Saturday, October 10, 2020

Why I, a Lifelong Republican, am Voting for Joe Biden


I’ll cut to the chase: I’m voting for Joe Biden for president of the United States.

I can not in good conscience vote for Donald Trump. In 2016, I voted for a third-party candidate (Evan McMullin). In 2020, for the first time in my life, I am going to cast my ballot for a Democrat for a federal office.

I will not be hyperbolic or unnecessarily critical of Donald Trump. We’ve all lived through the last four years together – we all know what President Trump has done, for better (and I do believe he has done many things that have made our country better) and for worse.

By the same token, everyone knows Joe Biden, and if you don’t like him, I won’t be able to convince you otherwise. He’s a politician, and all politicians have done things that could be construed as unethical or unsavory. I can’t and won’t defend everything Joe Biden has ever done.

Ultimately, either Donald Trump or Joe Biden will be our next president (I’d love for a third-party candidate to have a shot, but unfortunately our system isn’t built for that right now). After attentively watching President Trump’s words and actions over the past four years, and carefully weighing the options before us, I have come to the conclusion that, in my judgment, Joe Biden is more suited to the office and deserves my vote.

The Point

So if I’m not going to convince anyone, why am I bothering to write this post? I suppose my goal is to signal to other independent-minded Republicans, moderates, independents, and conservatives that someone you know who considers themselves a Republican is going to vote for Biden.

I know there are others out there who, like me, are discouraged by the state of our politics. Maybe we don’t agree on all issues or even share the same values, but we know we can do better. We can find a middle path through unity and harmony that can bring greater prosperity to all Americans.

Why Biden 

As the Democratic primary unfolded over the last year, there were several good candidates that I could have found myself supporting. There were also a few that I would have struggled to vote for due to their extreme policy positions.

Thankfully, Democrats knew that no ambitious policy proposal or agenda was more important than a return to civility and unity. At the end of the day, they set aside their dream candidates and chose a good and decent man who all Americans could accept and be proud to call their president. Many of my progressive friends were sorely disappointed in this result, but I believe it will be for the best for our country that Joe Biden is the nominee and am grateful the primary electorate made this tough choice.

Joe Biden has been in politics for a very long time. He is a Democrat from an era when Democrats and Republicans really weren’t all that different, and where they worked together to enact common sense and reasonable legislation.

Joe Biden is a man of faith. He doesn’t scoff at religious Americans or dismiss their legitimate concerns on issues like abortion. He understands the struggles working class Americans face, but isn’t advocating for an extreme agenda. He wants to strengthen Obamacare but not replace it with a single-payer system; he wants justice reform, but condemns rioting and violence; he will work to protect the environment, but has not embraced unrealistic proposals like the Green New Deal.

Kamala Harris similarly is quite moderate. If you’re concerned about the VP becoming president (a legitimate concern given Biden’s age), look into Harris’s actual expressed views and not just at one metric. For example, as a former prosecutor, she understands the importance of enforcing the law, but also knows how to do so equitably. In the primary, she supported a public option for healthcare, but did not support eliminating private insurance.

Also remember that all legislation must pass through Congress, so it will be much easier to safeguard whatever it is you’re hoping to achieve by voting for (and lobbying) your preferred House and Senate candidates than worrying about the president. I actually think Republicans would be better off advocating for a split ticket with a Democratic president and a Republican Senate than tying the Senate’s fate to Trump.

If we don’t like the way things go after this election, it’s comforting to know that another one is coming in just two years, with another presidential election just two years after that. I’ve lived long enough to know that nothing in politics is permanent.

To sum it all up, my vote for Joe Biden is an endorsement of the idea best expressed by Biden himself:

“When I first ran for Senate, we put up a billboard that said, ‘Joe Biden: For all our families.’ It’s a motto that has guided me throughout my career. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican—I’ll be a president for all Americans, not just the ones who vote for me.”

Why Not Trump?

President Trump has done some good things. Those successes and victories are frequently overlooked, and Trump is often treated unfairly. I believe it’s very important to acknowledge the good, because bias and inequity leads to mistrust, which in turn leads to some otherwise constructive voices being ignored.

Specifically, I believe the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was a net positive for the country (personally I would have closed more loopholes for the wealthy while lowering the rates, but what we got was better than what we had before). Without these cuts, I’m not sure our economy would have been so robust in the pre-pandemic period, or had the agility to recover now and into the future.

Secondly, Trump has had some foreign policy successes. The recent peace deals between UAE and Bahrain and Israel are good examples. And while we haven’t quite resolved anything with North Korea, the fact that Trump himself met with Kim Jong Un is remarkable and unequivocally positive.

However, my opposition to President Trump comes down to the following:

1) He lacks integrity. 

  • Trump has focused more on his own re-election than the interests of our country. Whether it was asking the Ukrainians to investigate his most likely Democratic rival, minimizing the pandemic with the hope of buoying the stock market, or undermining public trust in the election process, Trump has repeatedly engaged in inappropriate or unethical practices, even after being investigated for doing so in 2016.
  • Trump has surrounded himself with unethical people, many of whom have been indicted or sentenced to prison for their crimes
  • Trump has admitted to sexual misconduct, including grabbing women’s genitals without their permission, kissing without consent, and walking into dressing rooms where women were unclothed.

2) He does not attempt to unite the country

  • At a time when we need a president who can truly inspire and lead us, help us find common ground, and move forward to rebuild after being hit with disasters of all kinds, Trump has repeatedly been drawn into petty feuds with rivals rather than simply projecting an aura of hope and strength, as a good leader would do.

I know some people think policy overcomes these concerns, but I can’t help but think of the wisdom from Jesus himself in Matthew 16:26:

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Donald Trump is the soul of the Republican Party right now. If Republicans vote against him in 2020, yes, we’ll have four years of Democratic control of the policy agenda. But maybe four years from now we can vote for someone who can support the same or similar policies as Trump, but who has integrity and compassion, and who can unite all Americans. There are bright young Republicans out there who fit the bill. I sincerely believe that conservative ideals would be better served in the long term by losing just this once.

If the polls are close to accurate, Donald Trump will lose on November 3rd. But wouldn’t it be better to send a message, by voting overwhelmingly for Joe Biden, that Republicans, too, reject division and dishonor? 

I grew up in the era of Bill Clinton and his impeachment scandal, and it was instilled in me at a young age that honor and integrity were the most important traits of any president. It appears that sentiment has fallen out of favor, but I still believe it.

Why I’m Still a Republican

After reading this post, you may be wondering if I’m truly still conservative, and why I bother referring to myself as a Republican.

To be honest, I have become more moderate in recent years, and the Trump presidency in many ways has facilitated that drift. I no longer feel the need to defend everything the leader of my party does. I recognize that there are good ideas on both sides of the aisle, and that life is too complicated to presume that one ideology can perfectly explain and solve all of the world’s problems.

And yet, I’m still a Republican because, among other things, I believe that business is a good thing – that industry and commerce provide virtually all of the goods and services we consume, all our household income, and all our tax revenue. Antagonizing business is a dangerous attitude if our goal is a prosperous society.

I believe abortion is not an amoral act. While I believe it would be a mistake to overturn Roe v. Wade, I believe the number of abortions should be reduced through proper education, availability of contraception, more aggressive prosecution of rape, increasing the affordability of adoption, and good old-fashioned persuasion.

I believe there are limits to what the government can and should do. For every voice that calls out for help to address a legitimate need, there needs to be someone willing to ask whether we can afford it. Unfortunately, resources are not infinite and so difficult choices must sometimes be made.

The country deserves two strong parties that appeal to all Americans. I will continue to advocate for a better Republican party so that every American can feel like they have a choice when they go to the ballot box.

A Parting Note

When we wake up on November 4th (or whatever date it is when a winner is finally declared), the 40% of Americans who fundamentally disagree with you will not disappear. We will still need to work together to solve the challenges that face us. Those 40% are not evil – they just have different ideas on how to move forward. (Any ideology that teaches that 40% of Americans are evil is completely meaningless and impractical, even if, in some sort of absolute sense, you were right in that assessment.)

If we are going to truly move forward as a country, we need to change the nature of our political discourse in this country. Too much attention is focused on the fringes – the extremes.

For example, there may be 3% of Americans on the left who want violent anarchy; and maybe 3% on the right who believe in militant white supremacy. And yet, how much airtime is devoted to these topics on television, podcasts, and social media? We allow pundits and commentators on the opposite side to draw unfair generalizations of an entire party based on the radical views of its most extreme adherents. And in turn, the pundits and commentators on our side foolishly legitimize such attacks by seemingly defending these bad actors. These are the pitfalls of a two-party system. 

A vast majority of Americans reject both extremes. Most of us live somewhere in the middle. We want robust infrastructure, good schools, and quality healthcare. We want equitable and even-handed law enforcement. We want a fair distribution of the tax burden. We want a strong and agile military that is rarely called upon.

And most importantly, we want our politicians to work together to get things done on behalf of the American people. Sometimes this will require compromise, but compromise is not a dirty word. It’s the only way to successfully run a diverse country comprised of people who often disagree.

Electing Joe Biden will not solve all of the nation’s problems. But on November 3rd, voting for Biden will be one step in the direction of restoring honor to the White House and moving forward with civility and unity to face them.


Anonymous said...

I'd like you to explain the part that Joe Biden is a religious man. He has been refused communion on more than one occasion.

Yevgeniya Jaynes said...

"but has not embraced unrealistic proposals like the Green New Deal."

Jeff, what are you talking about?!?
The Green New Deal is on his official website.

Yevgeniya Jaynes said...

And Kamala Harris was one of the original co-sponsors of the green New deal. She is no moderate. Check her voting record.

Jeff Smith said...

As I have researched Biden leading up to this election, I came across this video which gives a flavor of the way Biden views religion and politics. It's clear to me he believes religion is important, while supporting a separation of church and state. Also, being refused communion means that he was in church!