Bernie Sanders. File
When Bernie Sanders announced he was suspending his 2020 presidential campaign, leaving former Vice President Joe Biden as the presumptive Democratic nominee, the dream of electing a far-left candidate went with him. Sanders, as well as many of Biden’s former presidential competitors — and now former President Barack Obama — have since endorsed Biden, in an unprecedented show of unity from both wings of the party. But little can dull the sting of watching what was once the most diverse and progressive Democratic presidential candidate field whittled away until only a middle-of-the-road moderate was left standing.
Which is why it’s up to us — the voters — to push Biden to be the president we deserve, and not just a banal politician who can appeal to unhappy Republicans and apathetic Independents. While it is impossible to predict the future, in the midst of a current global pandemic that has resulted in 10 million lost jobs, 6.6 million people filing for unemployment and over 25,000 lives lost, it will be the progressive policies of Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Julian Castro that will see us through — policies we can force Biden to embrace and implement as the future President of the United States.
We’ve already seen proof that voters can push Biden toward a more liberal platform. As a US Senator, Biden voted to remove rape and incest exemptions from the Hyde Amendment, a law that bans federal funding from paying for abortions. But in 2019, after Biden stated he still supported the Hyde Amendment and would not push to repeal it, swift backlash from progressive voters led him to change his decision less than 24 hours later. Biden now advocates for repealing the Hyde Amendment so poor people can access abortion care when they need it.
Biden’s recently revealed, far more progressive plans surrounding Medicaid and student loan debt forgiveness — a clear attempt to appeal to forlorn Sanders supporters — are another example of his malleability, and proof that it is the competition of politics that can sway him further to the left. After announcing his plan to lower the eligibility age for Medicare to 60 and expand student debt forgiveness programs, Biden said in a statement, “Senator Sanders and his supporters can take pride in their work in laying the groundwork for these ideas.”
Even Obama, during his endorsement video, made a nod to Biden’s competitors and the influence they can and did have, saying, “Joe will be a better candidate for having run the gauntlet of primaries and caucuses alongside one of the most impressive Democratic fields ever. Each of our candidates were talented and decent, with a track record of accomplishment, smart ideas, and serious visions for the future.” Now Biden is working with Sanders to create task forces that will focus on key issues like climate change and healthcare, and in mid-March he endorsed Warren’s bankruptcy plan.
We’ve also seen what happens when us voters are passive participants during a Democratic president’s administration. While President Obama’s eight-year tenure in the White House seems like a dream when compared to the nightmare that is the Trump administration, children were still being detained at the border during Obama’s presidency; people were being deported in record numbers; states passed a record 205 abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013; and American drones were bombing and killing innocent civilians overseas.
As multiple progressive group leaders told ABC News, “If [Biden] wants [our] support, there’s still work to be done.” We can, and should, make him work. Because if our apathy towards the democratic process played any part in the eventual rise of President Donald Trump, then fighting political fatigue and continuing to be engaged throughout 2020, regardless of who wins the election come November, will mark another substantial shift in our nation’s politics. And now that the current public health crisis has revealed a plethora of social issues that have always been present but are now undeniable — tethering health insurance to employment, a disastrously low minimum wage that cannot cover the rising cost of living, a lack of protections for undocumented immigrants who drive our economy — voters must remember the power they have to not only elect a public official, but to push that official to better represent them.
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