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Not Voting For Joe Biden Isn’t Penalizing Joe Biden

We all have a story we tell ourselves, a narrative about who we are and what matters to us.

It is the carefully curated working mythology of our daily lives that helps direct our decisions and fortifies us in seasons of adversity.

That story can act like a True North in disorienting days like the ones we find ourselves tumbling through in this moment.

It can also be terribly flawed, distorted by emotion, subjectivity, and bad information.

Right now a disturbing fiction is taking hold in many progressives and moderates, especially younger voters: the idea that rejecting President Biden in November is a way of hurting him personally; that abstaining or protest voting is an effective personal penalty for what they believe is his mishandling of the deadly crisis in the Middle East (one that began decades ago and that will surely outlive us). They see their vote (or their lack of it) as a righteous middle finger to the current President.

That simply isn’t how this is going to work.
This isn’t what is at stake here.
If your focus is on Joe Biden, you’re likely not a student of recent history or you’re not paying attention or you’re not playing the movie ahead past November 5th.

Joe Biden has spent his life devoted to public service and to the stewarding of America over the last six decades, eight of those years serving under Barack Obama, helping advance policies that have been part of the tremendous period of human and civil rights advances, environmental protections, and national prosperity that we have experienced in our lifetimes. Much of what we fear we are losing in recent years is due to the fact that he and the Democrats helped us attain them to begin with.

In advance of the 2020 campaign, despite his age, Joe Biden stepped forward to successfully help this nation avoid a looming existential crisis in Donald Trump. He has deftly carried us through a planetary public health crisis, woefully mishandled by his predecessor. He stabilized us following a Republican-sanctioned Capitol insurrection and the post-election chaos it left in its wake. He has helped America recover from a COVID-inflation far faster than most of the world has.

Then came the sickening Hamas-birthed terrorist horrors in Israel on October 6th and Israel’s scorched earth response since then. And with every passing week of this sprawling and complex tragedy, we have seen a rising sentiment here among Leftist voters that has made this a dealbreaker for them regarding President Biden, despite the simply unthinkable alternative.

Biden’s handling of the staggering violence that has unfolded in Gaza is surely greatly flawed and far from what many of us wish to see, myself included. But the reality is that rejecting him and his party is not only a political defeat for them, it is an act of premeditated violence against the world.

Not voting for President Biden isn’t penalizing Joe Biden, it’s penalizing women, LGBTQ people, people of color, immigrants, indigenous people, Muslims, Jews, the sick, the elderly, the poor, and pretty much every person here and elsewhere who will be irreparably harmed by a second Trump term—not to mention, Democracy, America, and the planet.

It will place our present and our future in the hands of a several-times indicted, morally-inverted, court-established rapist who has stacked the Supreme and lower courts, the GOP, and local school and election boards with sycophants and surrogates; a man whose complete contempt for our Constitution and for humanity are on full display. There is no justification for willfully allowing this.

If Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans prevail in November, not only will the violence in and around Gaza continue, that violence will find in Republicans a willing and passionate accomplice. We will see an escalation of the death and destruction, not a reduction of it. The Middle East will become more volatile and unstable, not less so. And Joe Biden will not be damaged by being removed from the White House, the rest of us will be. That is the point here, one young voters may be missing in their passionate and beautiful outrage to the atrocities in Gaza.

No politician or political party will ever perfectly embody our values or respond blamelessly to the myriad of crises that present themselves. We don’t wait to vote only when we have full moral agreement with a candidate but we choose the one that shares the greatest affinity with the totality of our values. We vote, not merely intellectually and emotionally but strategically as well, wielding our collective wills like a shield against the greatest threats in front of us.

Cornel West is not a shield. RFK Jr is not. A third party vote is not. A silent vote is not.

I can’t fathom moderate and liberal voters who would hold Donald Trump and the Republicans and their theocratic intentions like a loaded gun to the heads of hundreds of millions of Americans because they are angry and disheartened by what is happen to Gaza. Again, that isn’t at all an excusing of what is happening there, but an acknowledgment that everything is interconnected, that we are all tethered together, and that what may feel good in the short-term is simply an empty emotional intoxicant that will leave us more in danger than ever.

Joe Biden is far from perfect, but we should refuse to let that reality cause us to abandon the bigger picture of our shared humanity and allow it to cause us to cut off our noses to spite our collective faces in the most important election we will ever participate in.

Donald Trump’s victory will not be a loss for Joe Biden, it will be a loss for all of us.

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