Does Democratic unity translate into votes?
Who knew there could be good news during a pandemic?
Democrats made it happen last week. It was a great few days for a party that notably struggled to coalesce in 2016.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) kicked it off with a full-throated endorsement of Joe Biden’s candidacy, which was exponentially more enthusiastic than what he cobbled together for Hillary Clinton four years ago. Within 24 hours, the moment Democrats had been waiting for arrived: Barack Obama’s endorsement. In a 12-minute video message, the former president paid homage to his vice president and what they accomplished together. Obama extolled Biden’s virtues, and made sure to praise Sanders and his supporters.
Next up was Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Her team produced a heartwarming video cataloguing Biden’s compelling life story, his successes and why he’s right for the moment. Progressives’ favorite Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) came out for the moderate Biden, too. And others, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who had been on the sidelines, finally spoke up: They’re ridin’ with Biden.
As a Democrat, it’s a bit of a foreign sensation to take a break from electoral hyperventilation and bask in the moment. But during a pandemic, we have to take everything we can get — even if it’s a fleeting sensation.
I immersed myself in all the “unity” content I could. The Crooked Media guys’ podcast was aptly titled “Dems in array.” The Economist was singing the same tune, and the New York Times asked “Hello, What’s this? The Democrats aren’t in disarray?”
My political high lasted only a few days, though. Rude awakening moments such as data showing that Sanders supporters are 51 points more likely to view Biden unfavorably than the average Democrat and that 7 percent would vote for Trump over Biden. That’s a smaller margin than in 2016, but still disheartening.
And opinion pieces focused on how Biden’s “concessions so far have only demonstrated that he isn’t serious about leftwing voters” flowed. The Democratic Socialists announced they are not endorsing Biden.
At a time when we are seeing, in real time, the deleterious effects of a poorly managed federal response to a health crisis, I resent any discussion of Biden not being “exciting” enough with every fiber of my being. Is he progressive enough? The Trump administration is full of climate deniers, for goodness sake.
We talk a lot about privilege in America. Most of us are enormously lucky. And on a global scale, poverty here still looks a lot better than in many other countries.
But elections remain a time when we too often forget how privileged we are. I can assure you that Sanders wouldn’t have endorsed Biden this quickly if the stakes weren’t unimaginably high.
So, my proposal is that we all pretend we live in Virginia, where Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has just made election day a state holiday.
Don’t think of election day as an option. Need some motivation? Think of the African American voters who regularly wait in line, sometimes for more than 10 hours, to exercise their constitutionally protected right to vote or, worse, are denied the opportunity full stop. As the Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.) put it: “African Americans are casting a survival vote in November of 2020.” Health outcomes from COVID-19 have proved that out.
Think of the DACA youths whose futures hinge on a Democratic victory in 2020. As reported in the Washington Post, “Dreamers” are literally saving us right now as front line health care workers across America. One DACA doctor, known as Dr. P, comes home to try to wash “off the virus and the fear” and, also, to panic about what losing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status would mean to her: She won’t be able to repay her loans, treat patients, or even stay in America. She has been here since she was 2 years old.
Need more motivation? Think of the millions of women who will have their access to health care scaled back even further under another four years of President Trump. Think of the Supreme Court, which very well could turn into a conservative 7-2 majority by 2024. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer cannot stay on the bench forever.
And if all that isn’t enough motivation to vote, pretend there will be a fine for not voting, as if we live in Australia. Or that you finally have a reservation at a restaurant you’ve been dying to go to forever. An appointment with a doctor that your mother’s friend’s brother arranged for you to see.
If you’re privileged — like so many of us are — act like it and vote on behalf of a member of any of the disenfranchised groups I discussed above. That’s what Democrats do. We vote for the person who needs it the most and we take nothing for granted.
Sitting in our well-appointed apartments and homes, spilling ink over how exciting or progressive Biden is, reeks of privilege. Cut it out.
Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.
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