I’m voting for Joe Biden. There, I said it, it’s on paper (er, electrons), now it’s done.
This has been the hardest election choice of my lifetime. I have probably changed my mind an average of 2-3 times a day for the past two months—one day I drove to Richmond and back and talked myself into and out of voting for four different candidates each way. And it’s not for a lack of good options—almost every one of the Democrats on my ballot on Tuesday is undoubtedly capable of stepping into the job, and making us proud.
What’s more, it’s not even as simple as some magical “electability” or a “head vs heart” decision. My heart is with Biden—I walked past his smiling portrait on my way to work every day for eight years, I cried when his son died, cried when he cried at being given the Medal of Freedom, smiled with fondness at Jill Biden’s accidental innuendo on the campaign trail in 2012. But my heart is with other candidates too, and has been. Kamala Harris, a California native of my generation, always pulled at my heart, felt simpatico, like a best friend I might have known from high school, college, or my first job. Cory Booker–well, anyone who knows me knows how I felt about him and his whole team, and how much his voice in this race and the issues he pushed to the forefront resonated with me. Elizabeth Warren speaks to my inner nerd, and her passion and joy, and willingness to speak her mind, and to do so in such an accessible way, totally inspire me. And Bernie is…well, Bernie; what can I say really, I voted for him in 2016.
My head is equally unhelpful. I gave up a while ago trying to figure out what electability means or who rides this magical unicorn. Who will be inspiring and increase Democratic turnout more; are there moderate voters who will turn out for this one or that one, or stay home for that other one; who will excite the Republican base…eh, it’s all just a crazy game theory guessing game to me. As someone who has worked pretty hard to see a Democratic legislative majority, the Governor’s Mansion, and Democratic Congresspeople in Virginia, it’s an issue I’m deeply concerned about, I just unfortunately don’t have the answer.
The questions that most occupy my head, though, are more about who has the ability to accomplish what as president. I sat down at one point with some of their lists of plans, and struck a line through everything that couldn’t get done without a very different Congress than we have today (not just the majority, but the ideology within that majority), to see what was left. In many cases, that wasn’t a lot. Which is fine, we should all have big dreams, but that means some speculation is needed about how each candidate would proceed aside from what’s promised in those plans.
Frankly, I see this job as a massive post-disaster cleanup effort, with a federal government that has been living paycheck to paycheck for many years, that hasn’t made critical investments in technology, infrastructure and human capital, and with a federal workforce that has been really decimated. And the same is true of our democracy herself. The system of checks and balances we all learned about dutifully in school has been proven far more fallible than we knew, and the next president will need to take steps to clean that up too. Foreign relations—don’t even get me started; we have to hope that other nations’ leaders will eventually learn to trust our word again.
None of this brought me to any candidate. They each have certain strengths and particular experience that might help them tackle this incredibly unusual job.
So, what tipped the scale for Joe Biden? It starts with the fact that this was the most diverse set of candidates for the presidency in our history. And that for all our talk about Black women being the backbone of the Democratic Party, there was always “just something” about every candidate of color that kept people from supporting them. So two talented and respected US Senators and one Obama Cabinet member fell by the wayside leaving behind a field that once again doesn’t look like America.
I’ve been trying to listen to the voices of friends and acquaintances who lost their candidate of choice, and to the voices of groups who’ve been disenfranchised over and over. That’s not a monolith by any means of course, but something I’ve heard over and over is reflected pretty closely in South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn’s endorsement: “We know Joe, but most importantly, Joe knows us.” And I’ve heard that from lots of other people, that they trust Joe Biden, they know what he stands for, that he’s put in the work over the years in Black communities, and that they feel represented by Joe. I’ve learned a lot since 2016, since I became involved in Virginia politics, about what an incredible feeling it is to know that the person elected to make decisions on your behalf truly represents you, speaks your truth. It’s a feeling I now always wish for others, and I’m more than happy to use my ballot to contribute to making that happen.
P.S. It always feels pretentious to me to write endorsements of candidates, because who the heck am I to tell you how to vote? But I know that lots of people in my circles are struggling with this choice as much as I have, and my perspective is sometimes out of the norm, so I hope this gives you something to add to the scales.