Not a ledger sheet
More than a few people think that the way to evaluate Biden’s candidacy is as if it were a ledger sheet. On one side are listed his wrong votes, past positions, and misstatements; on the other side, a listing of any instances where he has done the right thing.
When asked to explain this approach, the proponents of this point of view answer that they don’t want to spread illusions about Biden (or the Democratic Party) among voters. People should know, they argue, exactly what they are getting when they cast a ballot for Biden and other Democrats this November. After all, isn’t that the role of the left?
But here’s the problem with this approach. First of all, the accent on their ledger sheet is overwhelmingly on Biden’s shortcomings. Whatever he’s done right barely earns faint praise.
Second, its aim is more to preempt any attacks from others on the left than to inform the voting public. This strain of the left doesn’t want, heaven forbid, to be depicted as soft on Biden or spreading illusions about the progressive capacity of the Democratic Party.
Finally — and this is the main thing — this approach fails to understand that the main role of the left at this moment isn’t to relentlessly critique Biden; Trump and all are and will do plenty of that. What then is the left’s role? First of all, to raise the alarm and spell out the dangers of a second Trump term. Second, to “occupy” the ground floor of voter registration and mobilization efforts this summer and fall. Third, to assist in expanding and uniting the main social constituencies opposing Trump and supporting Biden. Fourth, to join others in campaigning for Biden and the rest of the Democratic Party ticket. It’s not a mortal sin, as we would say in the Catholic Church, to speak favorably of either. It’s hard to beat Trump and his GOP congressional sycophants otherwise.
And, lastly, to capture and convey to the largest possible audience the positive, fluid, and dynamic changes at work in the Democratic Party, the presidential campaign of Biden, and significant sections of electorate. They’re a BFD. And a wise left wouldn’t ignore them. Taken together not only are they reason for optimism that we can beat Trump and gang, but also they contain the seeds to set in motion a new burst of democratic and progressive reform. And how necessary that will be in the election’s aftermath if we have any hope of overcoming a deadly pandemic and deep economic crisis, while, at the same time, fighting off the sabotaging actions of a defeated and vengeful Trump and the entire network of right wing extremists.