While Americans are being presented with two options for who they want as leaders of the nation, we also need to consider Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris as co-headliners of President Donald Trump’s and Joe Biden’s administrations as well. Although there is no such thing as a “perfect candidate,” the choice between fascism and imperfection is critical. This does not however mean we should disregard the policy of the individuals running for office.
This election is easier for organizers and activists to accentuate Pence’s record. For instance, as governor of Indiana, Pence signed the most restrictive abortion ban into history, reinstated a mandatory drug sentence, and blocked the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state. His destructive endorsements of policies by an administration seeking to destroy our right to bodily autonomy, asylum, and life have been unforgivable. Pence voted against The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, cast the deciding vote to overturn Obama-era protections for Title X, and helped to shepherd the “First Step Act”. These policies are not only misrepresentative of our growing democracy, but harmful to our diverse nation as well. Support and active participation for harmful policies and positions like these are why we cannot “play nice” with those trying to actively dismantle our personhood. So no, young people will not be “cordial” in what we see as a fight to keep our basic rights.
Even in the face of a pandemic, a Trump-Pence administration is highly popularized within voters in the south, midwest, and conservative northeast states. Why? Because the values of Trump-Pence are the values of many people in “white America” hold, whether young or old. Whether it’s refugees seeking asylum, access to health care, or voting rights, these debates regularly frame these issues as thought experiments, not as issues that directly affect people’s lives, liberty, and rights. This is the exact reason why “playing nice isn’t an option,” and critically engaging with the candidates we support is so important.
This holds true for Harris. Harris has become a target by both the left and right end of the political spectrum due to her controversial past as a prosecutor and identity as a Black Asian American woman. According to The New York Times, Harris’ record as prosecutor has been described as being a “Top Cop.” Harris’ legislative scandals including her silence on police unions denying public access to disciplinary hearings, excluding evidence from cases, and not holding police accountable (according to David Campos, a police commissioner). Her record as attorney general however, is worse. Harris deferred cases involving police violence and even refused to endorse bill AB-86, a bill opposed by police unions that would have allowed her office to appoint special prosecutors to examine deadly police shootings. Harris’ inability to right her wrongs about her past as attorney general and prosecutor are not forgivable because of her identity. The Biden-Harris campaign has been preaching about accountability towards the Trump administration. However where is the accountability from Harris as she made decisions that negatively affected the working-class and BIPOC?
Why did I rehash Harris’ legislative actions as attorney general and district attorney? Because according to the Institute of Social Research at the University of Michigan, police violence is the sixth leading cause of death for young Black men. In one of the most consequential elections of our lives young people are left to decide whether or not they want to choose between someone who wants to continue to completely derail the course of societal norms or choose a different administration which has still proven to be harmful.
The Trump-Pence administration has arguably been one of the most internally destructive administrations since America’s inception and as a young person living and growing up in the South, the idea of “returning to normalcy” is not good enough. While the number of Trump supporters among young voters is few and far between, I still recently drove past a Trump caravan in a mainly blue district. We cannot and should not try to appease those who do not care about our personhood, bodily autonomy, and right to life, and we should not hesitate to hold those we elect accountable. We are too far gone to return to “normalcy.” We shouldn’t want to return to a nation that refuses to see human rights abuses, institutional racism, and systemic racism. Most importantly, it’s important to remember how “the way things used to be” is what made Trump the person he is and gave him the power of the presidency. The Trump-Pence administration didn’t sprout out of nowhere, it is something that had been breeding for a long time due to the previous administrations and complacency of the American empire. As youth organizers, it is not our job to save this country, our earth, our humanity; it should be our job to evolve the world that has been landscaped for us. Publications and news sources have made it Gen-Z’s responsibility to not only vote in this election, but to save our democracy. Sources like MSNBC, Vox, and Vogue all expect Gen-Z to save the world, but it is not our job. Those with the ability to vote should vote, but it is not a one-demographic issue. Our entire nation needs to be at the ballot box with us.
Youth have been organizing, strategizing, and mobilizing not only for this election but for our liberation, specifically Black liberation. We are not prepared for another administration that continues to ignore our calls for reparations, access to affordable and free health care, tuition-free college, affordable housing, and denouncing and ending of the murder of Black civilians. There is no “perfect” administration, but we have to collectively come together and hold the candidates we vote for accountable, especially if we want them to fight for even an ounce of what we as activists have been proposing for at least the past four years..