Is it Your Moral Imperative to Vote for Joe Biden?

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Content warning! I’m going to talk about sexual assault, and also there’s no science in this video. This video is about politics and feminism, and about whether or not you should vote for Joe Biden. Sorry. I actually considered doing something about the science of politics, about third party candidates, about whether or not Bernie Sanders helped Trump win the federal election in 2016, but it’s honestly way out of my area of expertise. Politics are complicated. Did “Bernie Bros” cost the Democrats the election by staying home, voting third party, or even voting for Trump over Clinton? Some analysts think so! Some don’t. The problem is that this isn’t something we can study in a lab, with controls, with double-blinding. All the experts can do is ask people how they would have voted had things been different, and then try to nail down whether or not that’s actually how the person would have acted. I’m not even saying people lie! I’m saying people don’t even know themselves. Would I turn out to vote for anyone who wasn’t Trump? Yes, I say, yes! But when the day comes, maybe I have trouble getting out of bed and standing in line for hours to vote for someone I’m not excited about. Maybe I change my mind at the last minute when everything is more “real.” Maybe I get hit by a car on the way to the polls.

The other science-y question that has long been on my mind is whether or not votes for third party candidates help push the nation further left or right. I have progressive friends who insisted in 2016 that they would never vote for Clinton to “send a message” to the DNC, to show the country that better things are possible, to push people to be more progressive. Did that work? Again, it’s hard to say! We ended up with the worst possible choice in Donald Trump, whose actions have now led to the deaths of thousands of Americans due to COVID-19. So first you have to figure out if ending up with this buffoon in office did make America more progressive, and then whether or not it was worth it. Are we more progressive? Well, we got a “blue tsunami” in the 2018 elections that led to Democrats grabbing 40 new seats and taking back the House of Representatives.

On the other hand, for the 2020 election Americans pushed every progressive candidate out of the Democratic presidential nominations, and finally ended choosing Joe Biden. If you like Joe Biden, that’s great. But he was one of the most conservative choices, as someone who stripped bankruptcy protection from Americans just prior to a recession, supported the anti-choice Hyde Amendment up until last year, grilled Anita Hill and helped torpedo her sexual harassment case against Clarence Thomas, and has pledged to veto Medicare for All. He pledged that in the middle of a pandemic wreaking havoc on Americans. I think it’s fair to say that Bernie Sanders did not manage to make the 2020 elections any more progressive than the 2016. If anything, Biden is far more conservative than Hillary Clinton.

So yeah, it’s complicated! We have more progressive representatives, but we are headed for an absolute shitshow of a presidential election. And now that Sanders has officially dropped out, I’m seeing all the same fights springing up on Twitter that I saw in 2016: “I refuse to vote for anyone but Bernie because the DNC has made a huge mistake.” “If you don’t vote for Biden, you will be responsible for Trump winning reelection.”

Which is right? Which way should the rational progressive go? Which way should the ethical humanist go? Do you stay true to your ideals even if that leads to four more years of Trump? Do you choose the lesser of two evils and live with the fact that you voted for evil?

There’s one aspect of Biden I haven’t mentioned yet: his sexual assault accusation. Tara Reade worked as a staffer for Biden back in 1993. She says that he pressed her up against a wall, put his hand under her blouse, and then put his hand up her skirt and digitally raped her as he tried to kiss her.

You don’t have to believe her if you don’t want. Many people won’t, just like they didn’t believe Christine Blasey Ford when she said she was assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh, and she had loads of evidence to corroborate her story. They didn’t believe her, they didn’t care, they nominated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and then Ford had to move to a secret location to live for awhile because of all the death threats she got. That’s just how we treat women here in America.

That said, there are a lot of people who do believe her. And a lot of the people who believe her are rape survivors, too. And that’s why it honestly really bugs me to see people I respect saying things like “You have to shut up and vote for Biden or else you’re responsible for four more years of Trump.” “Not voting for Biden is unethical.”

Here’s what is actually unethical: telling a rape survivor she has to vote for someone she thinks is a rapist. Like, imagine telling Tara Reade to her face that if she doesn’t vote for her own personal rapist, she’s responsible for four more years of Trump. Could you do that? If not, then why would you do it to millions of other people? Because every rapist is their rapist.

For the record, I also feel similarly about people who can’t vote for Biden because of his opposition to universal healthcare. People are dying every day because of a lack of access to affordable healthcare, and I’m not going to tell their surviving family members that they are morally required to vote for someone who will veto Medicare of All.

I saw a great Tweet the other day about voting: “voting isn’t marriage, it’s public transport. You’re not waiting for “the one” who’s absolutely perfect: you’re getting the bus, and if there isn’t one to your destination, you don’t not travel- you take the one going closest.” That’s a superb metaphor, but honestly if the bus doors open and it’s being driven by your rapist, I don’t think anyone would fault you for just waiting for the next one.

If you’re wondering, I will be voting for Biden in the fall, because I know that he will be less awful than Trump. Plus, maybe he will pick a decent VP and then die. If Trump dies, we just get Pence. Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire.

But I won’t be shaming other people for choosing not to vote for Biden, even if they hate Trump. Because I don’t know how Biden has personally affected their lives, and there is no logical reason for me to say that it’s their fault if Biden loses and we get more Trump. It’s complicated! If anything, it’s the fault of Trump, of Trump’s racist base, of the conservatives turning a blind eye to Trump’s fascism, of the liberals who worry that topics like “giving healthcare to poor people like nearly every other industrialized nation on Earth” is just too much too soon, and most importantly of Joe Biden, who should maybe at some point learn to keep his hands to himself.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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  1. Voting for the lesser sleeze is still voting for a sleeze. It is moral compromise by degrees. There comes a point when one must acknowledge that there are no good choices. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point in the US we have come to find ourselves in an inverse “Buridan’s Ass.” Instead of finding ourselves placed equidistant between two identical piles of hay, we find ourselves faced with two morally repugnant choices. Would you rather perish from syphilis or from antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea?

    The difference between corporate Democrats and what the GOP has become is that corporate Democrats would wring their hand more if they thought for a second that Trumpish policies would help their backers and stock portfolio. To use a vulgar metaphor corporate Dems will at least try to use lubricant before doing the deed to the populace of the United States.

    1. People used to think the Earth was flat. They were wrong.
      Other people used to think the Earth was a sphere. They were also wrong.
      If you think the second group of people were just as wrong as the first group of people, then you are more wrong than either of them.

      It is people like you who will perpetrate mass murder for the sake of “principle”. I have no use nor patience with people like you any more.

      1. Sometimes, the lesser of two evils is more notable for being “evil”, than for being “lesser”. Given someone who’s murdered 20 people, and someone who’s murdered only 10, would you seriously argue for actively electing the latter, just because they aren’t the former? Sure, it would be terrible if the one who killed 20 got elected, but fear of that is not sufficient to say that electing the killer of 10 is automatically justified.

        This is because US presidential elections are treated as a false dichotomy, as if it were physically impossible to choose between only Republican or Democrat. You’re smarter than that, you can imagine more viable possibilities. If the US election is still set for November, then you’ve got 6 months to help organise a 3rd party campaign. Will that be easy? No, it’ll be fucking hard work. Is it guaranteed to work? No, but then neither is voting for Biden as a cure for Trump.

        But if we reframe the dichotomy as as a trichotomy, as your choice is between A) A corrupt, lying, rapist bigot, or B) A (supposedly lesser) corrupt, lying, rapist bigot, or C) damn hard work and uncertainity with a chance of not getting a lying rpaist bigot, then which do you pick?

  2. Keep in mind that Trump used foreign aid to Ukraine and the State and Justice Departments to extort the Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, in order to tilt the upcoming election in his favor. There’s only one other Republican who’s ever done something like that before – Nixon.

    My guess is that Trump was going to have Barr follow up the Ukraine Burisma investigation with formal charges against Biden. Which is how they do things in Russia and Ukraine – just ask Alexei Navalny and Yulia Tymoshenko, who spend their lives under constant, politically motivated investigations in what are essentially authoritarian banana republics.

    The alternative to Biden is losing our democracy forever.

  3. In my opinion, unless you’ve got the kind of personal history Rebecca describes, where voting for a rapist or harasser would be traumatic, withholding your vote isn’t helping anything but your view of yourself. Let’s say (because it’s true) that the system is fucked, and we need a complete overhaul to make sure we get better candidates, with the ability to elect them in a way that is easy and fair for all eligible voters. Under whom would that process be easier? Because if you think it’s Trump, you’re not even wrong. You’re on another planet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not gonna judge you for not voting because you can’t bring yourself to vote for Biden, regardless of your reasons. We all have choices in life to make. But I would hope that you would at least understand the effect of your choices on everyone else.

  4. I believe you’ve said you’re in CA. Your vote won’t tilt the electoral vote but will just affect the totals so no matter what Mr Buzz says your lack of a vote for Creepy Uncle Joe isn’t mass anything. It’s the electoral college at work and it isn’t going to change anytime soon.

    I live in AZ so he gets my unenthusiastic vote since this is a swing state. Fortunately there is optional vote by mail here so I won’t be risking my life to vote. Dying to vote for a man who used to be called ‘The Senator from MBNA ‘ is just too much.

  5. Tara Reade has been completely discredited.

    Her pattern is plain – she tells people she was sexually assaulted and uses it to gain sympathy, favors, reduced rent, to skip paying rent, to skip bills, etc.

    She couldn’t even work for the damn Census without accusing her supervisors of harassment:

    “Ms. Reade had begun working as a field supervisor for the Census Bureau, but she left after clashing with superiors, whom she accused in a formal complaint of creating a hostile work environment and discriminating against her.”


    1. Yes, exactly! Yet some Democrats are now calling for a completely new candidate.

      Which is why there will be another 4 years of Pussy Grabber -In – Chief.

      What is it, over 20 complaints against Trump, many underage,and that tape where he BOASTS about it – yet this false equivalence….Ah, America!

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