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The Dilemmas of a First-Time Voter

Updated: Sep 14, 2020

By Seamus Bozeman

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As the 2020 elections approach, the integrity of our democratic process is threatened by an unprecedented crisis from a pandemic, voter suppression, international interference, and voter fraud. Being a first-time voter, it’s confusing trying to navigate the world of politics to best suit the future I want to see for our ebbing democracy. The dilemmas I face as a first-time voter are the struggles everyone should be facing. We are not in a two-party system as defined by Noam Chomsky, a writer, and a well-known thinker and linguistics professor, “In the US, there is basically one party - the business party. It has two factions, called Democrats and Republicans, which are somewhat different but carry out variations on the same policies. By and large, I am opposed to those policies. As is most of the population.” This is where I think a third or fourth party could fill the gap of the farther left progressives, independent of the DNC or RNC who constantly lobby and fund the candidates that fit their political interests.

Both Donald Trump and Joe Biden have fundamental issues and regrettable similarities that make my choice for president so tricky. Personally, I have a bias toward the Democratic party, as I am a left-leaning socialist, and previously a Bernie Sanders supporter, but these candidates don’t feel like a real choice in terms of true differences around leadership and policy. 

First, I want to know which foreign policies each candidate is choosing to support and campaign around. One of the big ones is that both candidates have strong ties to Israel and are not willing to cut ties to protect the human rights of Palestine or even denounce any wrongdoing by the government. They are also both pushing for greater military spending, even though the U.S. has the largest militarized budget in the world at over eight-hundred eighty-eight billion dollars in the fiscal year 2020. Secondly, both are against ‘defunding the police,' though Biden has said he supports continuing reforms, none of which has worked. Trump is against ending qualified immunity, but Biden has not made his stance clear on the matter, and he needs to commit to creating a national ban on qualified immunity. 

Another similarity is their actions against women, and the sexual assaults both have perpetrated. Donald Trump had been immediately outed for his multiple accounts of sexual assault during his presidential campaign, though he was never charged, or even seriously censured. Biden shouldn’t be immune to any sort of punishment in the case of Tara Reade. It seems because Biden is a democrat, a non-consensual sexual act committed in the past becomes okay, and Tara Reade is being forced to stay silent.

We need candidates that will fulfill the interests of the people and not merely be a mouthpiece for corporations and greed. Corporate influence in elections was made commonplace with Citizens United. Citizens United made it legal for corporations to act as single donors, who could be high-level executives, employees, or associates related to any given corporation. This made it easier to erase trails of influence while keeping the political benefits. This is why Super PACs became widespread in elections and were left mostly unchecked. 

At the beginning of the 2020 election cycle, Joe Biden committed to forgoing Super PACs but redacted the plan when Biden's opponents had early leads in funding. Trump, at that time in October 2019, led campaign spending on advertising, and campaign contributions from Super PACs. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, did not accept donations from super-PACs and only accepted funds from individual voters. 

The current political challenges the United States faces are partly based in the very polarized pandemic, as it is strictly along the party lines of Democrat or Republican on whether COVID-19 is a virus worth shutting down everything or not. Because the Democrats predominantly have feelings of concern, it could pose an issue to the turnout and subsequent votes of Democrats. In general, Democrats have been feeling unsafe about being in a line to vote or even leaving the house. But with mail-in ballots being suppressed and outright banned in many states, this will give an upper hand to counties with higher numbers of Republican voters. Honestly, these are the states that are most critical to winning in the current system of the electoral college to tip the scales in Biden's favor. Even if polling in person is still allowed come November, states with electric voting machines have elementary operating systems that have been and will continue to be vulnerable to Russian, Chinese, or Iranian interference. However, most have a paper trail to follow if hacking does occur. Even with the backup of the paper trails, errors are still common;  voters, and poll workers, are rarely trained or knowledgeable on the issue of mistakes before voting and counting. Though with lessons on common mistakes on ballots, issues like ‘chads’ and typos were noticed and the knowledge of voters commonly made the process smoother

It's not only the voting machines that are causing the issues, but it is also the current suppression of voter rights, and with that, the profound systemic voter suppression and oppression.  In districts that have been historically democratic, black people, and marginalized groups have faced increased voter suppression in recent years, some of which include long lines at small voting precincts, voter purges, strict voter ID laws and the prevention of same-day registration. Laws around past imprisonment are also a significant issue, blocking voting rights for many, especially in the areas mentioned earlier, where imprisonment for minor offenses or inability to pay bail is widespread.

The current pandemic also poses another grave threat to the elections with even stricter access to voting. With the possibility of the collapse or privatization of the U.S. Postal Service as early as September, it could present risks to states that will want to conduct mail-in voting or it would force older and immune-compromised voters to polling stations which could threaten their health. If mail-ins do not become legalized across the country or the Post Office is not funded, the concern is that turnouts will be grossly underwhelming and endanger the elections. Long mailing times could also threaten proposed deadlines for arrivals of mail-in voting, which could also inhibit voter counts and democratic participation. With media coverage lacking on these issues posed by COVID-19, voter awareness will continue to erode and undermine the outcomes of the general elections.

Foreign meddling is also widespread here in the U.S, but most notably in 2016, with the controversial and disastrous election of Donald Trump. Through multiple avenues of interference, the IRA or Internet Research Agency, with direct ties to the Kremlin, targeted social media sites by posing as Americans to sway voters, especially in swing states, creating deep divisions in American society. 

When it comes to a lot of meaningful political and social choices for the future of our country, small details matter. When it comes to Biden's policy, his voting appeal is slightly better. Some of his policies include healthcare for all, two free years of college, semi-comprehensive climate reforms while recovering economically from the Coronavirus, banning guns with high capacity magazines, eventually replacing two elderly Supreme Court justices, and raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour. With all of these improved policies and new reforms for a continually changing nation, it's better than four more years of Trump, but more needs to be done for racial issues and policing. Another essential factor to the completion of any of these policies is that we vote so there is Democratic control of the House and Senate, which will be crucial to enact any laws that might be even slightly left of center. 

With so much on the line in 2020, my president, who represents my voice does not exist, but unfortunately, the lesser of two evils is all we have. Unless we create a more significant movement in the next three months to do a massive write-in campaign to elect Bernie Sanders, it will inadvertently become a vote for Trump in states that are crucial to the electoral system tipping in favor of the Democratic party. In California, where I'll be a first-time voter, I could theoretically do it without 'throwing my vote out' because the votes in the state have historically been overwhelmingly blue. Does that mean I think everyone should do that? Absolutely not, unless there was a real movement that could be large enough to avoid four more years of Trump. What is really important is the grassroots of voting, and educating ourselves on the local and state level, which will have a more significant impact on what our future will look like, while also vastly improving education, equality for all, government-funded healthcare, reparations, and liberation of the oppressed. Along with how we want the United States to look for ourselves, others, and the coming generations.

Written by writer Seamus Bozeman

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