I recently read an op-ed on this site that was extremely critical of Joe Biden. One of the commentators on it wrote, “I supported Sanders but will not support any candidate that does not support Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. These are essential to our nation surviving.” But another reader remarked, “My personal policy positions are far to the left of Joe Biden but unfortunately he’s the only Democrat left which is why I currently have to support him.” And then frequent-contributor Tom Hall added a sentiment close to mine—"I will not have any trouble voting for Biden over the Donald. Or Sanders over the Donald. Or anyone else over the Donald.”
Such an exchange is one of the reasons I regularly read LAP and have contributed to it for more than a decade. In “What Is Progressivism?” (11/20/2013), I praised LAP for being a “big tent,” and tolerating and welcoming “all races, creeds, classes, sexual preferences . . . . [and] even differences among us progressives.” Last month I asked editor Dick Price if he wished to repost a piece I wrote for the History News Network. It stated my preference for the election of the more pragmatic Biden over the more progressive Sanders, and Dick reposted it even though he and LAP publisher Sharon Kyle prefer Sanders. Comments on my piece also differed. Good. Let healthy, but respectful, debate continue!
How does rejecting the Democratic presidential candidate in 2020 help defeat Trump? Would Biden, whatever his faults, really be as bad as Trump in regard to health care and the environment?
Having said that, however, I must still object that I fail to see any logic to the position that states, “I will not support any candidate that does not support Medicare for All and a Green New Deal.” Really? How does rejecting the Democratic presidential candidate in 2020 help defeat Trump? Would Biden, whatever his faults, really be as bad as Trump in regard to health care and the environment? My first LAP op-ed criticizing global-warming skeptics appeared over a decade ago, and I have been writing about the environment and our climate crisis ever since (see, e.g., here). And the Green New Deal has much to recommend it, but Biden’s environmental plans are also far superior to the tremendous environmental damage Trump has dumped on our planet, and no doubt would continue to do so if reelected.
Another reason for opposing the “I-cannot-support” position is that it strikes me as being too dogmatic, reflecting too rigid an ideological position, an ideological rigidity that I earlier criticized among pre-Trump Republicans. Pope Francis, in a 2015 address to the U.S. Congress, also urged political dialogue, openness, and pragmatism as opposed to an ideological approach to politics, which should primarily be about seeking the common good. Given the choice between being an ideologue or a progressive pragmatist, I’ll take the latter every time.
As I indicated almost a decade ago, in a political system such as ours compromise is essential. That essay quotes the conservative Russell Kirk (d. 1994)—yes, conservatives sometimes say smart things. He wrote that “Ideology makes political compromise impossible: the ideologue will accept no deviation from the Absolute Truth of his secular revelation…Ideologues vie one with another in fancied fidelity to their Absolute Truth; and they are quick to denounce deviationists or defectors from their party orthodoxy…[but] the prudential politician…is well aware that the primary purpose of the state is to keep the peace. This can be achieved only by maintaining a tolerable balance among great interests in society. Parties, interests, and social classes and groups must arrive at compromises, if bowie-knives are to be kept from throats. When ideological fanaticism rejects any compromise, the weak go to the wall.”
My essay also quoted President John Kennedy and cited the Senate example of his brother Ted, both effective compromisers who furthered the common good.
When Barack Obama was up for reelection in 2012, I wrote “Why Leftists Should Support Obama’s Reelection.” Since I can probably not add much new to the arguments made then, I’ll simply end here—except for once again asking, “How will voting third-party or not voting at all help us get rid of one of our worst presidents ever? One who, if given four more years, is liable to seriously harm all those we love or cherish, whether spouses, friends, kids, grandkids, fellow citizens, or those in foreign lands.
Walter G. Moss