Ten Reasons Why I Voted for Joe Biden
It's the day before the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election, and I'm tired.
I generally don't write when I'm tired. But this moment in time is much too important not to speak up.
A bit of background on me, if you're new here. I'm a straight, white, cis-gender male from Long Island, New York. I certainly wasn't born with the proverbial silver spoon -- even if I may have given off that impression in the past (miss you Hannah) -- but I've lived a pretty darn good life.
In high school, I became fond of studying economics. As I turned 18 and registered to vote for the first time, I registered with the Republican Party; my (naive) teenage logic was to embrace the pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality. I wasn't, and still at my core, don't love the concept of government redistribution of wealth. Work hard and you'll earn success -- to me, that was the American way.
That was 2003, and the world was very different back then. I was in high school math class the morning of 9/11. That was and probably will always be the single most consequential day of my generation. On that morning, and in the weeks and months that followed, our world, and the way I thought of it all, permanently changed.
In November 2004, I voted in New York to re-elect George W. Bush.
Four Novembers later, I found myself working on the copy desk at a local newspaper in upstate New York -- the Press & Sun-Bulletin. I had recently graduated from Binghamton University, but despite the diploma on my wall, I still had an enormous amount of learning to do about the 'real world.'
My friends in college were, predictably, mostly straight, white guys. We hung out mostly with straight, white girls, and life was good. I'd accrued tens of thousands of dollars in college debt, but who cared? I lived around the corner from the downtown bar scene. I had a comfortable, if not low-paying job. I'd grown accustomed to working nights and weekends, and sleeping every day until 1 or 2 p.m. The 'real world' was just fine.
In my first full year as a copy editor, the 2008 Election was a lot of fun to cover. I wasn't politically active by any means, but with an Economics degree under my belt, I was still much more interested in the GOP side. In February, I cast my vote in the primary for Mike Huckabee -- but I was fine with the eventual nominee, John McCain.
On Election Day 2008, I voted for McCain -- and had one of the most memorable nights of my career on the copy desk, watching on a tiny 10"-or-so TV screen as a Democratic Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, was declared the winner.
For most of us at the Press who'd been watching the polling through the fall, the result of the 2008 election wasn't a big surprise. But on this late night on the Vestal Parkway, the mostly white news desk I worked on was joined by our Executive Editor, Calvin Stovall -- a black man.
Calvin was a notably stoic man, at least whenever got to see him (which wasn't terribly often). He mostly worked days, where I worked nights, and he had a million things to deal with, while my job was pretty clear -- catch spelling mistakes on the front page.
But I will never forget the raw-but-silent emotion Calvin expressed that night, watching the nation's first Black President give an acceptance speech. McCain had conceded the race on Election Night -- here's how the GOP challenger opened his remarks:
"My friends, we have come to the end of a long journey. The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly. A little while ago, I had the honor of calling Sen. Barack Obama — to congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love." - John McCain, Nov. 5, 2008
While my bosses -- and they were all there -- the rest of the copy desk and I hunkered down and put the finishing touches on the next day's newspaper, Calvin was wiping the tears from his eyes, watching the 44th President-to-be speak in Chicago. "I didn't think I'd ever see the day," he said, his voice uncharacteristically broken.
Oh, how things changed since then.
Flash forward to 2016. I would've bet you everything I owned (admittedly, um, not much) that Ohio Governor John Kasich would not only win the GOP nomination, but be the next President.
I had voted, while still living in New York, for Barack Obama in the 2012 election. Yes, I still believed in those core 'bootstraps' economic principles, but I thought Obama did a good job in his first term, and deep down I liked the idea of renewing the contract of our country's first Black President. I didn't agree with everything Obama did -- but does anyone ever really agree with everything that *any* politician, especially on the national stage -- does?
The 2016 election was a very different circumstance for me. Since the 2008 election, I'd outgrown the job on the copy desk at the Press. I'd taken a job at a local advertising agency -- and gave that up to explore the U.S. -- as adventurous, single, privileged young twenty-somethings are apt to do.
In 2015, I took a second, more meaningful 50-state adventure, which has been well-documented on this site and others. It was '50 States, 100 Days' that led me to a well-paying contract with Humana in Louisville, Ky. -- and it was there that I'd vote in November 2016.
After a tandem of rough-and-tumble primary seasons, the race came down to Democrat Hillary Clinton -- who could become the first female President -- vs. Donald Trump.
Donald Trump? Yes, it surprised me as much as maybe it did you, if you can rewind your brain to 2015.
Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump. Democrat or Republican. A binary choice. Or was it?
Like too many other voters across the country, I was disenchanted with the options. I certainly loved the idea of electing a woman -- but Hillary? I hadn't loved the thumb-on-the-scale DNC process that benefited her over the more progressive choice, Bernie Sanders.
But Donald Trump? There was no way I could stomach voting for this completely inexperienced outsider.
I didn't make up my mind until Election Day -- but I knew two things: 1) I was definitely going to vote, and 2) I wasn't going to vote for Trump.
I cast my ballot in Louisville for independent Gary Johnson -- one of 53,752 Kentuckians to do so that day -- and cleared my Election Night to watch Hillary's historic coronation, as I had 8 years prior with Obama on that 10" TV.
Obviously, that night didn't end as planned.
I happened to be in Flagstaff, Arizona on Jan. 20, 2017, staying with my friend and fellow cross-country roadtripper Steve Sasman. While Steve was busy preparing his rental property for a visiting group that night, I watched Trump's inauguration speech with great interest.
As starkly as I remember anything in my life, I remembered the newly sworn in 45th President offer this passage:
"Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public. But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists. Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation, an education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge. And the crime, and the gangs, and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now." - Donald Trump, Jan. 20, 2017
"This American carnage?" American ... carnage?
I furrowed my brow at the big-screen TV.
No. I knew better. America, to me, was a land of promise, a land of tranquility, a land of generosity. I saw it, with my own two eyes, taking two colossal road trips across America. And although I will admit I witnessed it through the prism of a privileged young straight white man, I did witness it.
Along those adventures I'd personally connected with thousands upon thousands of wonderful individuals, from all walks of life -- of every race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and the like.
The genetic white privilege I'd inherited -- that I cannot change. But the perspective on the world we live in, and in particular the inherit beauty of our nation? That I could change -- and I'd spent the last three years chasing an abstract dream of developing that deeper understanding, for better or for worse.
I was 31 then, 35 now. I hope to have many more years of learning, growing, understanding ahead of me.
But if you'd polled me with traditional metrics in 2004, I'd look the same, demographically, then as I do now: 'college educated white male.'
I have no idea how 18-year-old me would've responded in 2004 to a Trump candidacy, and subsequent presidency. (Hopefully not well.)
But I knew on Jan. 20, 2017, when I heard the words 'American carnage' during an inauguration speech, that we were in very deep trouble.
And I was right.
'American carnage' is on my mind today, as the pomp and circumstance of Election season are upon us, but I've known since before Trump earned the GOP nomination in 2016 that he didn't have my vote then and never would. I've also known for four years now that I was looking forward to tomorrow -- Election Day 2020, Nov. 4 -- for a chance to get it right.
The 2020 Democratic primary season was challenging, because I -- and tens of millions of others -- understood the consequences of our decision. The nominee we'd put forth would have to confront a surprisingly effective candidate who'd already won one impossible national election -- this time with the weight of the incumbency, and a relatively strong national economy, at his back.
Like I said, I don't care if the stock market had struck 100,000 today -- I, and over a hundred million other Americans -- could never vote for Donald Trump. Of course, the stock market has not hit those levels -- and much more critically, of course, the stock market is not the economy -- but the one major issue the President had, sort of, in his favor in the first quarter of this year has also vanished, in my opinion.
During the primary season -- yes, before the coronavirus set in -- I did not support Joe Biden. I believed the country needed a more progressive voice -- not just to defeat Trump -- and Biden represented the closest candidate to the center the party could find.
At the outset, I supported Pete Buttigieg -- and I still think he's got an extremely bright future in national politics. As the field narrowed, I switched my affiliation to Elizabeth Warren -- she earned my vote in the pivotal South Carolina primary -- and, eventually, to Bernie Sanders. I will admit, I was very reluctant to finally get aboard the Joe Biden train.
I believe, here in late 2020, that the U.S. has a lot of very deep wounds to address. The summer of Black Lives Matter activism, and further research on my part, have opened my eyes to the reality that many of these issues are in fact native to our nation, and perhaps inexorably systemic.
But in my opinion, the last four years have starkly deepened the divisions that the President outlined in his 'American carnage' speech. I am old enough to remember the strong-but-always-respectful rhetoric of the candidates -- if not from their respective constituencies -- during the 2008 election.
While I don't believe Joe Biden's healing-centric message is nearly enough to address many of the problems facing our country, I am positive the President has been destructive enough to so many elements of our nation's existence that he must be removed from office.
In fact, Trump is the first President in American history to have a member of his own party vote for his removal during an impeachment hearing. I bet if GOP Senators had bothered to actually read the entirety of the Mueller Report, they might have considered joining Mitt Romney in that unprecedented stance.
I cast an early vote last week here in Greenville County, South Carolina for Joe Biden. (I also voted enthusiastically for Jaime Harrison, but that's another column altogether.)
This time, I entered the voting booth with my mind made up. In no particular order, here are ten reasons why.
The Access Hollywood tape. This alone should've been disqualifying in 2016, much less 2020. I was mortified when this audio of the President, on a tour bus with Billy Bush, emerged in the weeks before the 2016 election. I've thought over and over again: if your boss said something even remotely close to that, would they even keep their job? In case you've forgotten, the GOP candidate and current President was recorded saying that he would often "grab (women) by the pussy." I feel slimy even TYPING that on my site, yet a hundred million Americans will vote to re-elect the man tomorrow. The Trump campaign brushed this audio off by calling it 'locker room talk.' Locker room talk? I've been in plenty of locker rooms. That's not how respectable adults converse. And did you know Billy Bush lost HIS job because of the tape? There's a theme I'll return to in a minute: others paying the consequences for Trump's actions.
The Mueller Report. Did you read the whole thing? I did. If you didn't, hold your comments on this one, please. The actions detailed in the report were grotesquely un-American. The President squeaked out of being arrested for his actions on a tenuous set of technicalities protecting a sitting President. Robert Mueller, however, was extremely forthright in saying, and subsequently publicly clarifying, that the report "did not exonerate" the President.
Calling Mexican immigrants 'rapists.' This was the announcement speech, post-Escalator ride, that started it all. "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." Trump has a life-long history of being a racist, but this speech punctuated it before he even earned the nomination.
Birtherism. When Barack Obama was running for President in 2008, and through the course of his Presidency, Donald Trump baselessly claimed that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., and thusly ineligible for office. As we examine the roots of Trump's decaying influence on American politics -- and his rise as a hateful authoritarian figurehead -- it's rooted in birtherism.
His downplaying of the coronavirus. Like many Americans, I started to feel a bit uneasy about the coronavirus in late February -- when I happened to be at the largest social media conference in the world in southern California -- but the day I really felt like we were very, very screwed was March 6, when the President suggested that he wanted to keep dozens of infected Americans on a cruise ship in the Pacific because "I like the numbers where they are. I don't need to have the numbers double." We've since learned from Bob Woodward that the President knew how bad COVID was in January, and ignored countless warnings to take protective action. Close to 250,000 Americans have died now, and we've recently reached new all-time highs in daily cases across the country. Telling governors they're on their own to find PPE; holding indoor rallies across the country like the one that killed Herman Cain; telling Americans to inject Clorox; even catching the virus himself and infecting dozens of staffers in October -- October! As I type this, the President is continuing his super-spreader tour with thousands of attendees in swing states across the country. Books will be written about how negligently awful the President's response to the virus has been. What does it say that this, the worst crisis of our lifetimes, with no end in sight -- landed on my list at No. 5!?
LGBTQ rights. I think I'd actually put this more in a hypothetical 'Mike Pence' column, but there's no doubt the recent confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett jeopardizes the future, and the rights, of LGBTQ couples. You could write a bullet point about the Supreme Court in general, but as strained as it is in the wake of the Merrick Garland fiasco, on this point, Mitch McConnell and others are correct: elections do have consequences. Not that the modern GOP cares in the slightest about hypocrisy, but if the Democrats take the Presidency, House AND Senate tomorrow, put me on record for 'packing the courts.' Lindsey Graham wants to boast about how the ACB confirmation was done by the rules? We'll see what happens if Congress goes blue -- as it very well may.
'Be best.' We're writing today about Donald Trump, not Melania, but has there ever been a campaign more hypocritical than the First Lady making it a 'priority' to teach kids about 'uplifting, positive and respectful online interactions?' "When children learn positive online behaviors early-on, social media can be used in productive ways and can effect positive change. Mrs. Trump believes that children should be both seen and heard, and it is our responsibility as adults to educate and reinforce to them that when they are using their voices—whether verbally or online—they must choose their words wisely and speak with respect and compassion." Meanwhile, her husband is in the other room Tweeting things like,
'When the looting starts, the shooting starts.' Of the hundreds of just awful, awful Tweets by the President over the last four years, it might be this one that churned in my stomach the hardest. The protests and riots across the U.S. this summer were a necessary pain, as the country reacted to striking injustices to innocent victims like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. While additional innocent lives were lost during some of the protests across the country -- on both sides of the issues -- I think one of the biggest miracles of the last four years is that that particular Tweet didn't set off even worse interactions across the country. Trump's collective disdain for Black Americans stretches so much deeper than this moment, including ...
'Very fine people on both sides.' I was driving on Route 110 in Huntington, N.Y., listening to the radio when I heard this press conference. I distinctly remember 'American carnage' in Arizona, but even moreso on that August 2017 day I felt physically ill. Trump's equivocation of white supremacists in the wake of the death of Heather Heyer is cited by Joe Biden as the moment he knew he had to run for President. Unbelievably, it's just one of countless low points on my list.
His taxes. While we've still never seen the President release his ostensibly permanently audited tax returns, The New York Times offered extensive reporting in September that revealed a man who's suffered chronic financial losses and repeatedly dodged federal income tax responsibilities. Remind me again how I paid more in federal taxes in 2016 and 2017 than he did? ... This article is getting a bit long, I thought I'd come up with a Top 10, but there's one more issue I can't ignore:
His overt disdain for the Democratic process. For months and months, the President has insisted that he will not accept the results of this month's election. That wasn't nearly as much of an issue in 2016 when he was "just" a candidate. Now? With a lackey Attorney General at his disposal, who knows what's going to happen this week? If there's one singular premise we should all agree upon as Americans, it's the sanctity of our election process. Even if you can somehow digest all of the above transgressions, how can you defend a man who says he won't accept the results of a free and fair election? And if you're implying our elections are somehow not free and fair, well -- it looks like the Democratic experiment we've built over the last 250 years might actually be coming to an end after all.
I have long believed in the resiliency of our nation, even during the stormy circumstances we've weathered the last four years, and especially since March 2020. For all the reasons I've listed above, if President Trump is re-elected tomorrow/this week/this month, I fear I will lose all faith in the hopefully still great nation that I love.
Chris Strub is a proud South Carolina voter. Get his book here.