I imagine that in regards to the 2020 election, my feelings are somewhat similar to those of every other 20-something American girl: sorting through classes, rent, and romance on top of the fate of the next four years in the land of the free and home of the brave.
Here we are again, choosing between two old, white, wealthy men with spotty records.
Here we are again, watching a civil war unfold on Twitter and biting our tongues at family dinners, regardless of which side you’re on.
Here we are again, unconvinced that any of the lofty goals flung at us from debate podiums and op-eds will be achieved by the time the next presidential election rolls around.
In recent weeks (or months, rather) I’ve been confronted by heaps of numbers, statistics, and quotes villainizing one candidate or the other, or Americans as a whole. With every breath there’s someone–both friend and foe–jumping to shove another “indisputable fact” down my throat, ready to triumph over the assumed ignorant masses. It’s exhausting, disheartening, and disorienting.
With all of that in mind, it goes without saying: You, my fellow BYU student, need to vote. I have yet to hear an acceptable excuse for not doing so. Abstaining even on moral grounds of “I cannot support either candidate” is unacceptable. Because of how the American electoral system is set up, writing in another candidate or voting third-party is a wasted vote. Choosing not to vote simply indicates that your life is likely so insulated from the issues at hand (criminal justice reform, access to quality education, healthcare disputes, racism, xenophobia, and etcetera) that your life will remain much the same regardless of who sits in the Oval Office come January. Refusing to vote or even forgetting to do so is a luxury which too many in this country cannot afford. Thus, I’ll see you at the ballot box. Six feet apart and with masks, of course.
I wish I had a more eloquent way to say this, but our nation needs you to vote for Biden and Harris. Not because either individual is a stellar candidate, but because it is the best option we have. America’s greatness was founded on the principle that no matter who you are, you have the right to a level playing field. The “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” were to be welcomed here with open arms. Yet today’s America–Trump’s America–is a fragmented picture where your basic rights and societal liberties are not granted on the basis of being American, but on the basis of your skin color, your income, your zip code, and your religion.
As Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter states, “We are no longer the country we like to think we are.” The Social Progress Index newly released in early September ranked the United States at number 28 for overall quality of life, significantly down from our spot at #19 a few years ago. Out of 168 countries ranked worldwide, only the US, Brazil, and Hungary are moving backwards. The index takes into account 50 metrics of well-being, ranging from nutrition and freedom to education and safety, measured by some of the world’s best economists. Though we rank No.1 for quality of universities, we are No. 91 for access to quality basic education. The same principle applies to healthcare. Though we lead the industry in medical technology, we fall at No. 97 for access to quality healthcare. This is clearly not the level playing field we were promised.
These inequalities are largely amplified by class and race. Those who can afford quality healthcare purchase it. Those with the funds to do so are, generally speaking, those with high levels of education. The poorest areas of the United States are correlated with the lowest-paid, poorest-quality teachers, especially because such a large portion of public-school funding stems from income taxes of the surrounding neighborhoods . Because of the racist legacy of redlining and section VIII housing, many of these impoverished neighborhoods are communities of color. It comes as no surprise that a faulty public education system results in more barriers to opportunity for children living on the margins. These insidious trends affect too many Americans.
Biden and Harris are far from the ideal candidates to mitigate these issues, but they have pledged to take steps in the right direction. Biden suggests that all coronavirus testing should be free and that the eventual vaccine should come at no out-of-pocket expense for any American. He also proposed making two years of community college tuition-free for hard-working students. . HIs healthcare plan includes adding a public option for health insurance to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, expanding coverage to 97% of Americans.
For most of us, the Biden-Harris duo is not a dream come true. But, they readily acknowledge the systemic issues in our nation and have articulate, feasible plans to move the needle on real equality. Whatever progress Trump has offered Americans, he has made it clear that–in his administration–not all men are created equal.
Show up in November. And, in the meantime, let’s confront the inequalities in our very own backyard here in Provo, Utah.