In this upcoming presidential election, I intend to vote for Joe Biden.
It’s not out of any special affinity for the incumbent president — rather, it’s the pragmatic consideration that the alternative would be far worse. I believe the possibility of another Donald Trump presidency would be disastrous for marginalized groups within the United States and abroad, and I hope to use my vote to prevent that possibility from happening. If elected, Trump would harshly curtail immigration. He would intensely persecute transgender people. He identifies with the mantra “drill, baby, drill” which will certainly have disastrous climate consequences. He would cut funding for schools with mask requirements (the absence of masks in classrooms, in particular, is something I have expressed my concerns about in the past). For these reasons and many more, I am profoundly concerned about the real possibility of another Trump presidency.
But I can empathize with those who have decided not to vote for Joe Biden over his abysmal handling of Israel-Palestine.
I share the belief of Rachel and Michael Deutch Professor of Philosophy Alexander George and other signatories of a letter to President Elliott, in that I challenge Israel’s relentless attack on civilian life. I condemn Hamas in the strongest terms, but that does not mean my sympathies lie with the Israel Defense Forces either.
I believe that the recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that Israel must prevent genocide in Gaza should be of grave concern to all of us. However, Joe Biden has demonstrated his utter ambivalence to this decision. The White House has stated that the ICJ’s declaration will not change their policy of providing unconditional weaponry to Israel, despite the demonstrable harm of such a practice. Under Biden, the United States government vetoed a demand for a humanitarian ceasefire which would have saved countless lives.
Surely, with the abundance of military aid that the United States has provided over the course of decades, Israel is capable of carrying out a military campaign with careful regard for preserving innocent lives. But the opposite has occurred. As of my writing, 26,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel, including 122 journalists. The siege that Biden wholeheartedly supports has forced starving Gazans to eat animal feed and drink polluted water. According to Al Jazeera, Israel has destroyed 70 percent of Gazan homes. As of December 2023, 80 percent of the population of Gaza has been internally displaced. The painful statistics go on and on. A spokesperson for the United Nations Children's Fund has said, “The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child.”
Besides providing arms for Israel, Biden has cut essential United Nations Relief and Works Agency aid based on allegations levied against a dozen employees out of tens of thousands. He has cast doubt on the Palestinian death toll. 63 percent of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of Israel-Palestine and for good reason. According to a former official in the White House, Biden “does not seem to acknowledge the humanity of all parties affected by this conflict. He has described Israeli suffering in great detail, while Palestinian suffering is left vague if mentioned at all.” He has received the moniker “Genocide Joe” — a nickname which I would argue is well-deserved. He is, quite literally, being sued for genocide — a first for a sitting American president.
One may argue in defense of Biden’s political priorities, which are indubitably progressive and serve to benefit many people. This does not, however, erase the immense suffering Biden’s actions have inflicted upon Palestinians — something we should all be deeply attuned to. For a Palestinian-American who has lost loved ones due to Israel’s state violence, do Biden’s economic policies really matter?
I don’t believe that Donald Trump will liberate Palestine — he has vowed to ban migrants from Gaza from coming to the United States, and claims he will deport pro-Palestine protesters. Trump’s “peace plan” largely aligned with the wishes of the racist far right-wing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while Biden has said that Netanyahu “has to change.” Itamar Ben-Gvir, Netanyahu’s even more right-wing security minister, has criticized Biden for allowing vital humanitarian aid to go to Gaza, saying that Trump would be even more supportive of Israel.
Biden’s administration has made attempts — currently unsatisfactory as they may be — to end the war, while Trump claims that he would “let it play out,” expressing a disturbing willingness to let the carnage continue unabated. In another Trump presidency, violence against Muslims and Palestinians both domestically and abroad would certainly increase — Trump’s last presidency triggered a precipitous rise in Islamophobic hate crimes.
But the damage that Biden has inflicted is too severe to be ignored. For that reason, many Arab and Muslim Americans have chosen to withhold their votes for Biden. In places like Dearborn, which has the highest Muslim population per capita in the United States, he’s lost community trust entirely. As Palestinian professor Haidar Eid wrote, after recounting the current president’s near-unfailing loyalty to the state of Israel over the past few months, “Biden has truly surpassed Trump in the fascist dehumanization of Palestinians.”
I believe we should always hold empathy and understanding for people whose political choices differ from our own. It makes us better, kinder people — to not be siloed in our own beliefs, but rather extend compassion outside of our individual spheres.
For that reason, while I intend to vote for Joe Biden, I empathize with those who refuse to do so. However, Trump’s own words foretell a horrifyingly unprecedented level of mass death for Palestinians in the case of his re-election. Despite my dislike of no. 45, I feel no excitement regarding the prospect of casting my vote for Joe Biden. I will do what I need to do in order to prevent the greater harm a Trump presidency would certainly incur, but that doesn’t mean I’m a Biden cheerleader. If our current president wants another victory, then he needs to earn it.