Settling for Joe Biden: Perspectives of First-Time Voters

In an election cycle like no other, nearly 30 GDS seniors are voting for the first time—and many of the newly registered voters are grappling with casting a ballot for Joe Biden, a candidate that was not their first choice.

Senior Elliot Oppenheim is looking forward to casting his first ballot despite making the decision to vote by mail instead of in person.

“I think it’s kind of bittersweet because it’s not in-person, I’m not getting a sticker and it’s not necessarily the ticket I was hoping for,” Oppenheim said. “But I’m also really excited just to make my voice heard.”

Like many other GDS seniors, Alma Haft did not initially support Biden in the Democratic primaries. 

Haft shifted her support in the primaries to Biden when it became clear that nominating him was the best chance at beating President Donald Trump.

“Way at the beginning, I really liked [Senator] Cory Booker,” Haft said. “As more and more candidates dropped out, [Biden] just made sense.” 

Oppenheim was also initially hesitant to support Biden because of his lack of attention in the past to climate change and racial justice. “I know that [Biden] would be a really honest, good president, but I don’t agree with a lot of his policies and I have a lot of concerns about his age,” he said. 

Noah Weitzner, who was a Sanders supporter, is wary of Biden’s past record with the 1994 crime bill and the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questioning of Anita Hill during Justice Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation hearings, as well as his stances on climate change and universal healthcare. Despite his concerns, Weitzner is “happy supporting Biden” because “he’s not Trump.”

In an increasingly polarized political climate, voters around the country are finding themselves with the same mindset as Weitzner: simply doing whatever will get Trump out of office, which means voting for Biden. Oppenheim believes that if Trump is elected to a second term, “we’re not going to have a democracy to fix.”

“[Not voting] doesn’t feel like an option to me,” Oppenheim said. “I think people are treating it like an option when it isn’t.”

“I don’t think right now is the right time to shoot for the moon” with progressive policy goals, Haft said. “Had Bernie won the Democratic primaries, I think that he would have lost against Trump because the majority of this country still cannot accept how corrupt the system is.”

Support for Sanders is common at GDS; as a school engulfed by the liberal environment of the D.C. area, many students feel that GDS’ overwhelming liberal student and staff population and “echo-chamber” environment helps to foster a heavily leftist mindset.

“I think if you took an average of everyone’s political leanings [at GDS] it would be left of Biden,” Weitzner said. “People are a little further left and support younger politicians like A.O.C. and more trending socialists or democratic socialists.”

Exemplifying GDS’ mission to have students promote societal change, the interviewed seniors have been encouraging everyone they can to vote.

“Even though Maryand, D.C. and Virginia are going to go for Biden, votes in the GDS community do still say something,” Oppenheim said. “There’s a lot of questions about the integrity of this election and wherever it goes, so it needs to be by a landslide if we want to be able to trust the results.”

As for those who are still in doubt about voting because they don’t like either candidate, all three seniors are in agreement that this election year, especially, is not the year to opt out.

“Don’t think about yourself,” Weitzner said, “but think about marginalized people who are really affected by who will be president.”

And, Oppenheim said, “for the GDS students that are further left than Joe Biden like myself, there is a lot of room to push Joe Biden left once he wins.”

Haft shared a similar sentiment. “This is too important of an election to opt out,” she said. “You need to get over your pride and just vote for Joe Biden.”

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