On April 7, beloved Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders formally announced the suspension of his 2020 presidential campaign, leaving former Vice President Joe Biden the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee against incumbent President Donald Trump. Yes, I’m sorry for writing what might feel like the billionth article about this within the last week, but if you’ve followed me long enough, you knew this was inevitable. I’ve been a massive Bernie supporter throughout this year’s run, so needless to say I was heartbroken upon scrolling through my Twitter feed and encountering this unfortunate news (and for him to drop out during Passover of all times was an especially cruel reminder of Jews’ second-class status in America). However, there’s a bit more to this story than meets the eye, especially for those of you who met me after the 2016 presidential election.
You see, I have a confession to make: Not only did I vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election four years ago (perfectly reasonable so far, right?), but I also voted for her in the primaries and was even a staunch supporter back then! Now before you roll your eyes and lambast me, I’d like to clarify that I’ve always liked and admired Bernie. After all, he seems to genuinely care about providing equal and fair opportunities for all Americans, and he’s exhibited an uncanny ability to rally supporters behind his ambitious ideas. But that’s where I took the greatest issue with him; I believed Clinton to be the more practical, qualified and electable candidate (and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to create history with the first female presidential candidate of a major political party). With the benefit of hindsight, my views have changed drastically since then.
But how so? Well, for one I realized Bernie’s ideas weren’t overly ambitious, but rather routine and necessary. Things like universal healthcare, free public college and sweeping climate justice aren’t as radical as the talking heads would like us to believe. They’re actually fairly basic ideas that’ve been proven largely successful beyond America. Once I opened my eyes to this realization, I started seeing Bernie as an electable voice of reason, not as some radical opportunist. On a purely human level, I’ve also empathized with him even more over the last year. I already felt somewhat guilty about voting against him in the primary, but seeing this man who’s worked on behalf of the public interest his entire life become unjustly villainized and sabotaged once again by the mass media and Democratic establishment was torturous and soul-crushing. I couldn’t help but feel compelled to stand by his side (and to enable some more history by electing our first Jewish president).
But indeed irony’s a cruel mistress. Just when I thought I’d worked myself out of selecting a less-than-ideal presidential candidate, I feel somewhat forced to repeat history seven months from now. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still vote for Bernie in the primary this June (as nominal as that exercise will be), but come November I’ll swallow my pride and vote for Biden, and I encourage you all to do the same. Believe me, I understand how troubling his overall record and demeanor are, and many of us have good reason to be upset with how we’ve arrived at this point. However, we must look beyond our emotions and keep a couple of things in mind before casting any ill-advised protest votes or abstaining from voting entirely.
First, the implications of this decision transcend any individual’s self-interest. Think about Biden’s cabinet versus Trump’s. Or Biden’s vice president versus Trump’s (this’ll be especially key, because both are getting up there in age). Or especially Biden’s Supreme Court Justice replacements versus Trump’s. My goodness, please don’t enable the mass extinction of legal migrants, or the repeal of Roe v. Wade, or the harsh environmental downturn of our planet! Also, Bernie’s not necessarily the be-all, end-all candidate to enact sweeping change! As much as I love him, he’s merely a figurehead of a larger movement that’ll continue to grow and prosper beyond him. This isn’t the first time things haven’t gone our way (and it certainly won’t be the last), so let’s overcome this minor hurdle and march onward while we eagerly await the best that’s yet to come. If there were any other viable, practical alternative to Biden I’d leap onto it. But we must look at the bigger picture here and hope things will at least remain steady for the next few years until we can attain the progress we truly want and need.
Alas, I bid a fond farewell and sincere thanks to my Jewish king. You’ve converted me into a believer that anything’s possible with enough humanity and support behind it, and I’ll look out for those who follow in your lofty, heroic footsteps.
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Michael Katz is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.