ABEL: In response to Nguyen; Go celebrate Biden’s victory.

The right to vote is too precious to be toyed with, denied, manipulated or sacrificed in the name of “liberation.”


Emery Little

Joe Biden’s victory is a testament to the resilience of our democracy; let’s celebrate it. (Hustler Communications/Emery Little)

Zoe Abel, Staff Writer

I cast my first vote two weeks ago from my dorm room. I read the instructions sheet at least six times and checked my ballot over and over to make sure I’d done it correctly. I wore my “I voted” sticker everywhere I went for the next few days, proudly displaying my pride at having done my civic duty. My eyes were glued to national news coverage for three days straight; I was excited that my vote was going to help dismantle the system of hatred and division that currently defines our nation. After Joe Biden was announced as president-elect, my floormates and I jumped up and down and screamed in the hallway.

I celebrated Joe Biden’s victory.

Last week, I read Danny Nguyen’s article “Do not celebrate Biden’s victory. Electoral politics have no role in liberation,” and I was shocked. Nguyen’s claim that my “liberation will not come from voting” is blatantly incorrect. To me, liberation is the ability to select leaders who will make decisions for me. Liberation means the freedom to choose. Liberation, on the whole, comes when groups have equal economic and social opportunities; voting is one of the most important ways we can achieve this. 

My vote gives me an opportunity to speak up for what I believe in and be a force of change in my country. 

We have just experienced the most divisive, dishonest and vitriolic administration in American history that attacked the very ideals we hold as Americans. Donald Trump has not spent a single day of his presidency trying to be the president for all the people. Trump has always been a clear danger to the integrity of our democratic system, trashing norms in ways no other presidents would dare. The Trump administration has shattered our American vision: E Pluribus Unum, the American dream, the equality of all who live here. 

Nguyen makes a good point in saying that the United States does not have a true democracy. There are countless flaws with the way our government is structured, however, this election was not the time to address them. This election was not about systemic, structural change, but the removal of a leader who threatens national safety, the rights of minority groups and the notion of fair and free elections. 

Although the election didn’t bring the stinging repudiation for Trump that Democrats had hoped for, more than half of American voters still rejected him. His defeat marks the first time in 28 years that a president has been turned out after a single term. A broad coalition of traditionally Democratic voters, Republican voters and independents formed with the single goal of voting Trump out of office. Biden won the highest number of votes of any presidential ticket in history, ever.

Biden’s victory and Trump’s defeat serves as a testament to the resilience of our nation. We did not become a nation where bullies like President Trump can succeed through disorder, apathy and demonizing minorities. Americans resisted in an overwhelming manner, turning out in record-breaking numbers to have their say. Americans stood in line for hours to vote, even weeks before Election Day. Voting officials combatted Trump’s attacks by adhering to their responsibility and ensuring that citizens could cast ballots. 

If that is not a testament to the strength of our vote, I don’t know what is. 


Divesting from the system

To suggest that our role is to “divest” from the system in which we live, the status quo for the past few centuries, is illogical and contradictory to the change we desire. We currently live in a two-party system where there are two mainstream choices. For many voters, this election was not about bringing structural change to the system, but voting President Trump out of power. In this election, not voting at all would have been like a vote for Trump. 

Nguyen’s argument about abstaining from the vote reveals the very real elitism that keeps us confined to our campus bubble. There are real and important issues that need to be addressed in our Vanderbilt community and in our world at large. 

Telling people to divest from our system of government is not one of them. 

In order to truly achieve the social change that Nguyen wants, we should not be telling others what they can and cannot do. Call-out culture is not activism. Nguyen’s article insinuates that the only way to make change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people. That is not activism or meaningful change. Pointing the finger at others is easy to do—and it’s not going to get you very far.  

History will not remember those who divested from our government system. History will record that in this dark time for our democracy, Americans rose to the moment by voting to preserve our nation.


Disenfranchisement of Minorities 

The argument that voting will never achieve liberation for minorities is fundamentally incorrect. There’s a gap in voter turnout between white people and people of color—a gap that has an impact on election outcomes and on our democracy. Today’s structural racism and inequality of access to voting are deep-rooted and bipartisan. 

Telling marginalized groups—who fought with blood and tears for their rights in our nation—that they should not vote is unbecoming of our democracy. Voter suppression stands to affect every Black community in the United States, so why are we encouraging these citizens not to vote? Abstaining from the vote does more harm to the disenfranchised communities that you name than voting does. 

Biden’s victory revealed the power of the Black vote, the power of grassroots organizations, leaders like Stacy Abrams and John Lewis and the value of every single vote. That’s why it’s upsetting that one would suggest that anyone sits out an election. The right to vote is too precious to be toyed with, denied, manipulated or sacrificed in the name of “liberation.” 

I was not always a Biden supporter. However, as soon as Biden was announced as the Democratic presidential candidate, I knew that showing support was the right thing to do; it was too important to vote Trump out of power. To suggest that individuals divest from the system that governs us is counter to social change and progress. We live in a two-party system at the moment, and we only have two options. 

I agree that we should not venerate Biden and Harris as celebrities, but we must recognize that the time for a complete overhaul of our democratic system is not right now. 

Danny, my vote did give me liberation from being part of a political system I couldn’t participate in. This was the first time I could have a say in the decisions that affect me. I cast my vote for Biden on behalf of my younger siblings who are too young to vote but have so much to say. I cast my vote for Biden on behalf of my high school teachers and college professors who are risking their lives behind plexiglass barriers. I cast my vote for Joe Biden on behalf of my LGBTQ+ family members, who deserve to feel valued for who they are. I cast my vote for Joe Biden not only because it is a responsibility but because it is a privilege. My vote may be “blindly upholding the American dream,” but I am proud of my choice and I believe that communities I care about are better for it. 

Yes, there are real worries about our democracy. There is meaningful change that needs to be brought about by this administration. Our country has a lot of work to do to restore the virtues of civility, compassion, compromise and cooperation. It is our responsibility to keep our leaders accountable for their promises. 

But before turning to them, let us pause and, yes, celebrate.