“Voting against” will fail

Why we need better reasons to unite behind Biden. Opinions of a dual citizen.

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Photo by Stephen Mayes on Unsplash

It’s DJT against whoever is most likely to beat him.

It’s like Tyson against X.
Federer against Y.
It’s a match.
It’s a game.

Is this really a democracy?

Voting for a guy you don’t believe in, against a worse guy is not only undemocratic, but it usually fails.

In 2006, I wasn’t shocked by Hillary’s loss. I was just disappointed. I watched this story play out over and over again in my country of origin. I am disheartened to see it getting old in the country I immigrated to.

This kind of political composition births dictators. DJT and alike almost always win. In the minds of the voters, a “voting against” scenario constitutes an almighty, nearly undefeatable individual. The attempt to form unity against that individual distracts away from the issues that the country has to deal with. It creates an illusion that the biggest problem the nation has is this one guy who’s messing everything up. It makes the elections and the country’s agenda all about him. It prevents politicians from doing their jobs. And worst, it dilutes the momentum built around decent public servants who can solve real issues.

This is where America is at today. November will play out predictably. Bernie people won’t feel obligated to declare their support for Biden, nor should they take the blame for the outcome.

Here’s why.

If you want to predict the future, look at other countries.

Before you reject the idea of comparing America to other countries, consider that this is about human psychology, not specific nations.

Ask any of your international friends. What were the results when the stakes of an election were unity against that terrible guy or nothing?

I can give one example from the country I grew up in, Turkey, whose economy, infrastructure, and core institutions are modeled after America.

As a kid, I remember voting was a private matter. The secrecy at the ballot is a vivid memory. I remember my grandmother getting super nervous before she entered the voting booth. I remember the curtain, the envelope, the permanent blue ink on your index finger.

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Voter ink

People didn’t publicly speak about who they voted for. Not even within families. Elected governments were usually a coalition, messy, slow. New parties assembled frequently then disappeared quickly after. Voters swang quite a bit between the left, right, and center. Generally unsatisfied with the results, people on television and in households led ongoing intellectual debates about the issues.

But it was all about the issues.

Then, votes lost their privacy.

In the late 90s, a new era that revolved around the auras of individual politicians arose. Voters became more vocal about the personalities of the candidates they like. They began to express their choice publicly and try to get others on their team. Gradually, elections lost colors and became reduced to a binary way of thinking. You either voted yes or no. For Party A or Party B. Otherwise, you were in the losing team.

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VP and RTE

Initially, this made the elections feel more exciting. Because instead of multiple elected figures, you could pronounce a clear winner. In Turkey, this winner has been RTE and his party, without a beat, for the last 25 years. Under his rule, things looked up for the economy. A majority party could fast-track decisions, serve speedy economic growth, inject hot money into the market without too much debate about its consequences on the environment, working-class, rural life, and so on.

The inefficient coalition democracy, although it represented the country’s diverse reality more accurately, dispersed. This diversity could not unite against a populist who kept winning. Every few years, a fragmented opposition attempted to unite behind the most likely to win against RTE. They offered a safe choice, an established party, a familiar face.

Desperate centrists scrambled to convince their friends and their mothers to vote against. “Otherwise he wins again!” Decade after decade, when RTE won again, centrists blamed those who divided the votes. RTE’s supporters grew stronger, cheered for the winning team, and its leader who roared his speech and waived down at the country from his high balcony.

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Credit — Hürriyet

Not only the sacred privacy of voting evaporated, but the public also grew more and more resentful for the other team. Angry at their neighbors, their co-workers, their family members. A divided nation. One winner.

Does that sound familiar, America?

The issue was that the opposition kept failing to compose a strong vision of their own. Their agenda got stuck at fighting against RTE, and not fighting for the country. RTE kept controlling his image in the media. He painted himself as the model of success. He gradually changed the constitution, dismantled judiciary systems, privatized the country's valuable assets. He enriched himself and his family with massive franchises and public lands. The economy that was blooming in the early days of his rule, is in shambles today.

Depressing? Well, America, let’s prepare ourselves.

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Why is America in a “voting against” scenario?

This is DNC’s own making.

Just like Turkey’s segregated opposition parties that failed to unite against RTE, the DNC strategy has been flawed from the beginning: establishing “Beat DJT” as the main goal of the 2020 election. The whole country has been primed with this framework of thinking and can’t snap out of it now.

This goes way back to 2018 when DNC sent out surveys to ask people what issues were most important to us. Listed among them was “Beat DJT.” This flawed survey is an example of what must have justified DNC’s entire debate strategy we watched for months. This used our brain’s pattern recognition ability to choose what doesn’t fit. Beat DJT — an easy fix to all our problems vs an array of America’s chronic illnesses that are too complex to deal with.

Now half the country braces to ramp up their support for DJT. While the other half is terrorized by the idea of 4 more years of him.

DNC is trying to unite the public behind a divisive common goal, while chronically avoiding an exceptional and ambitious vision for the country.

Those who switched their votes from candidates they believed in, to Biden, are now clawing at disappointed Bernie supporters to jump on the train.

I insist. Bernie supporters don’t have to lower their standards. They have the power to steer the party in the right direction.

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Elizabeth Warren

Take a cue from Warren. You don’t have to endorse.

Warren wasn’t obligated to endorse anyone. While the word on the street is this is because of an ongoing feat she had with Sanders. Others say that she’s eyeing the VP seat or the Treasury position under a Biden administration. Many conclude that she’s a Republican at heart and has been using Bernie’s platform to launch herself.

My personal analysis is that Warren’s silence exposed those who quickly maneuvered before Super Tuesday as the career politicians they are. It revealed the game DNC played to serve itself. The party could have easily let Super Tuesday play out organically, properly take the public’s pulse. It could also have united behind Bernie. More justifiably so, considering the health, and economic crisis the country is facing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Warren did the right thing by refraining from endorsement.
For herself: she held on to her power.
For the country: people got to see how far Bernie could go on his own. It is far. And not alone.

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Bernie Sanders

Did Bernie lose?

Yes, on paper. But saying that people didn’t show up for Bernie is grossly undermining the massive movement he built.

Luckily in this race, Sanders made it about the movement and not himself. Since 2016, there has been immense awakening about the dysfunctions of American democracy. We learned that a huge segment of the population couldn’t even get to the polls, that the most electable candidates were (quoting Bloomberg) “bought.” With climate not waiting for us to change, we began to connect the consequences to loosely regulated capitalism.

Progressive politicians gained a louder voice. Warren, for example, a qualified presidential candidate not because she’s not a white man, (remember Palin), but because she’s the most likely to read all the bills, and the footnotes. AOC, for example, next-generation progressive, a powerhouse, an unyielding confronter of injustice. The most likely to do the hard work.

Bernie, Warren, AOC and alike let the public know, we can expect the government to do not only its job but also the morally right thing to do.

Socialism is not a dirty word anymore.

Yes, the anti-establishment sentiment served Bernie, but he also did gain support despite the callused ideas America has about socialism. It’s almost a religion, a cultural tradition to hate the left, without much logic behind it, just like any hate behavior. Bernie built momentum, despite this challenge.

People understood that none of the policies he defended were extreme. By close comparison, Warren who defended the same issues claimed a spot closer to the center. Although, she repeatedly spoke of bold moves, ambitious changes. But because Bernie used the words “democratic socialist,” “establishment” and “revolution” he was automatically stereotyped as a Spartacus type savior, a comrade. This justifies DNC’s refusal to unite behind the left. But DNC must also face the truth:

By holding down a solid left pole with integrity, Bernie pulled the power back towards a balanced center, away from an unhinged right pole. Democrats, by sitting around in the center simply could not have achieved that.

Is the safe choice really safe?

Although I am getting deeply disturbed by the cyberbullying of Joe Biden, the reasons why people doubt his chances against DJT are not unfounded. My reasons for not (yet) endorsing him:

  1. I LOVED Biden as Vice. I was jaded by Obama when he shook my hand at commencement. Now I know more about Biden’s past voting record. I see inconsistencies. I don’t like it.
  2. The argument that Biden will build a good team is weak. Just about anyone can surround themselves with a better cabinet, sans sons-in-law, than the sitting president. The bar there is extremely low.
  3. I’m deeply worried about his speech problems. English is my third language but I really shouldn’t have to decipher what he’s saying. After all, the public becomes influenced by whatever comes out of a President’s mouth. Not his VP’s or his advisers.
  4. People are not energized about him. Not the way Bernie people are for Bernie. Not the way Buttigieg people are for Buttigieg. I’m afraid, and I hope I’m proven wrong, that when the day comes, and there’s an excuse not to vote, work, weather, or pandemic, people won’t fight as hard to get to the polls. But Trump people will.

In November I will most likely toss the dice against the sitting president. But this would be a gamble. Not voting. Because I would have surrendered my power to demand a candidate I believe in to be included on the ballot.

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Photo by Parker Johnson on Unsplash

Reality endorses the righteous

November is in a long while. I don’t have to decide and declare my support for Biden now.

In the meantime,

  1. I will stop feeding DJT’s power by avoiding to mention his name.
  2. I will forget about winning, struggle, survive.
    I will keep my standards high. Warren persisted. Bernie lost over and over again when he voted for the causes he believed in, while “everyone else” was voting to win. Their record today matches the right side of history.
  3. I will pay closer attention to local government, other issues that will be on the ballot, and honest public servants to support in the long term.

We are in a uniquely advantageous situation today. Intervention by a global warning. A progressive agenda can gain unprecedented power. When the lockdown is over, we cannot go back to normal. Normal was a crisis. Normal was climate change, systemic racism, wealth gap. We can’t go back to Obama days. We can’t make America great again. We have to aim higher.

DNC has a lot of time to steer campaign goals away from a vote against scenario and give us good enough reasons to vote for.

The only way to win is through a vote for a solid vision, a vote for a clean, honest, hardworking candidate with integrity.

Written by

Artist. Researcher. Immigrant. I investigate the links between mental health and environmental health.

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