When Joe Biden was selected to be the Democratic nominee in November’s presidential election, a similar feeling of disillusionment clouded the minds of many young voters, some of whom find themselves backed into a corner with the party’s choice.
Two young voters in particular – Kira Carleton, a student at Temple University, and Dylan Yauch, a former student at the Berklee College of Music – spoke about this ever-so-familiar sentiment when it comes to the presidential election.
“When the Democrats put up Biden, it shows one of two things,” Yauch said. “It either shows they’re failing to hear young people, or they’re hearing young people and they’re disregarding what they’re saying completely.”
The presentation of Biden and President Donald Trump as the only two choices for Americans has sparked an online campaign of voter shaming, from Tweets claiming if you’re not voting for Biden you’re advocating for mass murder to Instagram posts declaring if you don’t vote for Biden, you are privileged and feel safe and comfortable in Trump’s America.
Carleton has experienced this shaming first hand, after telling people she’s considering voting third-party.
“I personally have been completely berated and insulted,” she said. “I have had some of the most vicious attacks on my character occur because other leftists are telling me that I’m racist and problematic and a terrible person and voting for Trump, putting him in office, personally killing children in cages because I’m considering voting third party.”
In a time where Americans are psychologically burdened by a pandemic, social tension, and the possibility of facing another four years under the current administration, many people are desperate for someone who can bring change. For Carleton and Yauch, however, Biden is not that person.
“I think that a lot of leftists… are now putting all of these really nuanced issues into the dichotomies of the two-party system,” Carleton said. “[They] are really marketing Biden as ‘the anyone but Trump,’ sort of the antithesis to this evil figure that we all are trying to rally against. And in doing so, they completely neglect all of the really harmful parts of Biden as a candidate.”
The same goes for the legalization of cannabis, where a majority of Dems, Independents and even Republicans are in favor of legalization, yet Biden won’t budge. Biden is also criticized for helping to write the 1994 “tough on crime” law, which was one of the key contributors to mass incarceration in the 1990s, according to an analysis by the Nation.
“It really seems like [the Democrats are] trying to redo the 2016 election,” Carleton said, referencing Biden’s policies she views as centrist. “I think that we need a way more in-depth solution to someone as harmful as Trump,” Carleton said.
The cry against Trump has been louder than ever as he nears the end of his term, and it is enough for many people to settle with “the lesser of two evils,” as Carleton points out. But Carleton and Yauch said they believe this is a dangerous precedent to set for not only this election, but any future one.
“If Democrats know that they can just put up shitty candidates that are marginally better than the Republican candidate and then shame people into voting for them time and time again,” Yauch said, “then they’re never going to give us anybody better than Biden.”
“This really feels like history repeating itself,” Carleton added. “I feel like a lot of these sentiments of the lesser of two evils narrative and the sort of coalescing hate against a common Republican enemy has been present in a lot of different elections.”
And it’s not just Hollywood celebrities and strangers on social media telling people that voting is the only solution. Former First Lady Michelle Obama expressed a similar sentiment, blaming the nonvoters for certain failures President Obama sustained during his terms, and calling people out for not showing up to the polls. Instead of holding themselves accountable for not motivating voters enough to go pick them, Carleton and Yauch feel, some politicians would rather lay the blame on the people.
“You need to do better if you want to earn my vote, because any politician does need to earn the public vote,” Yauch said. “They can’t be shamed to just show up to the voting booth and do it because everyone says they’re a murderer if they don’t.”
Politicians are meant to represent the people and their needs. Instead of calling someone out online for saying they won’t show up to the polls, Yauch said, people should use that energy to tell these politicians what needs to be done in order to gain their vote.
“I’ve heard from people that we need to get Biden in, and then we will hold him accountable,” Yauch said. “But you can’t just vote someone up into the highest position in America and then say we’ll only hold him accountable once he’s there.”