How Seattle-area progressives feel about Biden now, halfway through 2020
KUOW spoke with six progressives in May 2020 about their thoughts on Joe Biden winning the presumptive nomination. Now, four months later, after a summer of Covid, civil unrest, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we asked them for their updated thoughts.
Scott Alspach, chair of the 43rd District Democrats
MAY 2020: Scott Alspach became involved in organizing within the Democratic Party in the weeks following Trump’s election in 2016.
He said that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were the two candidates who understood what was needed to solve the country’s health care, housing and education problems.
The other candidates fell short — but they were all better than Trump, he said.
“Voting for Joe Biden over Donald Trump will be one of the easiest decisions I ever make,” Alspach said.
Not that Joe Biden represents all he wants in a president.
“I don't think there's anybody out there claiming that if we elect Joe Biden, that's it,” he said. “And we can all clap our hands and be done. Electing Joe Biden is a necessary step to preventing our democracy from collapsing on itself.”
Before the South Carolina presidential primary on Feb. 29 — in which Biden won an overwhelming amount of Democratic voter support — he did not personally know a single person who supported Biden as their top choice.
“Since then, you know, that's who we have to roll with.”
NOW: Scott Alspach said he still planned to vote for Joe Biden.
“It could not be more obvious what the consequences will be if we do not elect Joe Biden this fall,” he said.
Alspach called Biden’s platform the most progressive of any general election candidate. But to see it realized, Congressional Democrats must push elected officials to eliminate the filibuster, consider adding justices to the Supreme Court and make other significant changes.
Shaun Scott, former state field director for Bernie Sanders
May 2020: Shaun Scott said what transpired in 2020 is a worst case scenario —a global pandemic and an unprepared president.
“People who have the vantage point of saying that we have to do everything that we can to get (Trump) out of office certainly have a point,” Scott said.
But rather than the conversation being centered on removing Trump from office, he said the conversation should focus on getting rid of Trumpism — the morals and ideologies that the president represents — and scrutinizing Biden.
“It's reasonable to ask what Biden's level of complicity with some of those forces of Trumpism are going to be before we end up deciding to cast a ballot for him,” he said.
He also called Biden gaffe-prone.
“I think in a general election against Trump, there's some real weaknesses (with Biden) that I think Democrats have a lot of legitimacy in pointing out,” he said. “How did it actually get to the stage where this is the person that we're rallying behind?”
NOW: Scott said he stands by what he said in May, but that the stakes of removing Trump from office are even higher today.
At that time, in May, the protests for racial justice, sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, had just begun across the country. Today these protests have ramped up, as Trump deployed federal agents to Portland and Seattle.
It's "hard to imagine a president handling the various crises we’re seeing worse than Trump,” Scott said.
Scott said he would likely vote for Biden.
Payton Swinford, Spencer Lively, and Hannah Oliver, leaders with the Young Democrats of Washington
May 2020: Elizabeth Warren was their first pick for president.
“Biden was by far not my first choice,” Hannah Oliver said. “But if I had to rank him and (Trump), I would far rather have Joe Biden.”
Back in May, Spencer Lively said he was hearing from peers that they have decided not to participate in an election because voting for either Biden or Trump would be a “betrayal of conscience.”
Payton Swinford said he expected most Democrats to rally behind Biden.
“Those who would like to draw a false equivalency between Biden and Trump and saying these people are both trash, I think to come to that conclusion, it might be coming from privilege,” Swinford said.
NOW: When Payton Swinford first spoke with KUOW four months ago, he thought his opinion of Trump couldn’t get worse — but it did.
Hannah Oliver said the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pushed them even further toward backing Biden.
Spencer Lively has become more comfortable with voting for Biden in November – even though Biden does not share his views on healthcare and education.
Lively said he was devastated by President Trump’s response to the coronavirus, which has now killed more than 200,000 Americans. He said he also feared the damage that could be done to U.S. democracy if Trump is reelected.
“We just can’t,” Lively said. “Our country cannot withstand another four years of Trump continuing to attack our right to vote especially with Ginsburg’s passing.”
In May, all three were involved with the Young Democrats of Washington. After a June election, Lively and Oliver have moved on from their roles.
All three said they would vote for Biden.
Mimi Harris, co-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America Seattle Chapter
May 2020: After Bernie Sanders made his first presidential run in 2016, and Trump was elected, the Democratic Socialists of America exploded, growing to 65,000 members from 5,000, Mimi Harris said.
Harris supported Sanders, she said, as did the Democratic Socialists of America, locally and nationally.
But she knew voters also had one burning question in their heart, heading toward the presidential election: How to defeat Trump come November?
Harris could list many reasons to vote against Biden. Among them was Tara Reade’s allegation that Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993, his record on Medicare for all and how he was tied to mass incarceration in America through his support of the 1994 Crime Bill.
She believed that voters were being held hostage between voting for the greater evil (Trump), or the lesser evil (Biden).
“I am very sympathetic to people who are thinking ‘Man I gotta do what I gotta do, to vote out Trump,’” she said. “They might hold their nose and vote for Biden — I understand it, but I absolutely do not support Biden.”
NOW: Getting Trump out of office is key, Mimi Harris said, and people in battleground states should vote for Joe Biden.
However, she added, a left-wing protest should follow the election — a protest that says, “We are absolutely going to do everything we can to vote out Trump, but that we expect something fundamentally to change in this country.”
Washington state, where Harris lives, is not a battleground state. So, Harris will vote for Howie Hawkins of the Green party.