The best candidate on the most important issues for many Washington State voters does not have an (R) or a (D) next to her name – and she will be on your ballot.
On Tuesday, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden chose California Senator and former state Attorney General and prosecutor Kamala Harris as his Vice-Presidential nominee. Harris’s history as a draconian prosecutor – including incarcerating over 1500 non-violent marijuana offenders and even suppressing evidence that would have exonerated an innocent man on death row – has left many Americans feeling let down and wishing for a better choice.[i] Fortunately, there is a superior choice on Washington’s ballot for those fighting for meaningful change – and she refuses to submit to the antiquated “left/right” paradigm.
Following the brutal murder of Breonna Taylor in an unconstitutional no-knock raid in March and the subsequent murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police in May, nationwide protests broke out, with millions of Americans – including much of Seattle - calling for reform to a criminal justice system that has often been weaponized against marginalized communities.
Note the keyword: system. A system is not just some spontaneous emergence – it is built, expanded, and reinforced over many years. And nobody represents such a system more clearly and abundantly than Joe Biden. A six-term senator turned 2-term Vice President, Joe Biden has spent almost half a century in Washington DC. He got his start in the 1970’s working closely with segregationists and proclaiming in a 1977 congressional hearing that he didn’t want his children “to grow up in a racial jungle.”[ii] He used much of that time to build up the prison-industrial complex, most notably authoring the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. This act used strict and disparate mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes and three-strikes provisions while reducing parole possibilities to drastically increase incarceration rates in this country, disproportionately affecting Black Americans most of all.[iii] Additionally, Mr. Biden voted for the 1997 bill which created the Pentagon’s 1033 program, allowing surplus military equipment to be distributed to local police departments – a large contributor towards the transition of police departments from keepers-of-the-peace to paramilitary forces.[iv]
Fast forward a couple decades, and Mr. Biden has shifted his rhetoric slightly, but shows little remorse for his past actions and their horrific effects, and he has not signed on to ending qualified immunity or no-knock raids, despite these provisions enjoying majority support – particularly among Mr. Biden’s base.[v]
Unsurprisingly, President Trump has not shown himself to be any more a proponent of criminal justice reform; between his botched response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the related economic collapse, the president has shifted his campaign messaging to a primarily “law-and-order” platform, even going so far as to tweet those exact words (in all caps) almost daily for two months.
Libertarian Presidential nominee Dr. Jo Jorgensen, however, has made criminal justice reform a staple of her Presidential Campaign. At an event in Westlake Park on July 18, Dr. Jorgensen said:
“I will end the supplying of surplus military surplus equipment, like tanks and teargas to over 8,000 federal, state, and local police forces which has made Americans feel like enemy combatants in their own neighborhoods. As your President, I will end no-knock raids which, too often, end up killing innocent bystanders like Breonna Taylor. And I will end Qualified Immunity so that good citizens can take legal action against police brutality when it becomes necessary.”[vi]
This stark difference between Dr. Jorgensen and both of her opponents is not just some minor policy nuance in an obscure statute. It is the central issue for a large percentage of Americans, considered to be so important to many so as to be worth braving a global pandemic to protest in droves and express discontent with our current criminal justice system – a system that Joe Biden helped create.
This is just one of a number of purportedly progressive-leaning causes, for which Dr. Jorgensen distinguishes herself from Mr. Biden (significantly more so than Mr. Biden does from Mr. Trump). Dr. Jorgsensen has supported cannabis legalization (the law of the land here in Washington) going at least all the way back to her 1996 Vice Presidential Run; Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump refuse to make the same leap as roughly 5/6ths of Americans on the issue.[vii] Dr. Jorgensen has stated that she will pardon all non-violent drug offenders on Day 1 in office – neither Mr. Biden nor Mr. Trump have ever indicated such a desire (after all, it was largely Mr. Biden and/or Mrs. Harris who put them behind bars in the first place).
Last but certainly not least – Dr. Jorgensen has pledged to use her authority as Commander in Chief to end all of our failed misadventures in the Middle East and bring our troops home. Compare that to Joe Biden who has a record of voting for, continuing, and expanding our longest wars in American history in the Middle East, or Donald Trump who has continued every war he inherited.
Many have expressed a disinclination to cast a vote for a third party candidate, on the basis that Donald Trump’s presidency has been such a horrific nightmare that a pragmatic vote for the “lesser of two evils” is the only responsible choice.
True to form, the Trump Presidency has been a disaster. But, I challenge you - look back at these central issues, for which millions of Americans have spent the last couple months protesting. Can you say with a straight face that Joe Biden represents meaningful progress while maintaining virtually the same policy positions as the aforementioned President Trump? Mr. Trump may be wielding an unsavory sword against the American people, but it’s Joe Biden that spent 44 years of public life forging that sword through legislation in order to build-up a “tough on crime” persona – at the expense of the freedom and basic humanity for millions of our fellow citizens.
A vote for Jo Jorgensen isn’t a vote for Donald Trump any more than it’s a vote for Joe Biden. It’s a vote for the only candidate that stands firmly against the ongoing war waged by the state against its most vulnerable subjects. It’s a vote against a corrupt system built largely by Joe Biden and quite clearly abused by Donald Trump. It’s a refusal to play their game. It’s a vote for actual change – and a freer society.
[i] Reason Magazine. “Kamala Harris Hopes You’ll Forget Her Record as a Drug Warrior and Draconian Prosecutor.” https://reason.com/video/kamala-harris-2020-record-prosecutor/?itm_source=parsely-api [ii] Business Insider. “Joe Biden Worried in 1977 that certain desegregation policies would cause his children to grow up in a ‘Racial Jungle’ “ https://www.businessinsider.com/biden-said-desegregation-would-create-a-racial-jungle-2019-7 [iii] Center for American Progress. “The 1994 Crim Bill Continues to Undercut Justice Reform – Here’s How to Stop it.” https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/criminal-justice/reports/2019/03/26/467486/ [iv] Reason Magazine. “Joe Biden Basically Admits Libertarians Were Right All Along: Cops Shouldn’t Have Military Gear.” https://reason.com/2020/06/02/joe-biden-basically-admits-libertarians-were-right-all-along-cops-shouldnt-have-military-gear/ [v] Cato Institute. “Poll: 63% of Americans Favor Eliminating Qualified Immunity for Police.” https://www.cato.org/publications/survey-reports/poll-63-americans-favor-eliminating-qualified-immunity-police [vi] Jo Jorgensen, Speech at Westlake Center, 7/18/20. https://www.facebook.com/KingCountyLP/videos/288916982163937 [vii] The Hill. “84% in new Survey say Marijuana use should be Legal.” https://thehill.com/hilltv/what-americas-thinking/439104-84-percent-in-new-survey-say-marijuana-use-should-be-legal