I keep on thinking that one of the reasons Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign failed is because the leftist argument he made, that even when he won, people would need to continue fighting and protesting in order to get the things we demand is just hugely unappealing to normal people not invested in politics. What’s funny is that, by default, this argument now needs to be made to all of Sanders’ supporters to convince them why they should vote for Joe Biden. The only thing that transfers from the Sanders campaign to Biden’s is the notion of bitter struggle for the world we want. I don’t think it’s hard to see why this is a losing message, although I do believe it is being made in good faith.
This is the argument Noam Chomsky or any number of distinguished leftist intellectuals would make, and it can be reduced to "choosing the lesser evil," but it's meant to be pragmatic, and inherent in it is a skepticism of electoralism and voting altogether. I saw someone phrase it as "You're not choosing a leader when you vote, you're choosing an enemy," and this is a cogent and intelligent point. It also lacks any emotional appeal to people who aren't socialist organizers. It completely neglects the broad swath of Sanders voters - young people, Latinos, the working class, aging hippies, people with debt, people suffering from health problems, whoever - who are actively being crushed by the world as it is and either can not or simply don't want to devote their time to direct actions and door-knocking campaigns.
The Biden campaign promised to its supporters, namely corporate interests: "Vote for me and Trump won't be president anymore, and things will be normal!" This is a plain-spoken emotional appeal, to the people it's being spoken to, but it leaves out everyone with half of a brain who sees Trump's presidency as the logical conclusion to a right-wing bipartisan project of deregulation that's been going on for forty years. The problem with Sanders identifying as a Democratic Socialist isn't the baggage of the "socialist" label, it's the expectation it then creates that everyone who wants something better than that is prepared to struggle all their lives to get the things they want.
I expect there will be a huge number of people who either do not vote this year, or if they do, do not vote for either of the major parties' candidates for president. I suspect Joe Biden will subsequently lose, and Donald Trump will win a second term, but this is complicated by the fact that Trump probably intends to steal the election by a number of underhanded means. In general, predicting the future is a sucker's game. I can only tell you what people are prepared for, and they're prepared to blame Bernie Sanders for not getting his people in line. It will never be acknowledged that Joe Biden never, not once, displayed the slightest sign of empathy towards people less powerful than him, to promise something better, or even remotely appealing, to people other than the wealthy donors he's deferential to.
It was only after writing this entire post that the thought occurred to me that all of the Republicans speaking at the Democratic National Convention, to offer their endorsement to Joe Biden, might be a psy op, designed specifically to demoralize voters and lead to Trump's re-election, and that the Democratic party leadership, in their naivete, is taking them at their word. This sort of paranoid thought, that comes from a place of deep cynicism, is genuinely the only thing that makes me want to vote for Biden. It's inspired by what I know of the politics in countries that have suffered from coups and dictatorships. If we start thinking of the Republican party as genuinely fascist and authoritarian, and presume they are therefore interested in infiltrating their opposition to render it impotent, things coalesce into a simpler shape, and the point of electing Democrats is that, while they're completely compromised and ineffective due to right-wing infiltration, the right wing is at least somewhat hobbled, and some of their plans will not be carried out as quickly as intended.