Believing or not believing Joe Biden has very little to do with him. The context in which some are professing support and “belief” and others are expressing their rage and frustration matters. That context is the patriarchal and racist institutions of which he, and we, are products. That context pushes women to comply and be obedient, and punishes us when we aren’t.
It’s in this context that an undue burden is being placed on women, both white women who prop up the patriarchy in their own self-interest, and women of color, who have worked to make our institutions more equitable and accountable. Institutional white male supremacy pervades our economy, our democracy, the media. It allows each of these institutions to leave the fundamental humanity and agency of women in the garbage pail of history.
I have been a Democrat from the day I first became a citizen in 2000. And in my early days as a political novice, I was a true believer. Over time, I also became one of the Democratic elite, you could say. I participate in the pageantry of conventions and debates, and I emphatically support Democratic women of color. But I appreciate now that the party is also a product of our society, that it is deeply flawed and a victim of its own success. The more reliable its base of Black women and other voters of color, the more it takes us for granted. The more we show up, the less it matters how they nurture and respond to us.
What we have now is a Democratic party whose desire to gain control over the Presidency, keep the House and maybe flip the Senate transcends all else. It transcends allegations of sexual harassment, it transcends potential senility, it transcends a troubled record on race and gender. And perhaps most importantly, it devalues its base because it knows we don’t have an alternative. Joe Biden will not save us, but Donald Trump will destroy us.
Biden has pledged that he will choose a woman as his running mate. And women are auditioning to be his Vice President. Some of us are angry that he’s not being held accountable, for Tara Reade, Anita Hill. Some of us are more forgiving. But it’s not him we forgive. It’s the institutions that bred him, the ones we want to be accepted by and into. We are engaging in the appropriate performative response — preserving ourselves by believing in the process. A process that even with the most superficial examination is so deeply flawed.
This is why Joe Biden, he of the devoted second wife, of the charming uncle-like demeanor, of the devoted father persona, is not my savior. He is not yours either. He is who we have, and if we’re lucky, he will pick a running mate that will make us believe in a different America. But she, no matter who she is, will likely realize that being in service of the man who is elected also comes with being loyal. With biting her tongue when his hand is in the wrong place, of clenching her fists when he makes a joke about a woman’s appearance, gritting her teeth when he chooses one decision over another. She may not get our unequivocal support, but making her the object of our attacks gets us nowhere.
So this is where we are. In the fight for our lives, quite literally, and in the election to determine whether we can keep our heads above water or be drowned. No one should have to make that choice. But for better or worse, women of color are experienced at how to navigate this path. So we choose, but we never rest. Because the second we look away, we could get trampled, traded or transacted.
If Joe Biden is on the ballot in November, I will vote for him not because I believe him, or in him, but because his administration will, at the least, offer an open door through which we can walk in and talk about the world we want to build.