregate levels of distrust” are necessary for strong support in third parties. I find it telling that the votes are grounded more in dissatisfaction for one candidate rather than full enthusiastic support for another.
 3. A third race category, “Other,” exists in the GSS data, but does not break it down into specifics. I assume because each number within that category was so small, despite representing 9 percent of voters.

From Tessa E., who will not be voting for Biden

I will not be voting for Biden this November. I can tell you are already angry, fuming with smoke pouring out of your ears, perhaps wondering, “How could they? How could they let Trump win?” 

But I’m not the one that is ‘letting’ Trump win. The Democratic Party establishment, the Democratic National Committee, has done everything it can to limit the rise of progressive ideas in the party, ideas that are held by the majority of citizens of the United States. The DNC just recently voted against adding universal healthcare to their party platform, because what is in the best interest of the DNC is not what is best for working class people in this country. The DNC voted against adding universal healthcare to their platform in the middle of a worldwide pandemic because of the money they get from donors who support and benefit from the current for-profit healthcare system. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the Democratic Party is the party for the working class of the United States. 

The Democratic party uses the fear of the ‘right’ to pull people in line, saying, “Look at these terrible things the Republicans are doing! If you don’t support us, you support them.” But that’s not true. I don’t support the Democrats or the Republicans, I support an election with three or more options. I never want to vote for the lesser of two evils: If it’s evil, it’s evil. There is no less evil or better evil, it’s just a different evil. 

Everyone will tell you this is the most important election of your lifetime. But I’ve heard that every single election of my lifetime. This one isn’t the most important. I know what the most important election of my lifetime looks like. It looks like more than two parties on the ballot. It looks like no electoral college. It has ranked choice voting. It looks like a real choice and it has actual policies that will change the class structure in the United States. It will  take on the root of racism and sexism in this county and abolish it. 

I believe we can make that election a reality, but not if we continue to fold to the Democratic Party and fall prey to their fear campaigns. We have to build a people’s party outside of the Democratic establishment. We have to organize, not just vote. And we have to stop voting for the lesser evil and push past this current system.

I also want to acknowledge that Joe Biden is a uniquely repugnant Democratic candidate. He has been accused of sexual assault by Tara Reade, whose account is well corrborated. On top of that, seven other women have accused him of touching them in ways that were inappropriate and made them feel disgusted, ashamed, and upset. Even people who have voted for Democrats in the past will struggle to make a choice in a race between two candidates who are accused rapists. For many, especially for many survivors, voting for Joe Biden is not an option. 

I will not be bullied by the Democratic Party into accepting the horrible conditions of modern-day capitalism. If they know we will break and vote for their candidate, then what incentive do they have to change? You can be mad at me, but it would be more productive to think about the people who put us into this position, and how we can work to change that.

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