Bernie is out. The withdrawal of Sen. Bernie Sanders from the presidential race is a crushing disappointment for progressives like me, who, after a long primary process, are wondering what their next move is.

Do we as progressives suck it up and vote for former Vice President Joe Biden? Or do we abstain from voting or vote third party as a way to send a message to the Democratic National Committee that we are not getting our voices heard?

To many who don’t consider themselves progressive — say, moderate Democrats or party line voters — it might seem like a no-brainer:

“Vote Joe.”

“Lesser of two evils.”

“We have to unify to defeat President Donald Trump.”

But for many progressives and other independents on the left, whom we decide to vote for in November is going to be an incredibly hard decision. Voting for Trump is not a valid option. We don’t agree with Trump on policy or rhetoric at all. But many lefties also don’t agree with Joe Biden.

Biden’s record is abysmal for progressives, from the notorious 1994 Crime Bill he helped to write, to his stance against Medicare for All, going so far as to say that if he were president and Medicare for All passed through Congress and made it to his desk he would veto it.

Biden’s policies simply don’t line up with lefties at all (except for a few social issues that are now widely accepted after hard-fought battles).

Now ask yourself: How can one demand that progressives get in line behind Biden when he doesn’t support any progressive values? It makes it hard to vote, let alone advocate for, a man who doesn’t share your values. Centrist media figures’ demand that we must “unify” because Biden is the “lesser of two evils” is incredibly naive. Demanding progressives give their votes without receiving any policy concessions will not achieve the “unity” centrists desire.

What will happen is many lefties will feel disenfranchised after a primary where they have been spit on, called “Bernie Bros” and told to fall in line by centrist media figures, and will choose to either vote for a third party or not vote at all. To many it seems like the only way to get their voice heard.

Yes, progressives voting third party would most likely hand Trump the election, but many lefties see that as a way of telling the DNC, “Hey! You need to earn our vote! You didn’t give us any policy concessions to vote on and this is the result.”

I can’t blame my fellow lefties for wanting to send that kind of message to the Democratic Party. It would be a very strong message.

Personally, I refuse to go out and tell other progressives to vote for Biden. I am neither excited by him nor in agreement with him on policy. My message to other lefties is this: Vote your conscience, whatever it may be.

I will likely pinch my nose and vote for Biden so we can salvage the Paris Climate Accords, as well as an appointment of a liberal Supreme Court Justice. Obviously under Biden that justice would likely hand multinational corporations whatever they wanted, but we might be able to protect Roe v. Wade.

But while I will likely vote Dem with an eye roll and a grumble, I cannot blame other lefties for not voting for Joe.

I will close with some advice to centrist politicians and media figures. If you want the progressive vote, you need to earn it. Progressives simply don’t agree with you. You can’t take their votes for granted and expect lefties to blindly vote for you. You need to make some serious policy concessions to energize us to vote.

The blame will not fall on us if Trump wins; it falls on you failing to earn our vote.


Dom Flentje lives in Minneapolis.