But for a different section of voters, that was another nail in the coffin.
“I don’t want to vote for Joe Biden and I don’t want to vote for Trump,” said Jason Kishineff, who is a candidate for American Canyon, Calif., City council. “I think either choice will lead to human extinction.”
Kishineff is part of a group of progressive far-left voters who say they won’t vote for Biden, even if it means a victory for Trump, in large part because of the candidate’s failure to adopt a platform progressive on healthcare, mass incarceration, the environment and the police.
In 2016, this group was among some 5 million Americans who voted for third-party candidates, including hundreds of thousands of voters in swing states like Florida and Michigan.
But two months away from the presidential election – and after four years of Trump – experts say the group is less of a factor for Democrats than it was in 2016. eventual vote for Biden, especially if he chooses adopt more leftist policies.
“This group is smaller,” said Rashawn Ray, political sociologist and researcher at the Brookings Institution. “There have been deliberate decisions made with people saying ‘we can’t make this mistake’ again, knowing that they played a role – albeit a small role – in electing Trump.
Nick Cruse, 29, from Kansas City, Missouri, said it wasn’t that easy for him. “There is no one who has harmed the black community more in the past 40 years than Biden,” he said.
Cruse, who is black, cited Biden’s authorship of the 1994 Crime Bill, which contributed to mass incarceration rates, and his 2005 bankruptcy bill, which made it more difficult for people with limited income to repay their debts. While Cruse is firmly against Trump and the Republican Party, he has said that Biden represents many of the same ideals as the current president when it comes to corporate policy.
Angelica Whipple agreed that avoiding Trump’s re-election was not reason enough to vote for Biden.
The 29-year-old moved from Puerto Rico to Massachusetts as a child and has resided there ever since. A few years ago, she quit her 11-year job as a personal care assistant for the elderly due to a disability. But trying to get disability benefits has been difficult, she said, and she went without health insurance for months, in the meantime delaying ovarian cyst surgery.
Whipple had voted for Barack Obama in the previous election, but said his political views changed in 2016, when Sanders ran for president. The Medicare for All platform and the legalization of marijuana have become non-negotiable for her. Biden has not committed to any of these policies, although he does support a public health plan.
“He’s very determined to do nothing for the progressives,” Whipple said. “I don’t see how he is as better than Trump. At least with Trump, we see it ahead.
Cruse and Whipple said Biden’s choice of vice-presidency, Kamala Harris, was another downside for progressives, mostly due to her former role as prosecutor. This has become an even more acute problem in recent months of protests against police brutality, as neither Biden nor Harris have explicitly condemned far-right agitators, nor have they pledged to defeat police departments.
“He did all of these horribly centrist things and surrendered to the Republican narrative that the protesters were rioters,” said Matt Myers, a software engineer in Seattle. “To make the false equivalence… it is just not acceptable. It basically hits the left in the teeth.
Even so, several of the progressive voters have said they will consider voting for Biden if he adopts some of their key platforms, such as Medicare for All, which enjoys broad support among Democrats. So far, they said, this has not materialized. “If Biden is ready to support [those policies] I will sacrifice my own integrity and vote for him, ”Kishineff said.
Cruse also said he would vote for Biden if he adopted Medicare for All and the legalization of marijuana. But, he said, it would still be a “huge compromise.” And Jessica, a Texas voter the Guardian spoke to earlier this year, said she still plans to vote for the Green Party.
Myers is hoping Biden will also reform student debt, which left him bankrupt after going to college for the first time. While he is already considering voting for Biden, he continues to be a vocal critic for helping to try and push the platform to the left, which he says is not just ideological, but a better strategy for the Democrats.
“I feel like the Democrats organized an easy election because they continue to run boring centrists who don’t turn anyone on,” he said. “But my biggest fear is that Biden represents four more years of a weak and useless Democratic Party that… is only creating the conditions for someone worse than Trump.
Meanwhile, the fact that Sanders had come to actively support Biden in a way he didn’t with Hillary Clinton didn’t seem to resonate with his own supporters. “I think it broke the Sanders movement into pieces,” Kishineff said. “A lot of us don’t know if he entered this race compromised.”
Ray pointed out that Biden has embraced part of the progressive agenda, but not always explicitly. He noted that the candidate had had public conversations with Sanders supporters, such as Cardi B, and that he had chosen a black woman as his running mate, even though Harris was not the candidate chosen by the group.
He also believed that Biden would eventually reach out to progressive voters in the days leading up to the election. “Part of what’s going on with Biden is that he hasn’t had to do it yet,” Ray said. “He doesn’t want to withdraw these cards too soon. ”
But for some of the #BernieorBust crowd, voting for a third-party candidate or declining their vote isn’t just about Trump and Biden. It’s about trying to diminish the country’s two-party system, in which both Democrats and Republicans have compromised on what matters most to them.
Until then, and perhaps despite this, this group of voters has no intention of supporting what they see as an establishment candidate. Kishineff said he would vote for Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Cruse is considering voting the Green Party, he said, to send a message to Democrats. Whipple plans to write in Bernie Sanders.
“We continue to shame progressives, but maybe it’s time to look at Biden and push him to the left,” Whipple said. “Let this be the change.”