Jimmy Aldauod was a 41-year-old man from Detroit who lived with diabetes. He was born in Greece and came to the U.S. as a young child. He didn’t speak a word of Arabic. He died last June in Baghdad, deported to Iraq by the Trump administration despite never having lived there. He was unable to find insulin.
Heather Heyer attended a counter protest to a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. A white supremacist ran her over with his car. In response to the incident, President Trump remarked, “I think there is blame on both sides.”
Oscar Martinez traveled over a thousand miles with his two-year-old daughter Valeria to the U.S.-Mexico border. He planned to declare asylum from violence in El Salvador but arrived after the Trump administration implemented a policy of “metering,” a procedural hurdle that reduced the number of asylum requests allowed per day. After being turned away from the official channels at the border, he attempted to enter the U.S. across the Rio Grande. His corpse washed up on the Texas shore. He lay with his daughter’s cadaver.
Leilani Jordan told her mother she wanted to continue working during the coronavirus pandemic to help people. A 27-year-old grocery store clerk with cerebral palsy, she died from COVID-19 this month with a paycheck of just over $20. President Trump has since delayed the release of stimulus checks to working families so that his signature could be added to them.
These are the faces of the Trump administration’s legacy. These are all deaths that could have been prevented.
Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee. Donald Trump is the Republican nominee. One of them will be president. That is our reality. No third-party candidate will be elected to the Oval Office. Because of our system, no third-party candidate can win.
Some of you are faced with a similar, perhaps worse, choice to that which you were presented in the 2016 election; do you endure the degradation of holding your nose and declare support for a candidate you do not wholly believe in — a candidate who will perpetuate a system you see as doing more harm than good? Or do you wash your hands of the whole mess when forced to choose between two candidates you see as evils, no matter the relative degrees of their evil? Some of you likely chose the latter path in 2016 and abstained. Jimmy Aldauod died.
I will not espouse all the ways Joe Biden’s ideological positions are more closely aligned to spurned Bernie voters’ than Trump’s — you know them. You know that only one candidate will end Trump’s asylum policies and separation of families, push for net-zero emissions, call for a ban on assault weapons, advocate for public financing of federal elections and introduce legislation to establish a public option in the healthcare market. You know one candidate has the most progressive platform for any major party presumptive nominee in American history.
But you “don’t trust [him]” to act on his word, nor will you ever. That is what Yale Students for Bernie tweeted following their refusal to endorse the Democratic nominee. It is an unenviable position to be in when you think both candidates are “warmonger-rapist-corporate puppet-xenophobic … candidates.” But let me present the inarguable truth: if Trump is reelected, more Oscars and Valerias will die. If Joe Biden is elected, many may die if he really is as Students for Bernie characterize him — but fewer. This is the choice that must be made. A fundamental baseline of harm will occur if both candidates are evil, but there will be an additional harm that can only be avoided by electing Joe Biden.
You might read this and think, yes, at some level, I’d rather Joe Biden be president than Donald Trump, but your vote is only a symbolic measure. It doesn’t matter beyond the message it sends, and you will not condone either candidate. You’re right that your vote will not decide the election, especially if you don’t live in a swing state. But you have friends in swing states, who go to the Universities of Michigan and Wisconsin and Miami and Texas-Austin. You have powerful voices as members of the academic elite. You captured national attention by storming the field at the Yale-Harvard Game. You control how your relatives and your friends will vote. You hold sway over students across the country. Your individual vote might not matter — but what you advocate for does.
But then there is Tara Reade’s allegation of rape against Joe Biden. It is disturbing. As someone who has not been the victim of sexual misconduct, I cannot tell anyone how to react or respond to it. It is an understandable position not to vote for Joe Biden because of it, and it remains important to believe the victims of sexual assault. But I will note a few facts because they seem to be overshadowed in the public discourse within the student body.
While Joe Biden has an existing alleged pattern of inappropriate behavior, there is no evidence for a long-term, multiple-instance pattern of sexual assault as has emerged against Donald Trump. Donald Trump has many accusations of sexual misconduct and sexual assault against him, including a public rape allegation by E. Jean Carroll. Joe Biden has issued an apology for inappropriate touching. Donald Trump has bragged about his ability to commit sexual assault.
Joe Biden has released a plan to increase protections for sexual assault survivors including increased Title IX enforcement. Joe Biden introduced and passed the Violence Against Women Act in the 1990s despite opposition from the Bush administration. Either Donald Trump or Joe Biden will be President of the United States. Those are our only real choices.
A vote for Joe Biden is a vote for Joe Biden with all the baggage that entails. But it’s also a vote for Jimmy Aldaoud, Heather Heyer, Oscar and Valeria Martinez and Leilani Jordan. It’s a vote for your friends and family who will be harmed under Trump. It’s a vote for Nelson Pinos, who has lived in sanctuary from ICE across from Yale’s campus since November 2017. It’s a vote for a shot to reunite him with his family.
JACOB HUTT is a junior in Silliman College. His columns run on alternate Fridays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.