August 24, 2020 (revised for length 8/26/2020) — With the Presidential election just over two months away, I want to share why I am voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I suspect many won’t get past my headline, but I ask you to bear with me. I need to tell you a little bit about me before I explain the choice I’ve made.
Politics has always been a great joy in my family. My parents were Rockefeller Republicans, middle-class, middle-ground moderates, a group of voters that no longer exists. My family watched political conventions of both stripes with the same enthusiasm we reserved for baseball. I cast my first vote in 1976 for Gerald Ford, who told us our “long national nightmare was over.”
In discussions with my father around the 1980 election, we agreed we both felt uneasy with Ronald Reagan. Both of us voted for John Anderson, an Illinois Congressman who left a safe seat to challenge Mr. Reagan. I couldn’t bring myself to pull the lever for the Gipper. I liked George H.W. Bush, and voted for him in two elections, 1988 and 1992. I felt the Vice President had fallen in line with Reagan, despite calling Reagan’s signature supply-side economics policy “voodoo economics.” I voted for Bob Dole in the 1996 election; Dole was one of the last moderate Republicans.
By the year 2000, much had changed in our society from when I entered the workforce in 1980. The promise of supply-side economics didn’t lift all boats equally. Wealth didn’t trickle down into education, with the cost of public and private colleges skyrocketing, and the student loan industry standing by with outstretched hands. Wealth didn’t trickle down for healthcare consumers. Prescription prices went up over the moon, insurance premium costs grew, and many two-income homes couldn’t take in Grandma, who spent down her life savings and went to a nursing home on Medicaid. Wealth didn’t trickle down for most people.Unions had become less popular, so blue-collar workers had less protection, while CEO salaries rose exponentially. And for all workers, benefits changed. That bank of vacation days you earned and your sick leave were combined to make “Paid Time Off.” If you were lucky enough to stay healthy, you could take paid vacation. If you had an excellent corporate job, with good benefits, good for you. Reductions in force became the norm at all levels of employment.
I did not vote for George W. Bush. Junior was a different man than his father; he didn’t seem like a smart or serious man to me. And his politics were more extreme than his father’s. Both Bush, the Younger, and Democratic nominee Albert Gore, Jr. were gaffe machines, and I wondered how they would fare with their finger on the button. Despite a crazy election cycle complete with the new term “hanging chads,” Gore accepted the December 2000 decision by the Supreme Court, with the traditional peaceful transition of power from Clinton to Bush. After 9/11, George the Younger did an outstanding job of uniting our country in an awful time, only to ruin his legacy with tens of thousands of military and civilian deaths by taking us into two costly, lengthy, and possibly unnecessary wars.
(I suspect whether to send American soldiers into harm’s way is the most difficult decision a President has to make. I understand there are times when there is no choice. We rushed into Iraq based on false information. We are still in Afghanistan. History will be the ultimate judge of those decisions.
August 25 is the anniversary of the Allies liberating Paris in 1944. Americans swell with pride in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe about our achievements in supporting the Allies in World War II. We saved the world despite our being late arrivals to the war. Churchill, as Prime Minister of England, begged Franklin Roosevelt, our President, to send planes, equipment, money, and finally troops for the cause. Until Pearl Harbor, there was little support for a second “Great War:” the memories of “The War to End All Wars” still fresh in American minds.)
The Republican party I knew as a child and young person does not exist and had moved from center-right to far-right. The party had lost its way from the party of family values, and the part that wanted balanced budgets. The funny thing, to me, is that I feel like I was standing still, and the party I knew moved without me. That’s when I became a registered Democrat, albeit a moderate one. No political party is perfect. But the Republican party no longer represented by values.
This year I will cast my vote for Joseph R. Biden for President of the United States for these reasons:
Experience: Joe served in Congress for many years before Barack Obama chose him as Vice President. In an ever-more-bipartisan world, Joe has the history and wisdom to reach across the aisle to build consensus. Joe worked closely in partnership with President Obama throughout his eight years. Joe knows that a “good economy” just doesn’t mean a rising stock market. Joe will be a president for all of the American people, not just a few in one party. Joe also enjoys world-wide respect from foreign leaders he knows on a first-name basis, a good place to begin his foreign policy as President.
Character: Joe has a spine of steel, but a heart of empathy. He’s been through several tragedies in his life, including the death of his first wife and infant daughter in a car accident, which also left their two sons gravely injured. Joe also lost his son, Beau, to brain cancer, the same kind that killed senators, Ted Kennedy, and John McCain. His personal tragedies have shaped the person Joe is.
Empathy: There’s an old trope that we judge a society by how it treats its most marginalized citizens. During the convention last week, Joe asked a young boy from New Hampshire to speak. This young man has a stutter, as does Biden. Decades of practice have helped Joe work through his stutter. Because of his personal experience, Joe reaches out to children who have this issue. The courage of that young boy filled me with joy. As the parent of someone on the spectrum, this busy man takes time to talk to children who share this disability is fantastic. Joe is also empathetic and kind to veterans and their families, as he and his family know what it is like to have a loved one fight overseas.
- Climate Change: Joe will return the U.S. to the Paris Climate Accord. Congress first held a hearing about climate change in 1981, which was nearly 40 years ago. It’s past time for us to be fully on board to reduce our carbon footprint.
- Healthcare: Fix the Affordable Health Care act. I know that many of my more progressive friends want to throw out the baby with the bathwater, but I think the whole system is too fragile right now. Let’s fix the ACA and figure out how to do Medicare for All correctly. Regardless of what he inherits on January 20, he will have a plan and take decisive action about dealing with COVID. He has demonstrated in 2009 that he can step up in a terrible situation, as he assisted President Obama with economic issues.
- Choice of Veep: Kamala Harris is a strong choice, and certainly qualified to step in on day one, should something happen to Joe.
- Global: Joe supports and understands the long-term political consequences of fostering allies like NATO.
Joe has demonstrated by his behavior that he’s not dismissive or threatened by strong women. Joe commits to ending systemic racism and supports the LGBTQ community, as I do.
He is not perfect. He has said and done stupid things in his career. And he is four years older than our current president. Frankly, I would rather have a nominee in both parties that’s closer to my son’s age than mine. But Joe Biden will be a leader because he is a leader. And think about the things he will not do. I don’t need to list them for you; you know what they are.
Regardless of whether you agree with me or not, please vote. This is a privilege earned by the blood of those young men who stormed into Europe on D-Day in June 1944 and went on to liberate the City of Lights. Take your franchise seriously. America is depending on you.
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I wish you all peace and comfort. And if you aren’t a frontline worker, you can support them or others. Send a note, send an email, call an old friend, and donate to your local food bank.