Thu, Jul

I Voted Uncommitted for a Future Where All Children Can Thrive


2024 PRIMARY - I voted "uncommitted" in this year's presidential primary in Maine. Appalled by U.S. support of Israel's genocidal military campaign in Gaza, I wanted my vote to be an explicit moral choice. Also, my uncommitted vote expresses my disappointment and frustration with a Democratic party that, to this point at least, appears incapable of nullifying Donald Trump and the Republicans' proto-fascist designs.

Apart from 1860, the 2024 presidential election is the most consequential in U.S. history. Ultimately, at this critical point for the nation and world, I cast my uncommitted vote for a future where all children can thrive.

As a U.S. citizen, the Biden administration's support for Israel's genocidal crusade in Gaza uses my and other citizens' tax dollars to slaughter Palestinians. My vote joined the 100,000 uncommitted voters led by Michigan's Arab American community. These votes cry out for an end to our government's complicity in this cataclysmic war. U.S.-supplied munitions, including 2,000-pound bombs, have killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children.

Muslim voters and vast numbers of young voters, as well as progressives, want to see a permanent cease-fire. I am outraged, as are untold millions of U.S. citizens, by the U.S. vetoing United Nations Security Council resolutions for an immediate cease-fire. If the Biden administration was serious about bringing an end to Israel's bombing of innocent Palestinians, it would withhold from Israel the $3.3 billion in annual U.S. military assistance. Given the scorched-earth, genocidal proportions of the war and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's resistance to a two-state solution and distinct preference for Trump as U.S. president, it is imperative that Biden decisively conclude his support of Israel.

Democrats should stage weekly televised reports highlighting the domestic and international consequences of statements Trump has made over the course of the current week, framing them as assaults on American democracy, international standing, and national security.

I also voted uncommitted to express my concerns that Democratic leaders are not forcefully challenging Trump's bigoted, racist, misogynist, and fascist rhetoric and intentions. Yet Trump is extremely vulnerable. His ideas make him a political target, albeit a moving target, but nevertheless a huge and unstable one. A sampling of Trump's dangerous assumptions and assertions show just how assailable his positions are. Among a litany of hideous declarations, he embraces white supremacy; says his mug shot and indictments appeal to black voters; claims immigrants are replacing whites, poisoning their blood, elevating crime, and bringing diseases into the country; claims North Carolina Holocaust-denier and gay-bashing GOP gubernatorial candidate Mark Robinson is "Martin Luther King on steroids;" refers to Haiti, African nations, and El Salvador as "shithole" countries; demands that progressive female elected officials of color return to their own countries; denies that he knows a woman that a court decided he sexually assaulted; asserts that he will roundup undocumented immigrants and put them in detention camps; encourages Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade NATO countries; and says he will be a dictator on his first day in office. Daily Trump traffics in lies and holds himself up as a victim of the "deep state," the media, and President Joe Biden's "corrupt" Department of Justice. He denies the veracity of the 2020 election. He says he will use the Department of Justice and intelligence services to go after his political enemies, promising wide-ranging retribution and prosecution.

While I am heartened by Biden in his State of the Union address, criticism of the rightward slide into authoritarianism must gain speed and intensity. Chiding Supreme Court justices, denouncing Trump's and Republicans' anti-democratic and xenophobic perspectives, and calling attention to Biden's legislative achievement and plans constitute an opening salvo. Now Democrats must immediately and boldly challenge Trump's fear-mongering remarks and his menacing views and promises. Legions of surrogate public officials must be activated and coordinated across the nation, speaking at local public forums to dismantle Trump's declarations, gain local media headlines, and energize grassroots Democratic outreach.

In addition, Democrats should stage weekly televised reports highlighting the domestic and international consequences of statements Trump has made over the course of the current week, framing them as assaults on American democracy, international standing, and national security. National figures with expertise in domestic and international affairs should be called on to address Trump's ineptitude and qualifications for the presidency. Teams of research staff, communication experts, and highly skilled media technicians could produce damning evidence-based campaign advertisements for circulation on traditional and social media. These tactics would raise campaign dialogue to the level of evidence and fact, calling on Trump to provide evidence to support his pronouncements. Again, such a concerted approach will put Trump on the defensive. These creative productions and tactics will reinforce and energize grassroots outreach to voters.

Trump, moreover, brings his indictments into the campaign to paint himself as the victim of a Democrat-inspired "witch hunt." This, too, is fertile ground for weakening him. Democrats must address these indictments, employing Trump's own incendiary words and acts to shed light on the public evidence of his illicit, threatening behavior. The January 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol provides extensive opportunities to illustrate how Trump's irresponsible claims and behavior incite violence and betray his constitutional oath of office. The numerous charges of election interference must be forcefully denounced. The New York court finding that Trump for years practiced deceptive business practices and tremendous fraud is also a ripe opportunity to challenge the veracity of Trump in general. It does not require much research to illustrate his long history of fraudulence, bankruptcies, and manipulation of the justice system.

Another reason I voted uncommitted is to call on Democratic leaders to take seriously concerns of Biden's age and mental acuity. Biden's command of ideas and facts and his rhetorical agility in his State of the Union speech demonstrate that he is very capable to serve a second term. Still, there is little doubt that vast portions of the American electorate would like to see a younger presidential candidate. Recent polls find a majority of Americans believe age is a factor for both Biden's and Trump's candidacies. A current poll by AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research reports that most of the public "doubt[s] that Biden and Trump have the mental capacity for the presidency." Another poll concerning perception of age as a factor in the election is even more disturbing. When comparing the attitude of members of each party, this New York Times/Siena College poll finds that 73% of Democrats are concerned that Biden is "just too old to be an effective president" while 42% of Republicans think the same of Trump.

Democrats need to heighten—not weaken—their party's contrast with Republicans' retreat from effective governance and the latter's eager efforts to put at risk the rights and welfare of Americans.

In a critically momentous and competitive presidential race, when voters are concerned about the age of the two major candidates, the potential disaffection or disengagement of party members for its candidate could be a deciding factor. It is crucial, then, that Democrats reach out to young people, progressives, and independent voters, as well as African American, Latino, and Asian communities, to discuss and respond to their needs, even soliciting their recommendations for policies in their areas of interest. By engaging these communities of voters, the Democrats can significantly diminish the age factor in this campaign.

With my uncommitted ballot I also want to send a message to Democrats to adopt and enthusiastically promote a populist platform that addresses the needs and fears of many Americans. Without an appealing political vision, Trump and the Republicans will continue to limit the political dialogue to simplistic claims around "border security" and "crime." Instead of border security, attention should be drawn to comprehensive and constructive immigration policy reform. False claims about rising crime should be displaced by discussion of programs that enhance the quality of life throughout the country: women's reproductive rights, universal single-payer healthcare, lower pharmaceutical costs, a ban on assault weapons, fully subsidized daycare and pre-kindergarten education, student debt cancellation, free and open community college education, federally funded infrastructural improvements, conversion to a greener economy with training for well-paying green jobs, stronger environmental protections, reinvigorated regulation of Wall Street and Big Tech, and guaranteed livable social security income for those Americans 65 or older whose household net worth is less than $1 million, regardless of what they have paid into social security. To fund these programs Democrats need to take a decidedly progressive position on taxation, supporting a genuinely progressive income tax, a tax on wealth accumulation, and significantly higher corporate taxation. It must be pointed out that the richest 1% of Americans holds more wealth than the nation's entire middle class. Higher taxes on those—corporations and individuals—with greater income and wealth should be projected as a moral as well as a fiscal necessity.

Democrats need to heighten—not weaken—their party's contrast with Republicans' retreat from effective governance and the latter's eager efforts to put at risk the rights and welfare of Americans. Running a defensive campaign by leaning toward the political right takes away from establishing a bold vision that energizes Americans. Looking to draw the votes of less reactionary Republicans and conservative independents may yield some significant support, but it may not be as easy as Democratic leadership may think. A recent poll showed that independent voters preferred Trump's leadership in 11 out of 15 areas of policy. Most concerning for Democrats it would seem, Biden and Trump are evenly split on abortion (29% vs. 29%), an issue Democrats believe will be a major one for them.

If Biden and Democratic leaders address the campaign deficiencies and swiftly charter a coordinated, aggressive, and resolute challenge to Trump and the Republicans, they can ensure that we do not enter a period of dictatorship. A bright, powerful, and promising future course has intrinsic appeal. Illustrating how government can work for its citizens, that it can create programs that provide vital services to them, that morality and justice are essential to a healthy society, is a dynamic and engaging campaign strategy. The elements of this strategy are the pillars of democracy and a bulwark against fascism.

This leads me to the ultimate reason I voted uncommitted. It is, simply, a vote for the future of children everywhere, for their right to democratic values and practices, for their right to a safe and healthy planet.

(John Ripton writes political essays and research articles. He holds a Master in International Affairs and PhD in History. His dissertation explores the historical impact of global capitalism on Salvadoran peasants and how it contributed to the revolutionary struggle against authoritarian and dictatorial regimes. John's articles and essays have been published in journals, magazines, newspapers and other publications in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia. This story was first published in CommonDreams.org.)