This is the fourth post in a series called How a Utah Mormon Farm Kid Became an Evil Democrat.
Here’s the list:
- Part 1 – How a Utah Mormon Farm Kid Became an Evil Democrat
- Part 2 – Why I Did Not and Will Not Ever Vote for Donald Trump
- Part 3 – But What About Abortion?
- Part 4 – Why I Am Voting for Joe Biden (this post)
When it became apparent that Joe Biden was going to be the Democratic nominee for president, I was pretty…deflated.
I had caucused for Elizabeth Warren. I found her to be incredibly smart, infectiously energetic, tough in a debate, full of great progressive ideas, and possessing lots of detailed plans. She’d had a distinguished career as a professor and bankruptcy law expert and fought for and helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, not to mention her experience as a senator. She got things done.
Joe Biden seemed pretty, just…boring.
Anti-Trump Republicans Wanted a Moderate
Moderates, independents, and disaffected non-Trump Republicans were terrified of Bernie Sanders. And leery of Elizabeth Warren. “Give us a moderate Democrat as an alternative to Trump. Someone we can actually feel ok supporting,” they said.
And that’s exactly what they got.
Some of Joe Biden’s positions on some popular hot button issues:
- Medicare for all?
- Defund the police?
- Abolish ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)?
- Major military budget cuts?
- Raise personal federal income taxes?
- Only if you make over $400k a year
First of all, “socialism” is used *all* the time by conservatives as a scare tactic. We’ve had family members whip that one out on Janean when she said she wasn’t voting for Trump. “Don’t vote for Democrats unless you want America to turn into a socialist nightmare like Venezuela!”
Donald Trump keeps screaming that Joe Biden is a socialist. But it’s just not true. He’s a moderate Democrat. And has been for decades. That doesn’t mean his positions haven’t shifted over time along with society in general, but the man simply is not what he’s being painted to be.
Let’s just clarify a few points regarding socialism (quotes from fact-checking site Politifact):
- Socialism – what it really is
- “Socialism refers to a government takeover of industry, and Biden has not called for that. Experts say his positions on health care, energy and other areas are those of a moderate Democrat, not a socialist. There’s no support for the claim that Biden wants the U.S. to be like Cuba or Venezuela.”
- Programs like Medicare for All or Obamacare don’t constitute socialism
- ” ‘Medicare for All is a proposal that would make U.S. health care comparable to that in other countries with capitalist economies, with a primary role for government with regard to social welfare,’ said Martin Gaynor, Carnegie Mellon University professor of economics and public policy. ‘I wouldn’t call that socialism.’ “
If you want to get a better handle on some of the scariness around the “socialism” threat, that Politifact article is a pretty easy read and does a really good job of breaking things down.
Social Democracy, Not Socialism
For what it’s worth, most Americans who advocate for more “socialistic” policies are really after something called social democracy. From this New York Times article:
What Americans who support “socialism” actually want is what the rest of the world calls social democracy: A market economy, but with extreme hardship limited by a strong social safety net and extreme inequality limited by progressive taxation. They want us to look like Denmark or Norway, not Venezuela.
And in case you haven’t been there, the Nordic countries are not, in fact, hellholes. They have somewhat lower G.D.P. per capita than we do, but that’s largely because they take more vacations. Compared with America, they have higher life expectancy, much less poverty and significantly higher overall life satisfaction. Oh, and they have high levels of entrepreneurship — because people are more willing to take the risk of starting a business when they know that they won’t lose their health care or plunge into abject poverty if they fail.
A lot of that sounds really great to me. Limited extreme hardship. Strong social safety net. Limited extreme inequality. Progressive taxation. High life expectancy. Less poverty. High overall life satisfaction. High levels of entrepreneurship.
But, as intriguing as that sounds to me, Joe Biden is not advocating for this or anything remotely close to it.
Settling for Biden
So, yeah. There just wasn’t a whole lot that really stood out to me about Joe Biden. Ok, he’d been Obama’s vice president. That’s fine. And he’d been involved in politics for a long time and had a solid reputation. Great. But there wasn’t anything that felt exciting about him. He just didn’t inspire a lot of enthusiasm.
A lot of left-leaning people, who’d had their hopes pinned on a Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, became resigned to the fact that they’d have to settle for Joe Biden. They didn’t like it, but when you’re faced with the existential threat that you feel that Donald Trump poses, you do what you have to do.
But the funny thing is that it feels like settling for Biden isn’t feeling so meh anymore. As time has gone on, it seems like quite a few people that felt he was pretty mediocre before are warming up to him.
The first presidential debate was a debacle. Donald Trump bullied, bulldozed, and constantly interrupted – both Biden and the moderator. Given the disjointed nature of it, not a whole lot of value came out of it. I didn’t feel that Biden really had much of a chance at getting into his policies at all.
One thing to consider about that debate as well: Joe Biden has a stutter. It’s something he’s worked long and hard to deal with. And it might explain some of the traits you may notice when he speaks, which some people try to pin solely on age or mental capacity.
This video shows the first time Joe met a 13-year-old boy named Brayden Harrington, who also has a stutter. He tried to boost Brayden’s confidence and told Brayden he’d help him work on that stutter:
And he did. And then Brayden shared this message during the Democratic National Convention this year:
I’ll get into more later about the type of person that Joe Biden appears to be. But I’ll let you start drawing some of your own initial conclusions from those videos.
Some people familiar with stuttering said that that debate environment was basically a worst-case scenario for someone with a stutter – getting constantly talked over, interrupted, etc. And at least one journalist with a stutter wrote and tweeted about it:
Listen to Biden Speak at Length
The second presidential debate was cancelled because Trump got COVID-19 from a non-mask super-spreader event at the White House (at least 34+ other people got it from that too, directly or indirectly, including Utah senator Mike Lee). Then Trump, with his administration still dealing with multiple internal cases of COVID-19, refused to participate in the debate virtually instead of in-person.
The Biden Town Hall
So on the night the debate had been scheduled, Biden instead did a televised town hall, taking questions from the audience.
For an hour and a half, Biden responded to questions, was asked follow-ups by the moderator, and actually got to talk. It was the first time I’d listened to him speak at length. And I thought that it was actually very good. Not perfect. But very solid. I was pleasantly surprised.
For a guy that Trump tries to mock as being mentally out of it, Biden:
- offered very in-depth answers
- spoke at length about his policies
- cited numerous statistics related to his policies
- admitted that he has made mistakes in the past, including, looking back now, elements of his 1994 crime bill
- said “It is the presidential responsibility to lead” when it comes to handling the pandemic
And the kicker? He stuck around after the town hall was over and kept answering questions. Not all of the people present got to have their questions answered on air. So he stayed for almost 30 minutes longer, off the air, and responded to them. That says something to me.
If you’ve got some time and want to get a sense for yourself, watch the town hall.
Science and the Pandemic
Recently, Donald Trump has taken to mocking Biden for believing in…science? Which seems like a really weird tactic.
If Trump isn’t listening to the scientists when it comes to the pandemic, who exactly is he listening to?
I’d guess himself, mostly. And people telling him what he wants to hear. Instead of what he actually needs to hear.
Biden’s Pandemic Plan
Biden isn’t advocating for a national shutdown. Or anything like that at all. What does his plan include?
- Ensure a coordinated national effort, instead of the largely ‘every state for itself’ approach employed up until now
- Make testing widely available and free
- Eliminate cost barriers for preventative care and treatment
- Stop the flood of misinformation that is coming from the White House itself, of all places
- Rely on public health officials, not politicians, when making public health decisions
- Provide more financial relief for those affected – workers, families, and small businesses
Joe Biden has a plan for the coronavirus. He will listen to science. He won’t let his ego get in the way of the country’s safety.
Yeah, masks suck. Nobody likes them. But they can help us get through this.
Joe Biden diligently wears a mask when in public. Trump has routinely mocked Biden for it, taking a shot at him about it in the first debate. And right after that, Trump promptly caught the virus. After not wearing a mask at a large event. And had to be hospitalized for multiple days.
There is overwhelming evidence that widespread mask usage is an effective tool at limiting the spread of the virus. That was the conclusion that this BYU research study came to, taking into account data from 130 different scientific studies.
Joe Biden is willing to lead by example.
Endorsed by Scientists and Doctors
Scientific American, a popular and respected science magazine (also the oldest continuously published monthly magazine in the U.S.), said this:
And then there’s the world’s leading medical journal, The New England Journal of Medicine. In just the fourth editorial signed by all of its editors since its founding in 1812, the journal published an article called Dying in a Leadership Vacuum:
denouncing the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and calling on its readers to vote the president out, writing, “They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.”
The White House is also criticized for undermining the efforts of federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, saying the administration “has turned to uninformed ‘opinion leaders’ and charlatans.”
So that’s…not great.
And we’ve all seen how terribly the pandemic is going here. 222,000 deaths as of Oct. 22. New case counts rising again. Winter and cold/flu season coming.
It didn’t have to be like this.
I can’t either.
Rights. For Everyone.
This is my brother Spencer.
We usually call him Beeker.
(Maybe I’ll include the origin story of that nickname in the extra content at the bottom.)
There are 6 kids in my family. Just one girl.
I’m the oldest.
Spencer is the youngest.
Spencer is the tallest.
And Spencer is the gayest.
My History of Homophobia
I used to be that guy.
The one using gay slurs like f*g or fa**ot as insults. And playing a game called smear the qu**r in elementary school.
A few months ago my daughter was going through old family videos and showing us some of the clips. She was putting together a nostalgic movie about my parents’
farm ranch and house that they finally sold off a few years ago.
And then it happened. There was a video from probably 8-10 years back. And there I was, using a maybe slightly less offensive gay slur, directed to my youngest brother.
The one who told us, just after Christmas this last December, that he was gay.
I cringed. Hard. And I’ve since apologized to my brother.
I used to be that guy.
The one believing that being gay was a choice. And that people that chose that lifestyle must have something wrong with them.
The one annoyed whenever gay people popped up in movies or on a TV show. “Ugh, why do they always have to throw that in there? Is it really necessary? Can’t they stop trying to cram their gay agenda down our throats?”
I didn’t understand representation. I didn’t understand how important it was to have diversity in the media that we consume. Important for those that are under-represented – minorities, LGBTQ+ people, etc. That they have people they can look to. That they can be helped to feel accepted. Important for all of us to recognize their existence and their humanity and for us to accept and support them.
There is no ‘gay agenda’. Or if we’re going to say that there is, you know what I think the ‘gay agenda’ really is?
It’s to be accepted. And recognized as existing. And respected. And treated as equals. As people that God created a little bit differently than you. But that are equally valid and equally loved in God’s eyes.
Janean > Brett
Janean was never that guy (sorry, gal). She’s believed in equal rights for LGBTQ+ people at least since she made a good friend just after high school who was gay. There I was, telling her she couldn’t support gay marriage “because the church said so!” And her basically telling me to go to hell. She knew what felt right to her and was not going to back down. Looking back now, another proud moment.
I’m glad to say that I’m not that guy anymore. I’m glad to say that I was not that guy at the time that my brother, while visiting our house, asked to meet with me and Janean somewhere private. Where he closed the door and told us the good news. He was gay. And that after 25 years of pain and struggle, he was finally accepting and embracing it.
Joe Biden Believes in Equal Rights
This tweet is the first in a series of 4 tweets, with 4 images each (click to open, then scroll), where a gay LDS man compares how each candidate treats the LGBTQ+ community. And it hurts to read.
The Trump administration has gutted LGBTQ+ rights in America. The Republican party platform still includes this: “Our laws and our government’s regulations should recognize marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
We’ve gone backward, not forward. They want to keep going backward.
Joe Biden’s administration will try to right those wrongs.
Now, I don’t know how my parents would rank their kids. And they’ll probably never tell us the truth.
But I suspect that God saved the best one for last.
And I am here to stand up and fight for him and his rights.
Empathy, Decency, and Leadership
Brené Brown is kind of a big deal in the mental health community. And in the business leadership community. A hero – maybe a legend – to a whole lot of folks. Her TED profile reads:
Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, where she holds the Huffington Foundation – Brené Brown Endowed Chair at the Graduate College of Social Work. She is also a visiting professor in management at The University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business.
Brown has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. She’s the author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Braving the Wilderness and Dare to Lead, which is the culmination of a seven-year study on courage and leadership.
Yesterday, Oct. 21, Brown released a new podcast episode. It’s called Brené with Joe Biden on Empathy, Unity and Courage:
- “My thoughts on power and leadership, and a conversation on empathy, unity, and courage with Vice President Joe Biden, the 2020 Democratic Presidential Nominee.”
My daughter saw it first and sort of freaked out. She’s read countless books about mental health and listened to even more podcasts. She’s got a podcast herself, often covering mental health subjects, called In the Wake with Whytli. She’s a big fan of Brown. She listened to the new episode. And demanded that I listen to it.
Leadership and Power
There’s a lot of info below. But it’s extremely interesting. And extremely relevant.
According to Brown, Martin Luther King, Jr. defined power as “the ability to achieve purpose and effect change.”
In Brown’s view, there are two ways that power can work:
- ‘Power over’
- ‘Power with / to / within’
The list of characteristics for each type are laid out below. The lists are long, but significantly different and the distinctions important.
- Works from a premise that power is finite and has to be hoarded and protected
- Protected by using fear
- Goal is to leverage fear to divide, destabilize, and devalue decency as a sign of weakness
- Gives those experiencing fear and uncertainty a false sense of safety, usually based on nostalgia or ideology over facts. Being right is more important than getting it right.
- Gives people someone to blame for their discomfort, preferably someone different from the majority culture
- Demonstrates ever-increasing capacity for cruelty, including shaming, bullying, belittling, especially toward vulnerable populations
- Personal rights and freedom are used to polarize. Being in service of others is seen as weakness.
- Dehumanization is used, implemented through language and policies
‘Power With / To / Within’
- Power becomes infinite and expands when shared
- No hoarding or protecting of power
- Leverages connection and empathy to unite and stabilize
- Decency is valued and seen as a function of self respect and respect for others
- Gives those experiencing fear and uncertainty transparency. A culture of learning – critical thinking, evidence-based thinking, and information from multiple perspectives is foundational.
- Normalizes discomfort and moves away from shame and blame toward accountability and meaningful change
- Servant leadership – the responsibility is to be in service rather than be served. Goal is to empower others, not keep the power.
- Rights and freedoms go hand in hand with responsibility to country and citizenry
- Empathy-driven – places human value at the center
The Best Leaders
Do you know what Brown’s extensive research and experience, gleaned from Fortune 50 companies, military special forces, faith communities, non-profits, political groups, and sports coaches, suggests?
The best leaders are not interested in ‘power over’ – they are interested in ‘power with / to / within’.
Go and listen to her conversation with Joe Biden. And then come back and tell me what kind of power Joe Biden wants to use. And which one you think Trump uses.
Brené Brown on Donald Trump
This is how Brown ended the podcast:
The last 4 years under the Trump administration has been a demonstration of white male ‘power over’. And it made me kind of nervous having another white guy who’s been in politics for a long time as the alternative. But the issue is not white or male or power, because you know I’m raising a white male son, I was raised by a white male dad…
It’s not about white male power, it’s about white male ‘power over’. It’s about any ‘power over’. But the last 4 years has specifically felt like white male ‘power over’ making a last stand, like a last ditch effort to maintain that, and last stands are dangerous and scary. And the ever-increasing capacity for cruelty and dehumanization from the Trump administration is not something I can get behind from anyone, certainly not 4 more years of that. I wanted to have this conversation with Vice President Biden to figure out what his core belief is. I love that his mom, Catherine “Jean” Finnegan said, “Bravery resides in every heart and someday it will be summoned.” I think it’s being summoned right now in all of us and I think she was right.
Our brave hearts are being summoned. Please make a voting plan. Think through what you want for yourself, think through what you want for your families, for your careers, for your community. Hang in there. Walk with courage. Vote. And as always, stay awkward, brave, and kind.
What Kind of Leader Do You Want?
Donald Trump leads by spreading fear, never admitting mistakes, blaming others, cruelty, shaming, bullying, and dehumanizing.
Joe Biden is a real leader.
Tragedy and Empathy
We’ve touched on Joe’s challenges with stuttering. He also knows personal tragedy.
His wife and daughter died in a car accident just before Christmas in 1972. His 2 boys were critically injured. This happened just weeks after he was elected to the U.S. Senate. He was sworn in as a senator at his sons’ hospital bedsides.
This is a personal letter he sent to a recently-widowed woman in Delaware back in 2002. Personal empathy.
Fatherhood and More Tragedy
Joe started commuting by train back and forth from Delaware, where they lived, to Washington, D.C. every day so that he could get his boys up in the morning and tuck them in at night. It was a 2 hour trip each way. He was a single father for 5 years, raising his sons with the help of his sister and family. He eventually married Jill Jacobs, a high school English teacher, who would go on to get a doctorate in education and become a professor at a college. They added a daughter to the family.
His son Beau served in the military as a Major in the Delaware Army National Guard. He was deployed to active duty in Iraq and received the Bronze Star Medal. Beau suffered from a brain tumor for a few years and eventually died of brain cancer at age 46.
Donald Trump tried to shame Joe by bringing up the drug addiction of Joe’s other son, Hunter, in the first debate. This was Joe’s response:
- “My son, like a lot of people, like a lot of people you know at home, had a drug problem,” he said. “He’s overtaken it. He’s fixed it. He’s worked on it. And I’m proud of him. I’m proud of my son.”
He responded the way a good, loving father would.
Joe Biden is a real person. He’s dealt with real challenges. Big challenges. Challenges I hope I never have to face. And he has survived and excelled.
Lindsey Graham on Joe Biden
Watch what Republican senator Lindsey Graham said about Joe:
“If you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, you’ve got a problem. You need to do some self-evaluation. Because what’s not to like? He is as good a man as God ever created. He’s said some of the most incredibly heartfelt things that anybody could ever say to me. He’s the nicest person I think I’ve ever met in politics.”Republican Senator Linsey Graham
Religious convictions aren’t a requirement for public office. But for what it’s worth, Joe Biden is a man of faith – a practicing Catholic. He attends church regularly. He wears his deceased son Beau’s rosary necklace.
- “I have not taken off the rosary Beau was wearing when he passed, since then. It is my connection with him,” Biden said.
This is a short story about Joe and faith in a series of a few tweets (click to open). It’s about when he was in Germany on a Sunday, and his simple request was to find a Catholic priest to say mass for him and his family:
And here’s the article that Biden wrote and that was published in the Christian Post, titled “The greatest commandment has guided my politics“.
Respect for the Faith of Others
Joe Biden has defended Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith when it was attacked by Robert Jeffress, who is one of Trump’s main religious advisors.
He had a good working relationship with former Utah Republican senator Bob Bennett, nicknaming Bennett “Bishop” because of Bennett’s previous service as an LDS bishop.
Contrast that with Donald Trump mocking LDS people and other Christians behind their backs.
Joe Biden respects you and your faith.
A Change of Heart
When I first started on this project, I really thought this last post was going to be pretty short. I didn’t think I’d have a whole lot to say about Joe Biden. He was just…meh.
But I’ve changed my mind. I like Joe Biden.
If I could just pick a candidate and install them myself, with no election or anybody else involved in the decision, I’d still pick Elizabeth Warren. I think she’s great. And I’d personally like to see a more progressive agenda at the top. But that’s not Joe. And I can live with that.
Read his platform on his website. Go listen to what he has to say. You might be surprised.
As flattering as a lot of the things I’ve listed here are, Joe Biden is not perfect. If he wins, his administration won’t be perfect. I’ll still criticize him. I’ll probably get angry and annoyed. Our country has some holes we need to dig out of. It’s going to be tough. This isn’t a wave of a magic wand and suddenly we’re in a utopia.
We’ll need to hold him accountable. But I believe he is actually capable of being held accountable. Of admitting mistakes and trying to fix them.
Donald Trump is not capable of admitting fault. He’s a narcissist. When he both thinks and says out loud that “nobody knows more” about every single subject that comes up, how could he be?
And that difference is crucial.
Please Vote for Joe Biden
Joe Biden legitimately seems to be a good, decent, kind, empathetic person. I believe that is a great foundation to build on.
Joe Biden has an awful lot of leadership experience. And wants to use that leadership power in a positive way in our country, one that uplifts and shares. Using ‘power with/to/within’, as Brené Brown would say.
Joe Biden has policies that I can support. Even though I don’t see eye to eye with all of them.
Policies have checks and balances. Character does not.
Joe Biden wants to unite our country, not divide it further.
That’s somebody I can get behind.
Hearts, Health Care, and Pre-Existing Conditions
I have atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm problem more commonly found in old people. Sometimes the signals get crossed in the upper chambers of my heart, causing them to heart freak out and stop beating normally – they just quiver. I’ve had it since at least my teens. Left untreated it can result in blood clots and strokes. I had a heart procedure done in 2008 to try and help it, which it has quite a bit. But it’s still there and flares up now and then.
Once I was diagnosed, one of the first things the doctor told me was that I would never qualify for life insurance again – so once the current policy I got before my diagnosis expires, that’s it.
So yeah, I’ve got a pre-existing condition. Before the Affordable Care Act (the ACA or ‘Obamacare’), insurance companies weren’t required to cover your pre-existing condition. If you lost your job, you couldn’t afford COBRA (which is usually insanely expensive), and let your health insurance lapse, there was no guarantee that your next insurance provider would cover it. So that would suck.
Joe Biden did a lot of work to help get the ACA passed. Health care is still far from perfect, but coverage for pre-existing conditions is a pretty big deal. At least to me.
Some Videos and Tweets
Vote for change. Vote for our sons. Vote for Joe:
- Make Politics Boring Again
- Michelle Obama’s Closing Argument (video)
- Really powerful plea and wise words about this election from the former First Lady
A few of the things I’ve done or am doing to try and be more proactive this election cycle:
- Poll worker
- I registered as a poll worker to help ensure we have adequate staffing at the polls. Still no final word on whether I’ll be needed.
- Phone banking
- I’ve volunteered and done phone banking for the Nevada Democrats, calling registered voters and encouraging them to vote, and vote for Biden
- Literature drop
- One Saturday I made time to stop by a location handing out assignments to leave Biden door hangers on the doors of registered voters
- Like phone banking, but actually knocking on people’s doors. Completed a canvassing assignment of about 40 houses – knocking doors (safely and socially-distanced) to encourage people to vote for Biden and informing them about their voting options
- Write 4 way too long blog posts
- I’ve done 3 all-nighters. And I’m pretty ready to be done.
- I’ve got 34 pages of notes that I’ve compiled over the last who knows how many months that I used as my main resources
- At least some people have read them. I wasn’t too sure that anyone would. And feedback, for those that dare to give it, has generally been very positive
Beeker Origin Story
And, as promised, the tale of how Spencer got his nickname, Beeker.
My family (me, Janean and the kids), my parents, my brother Robison, and Spencer were driving from Utah to Disneyland. Spencer was maybe 8-ish? years old at the time. We stopped in Mesquite, NV to get gas. I pulled our minivan up to the pump and got out. My parents, with Spencer in the back seat, pulled up next to us for a sec. Spencer’s window was down and he was saying a whole bunch of stuff really fast in his little boy voice and we could not understand him at all. Someone (me? Robi?) said, “He sounds like Beaker”, the scientist sidekick from The Muppets that doesn’t so much talk as just squeak a lot. “Yeah, he does sound like Beaker.”
And thus he became Beeker.
Once we got to Disneyland, we went to see the Muppet Vision 3D show. And in the hallway leaving the show, there was a portrait of the real Beaker on the wall. So we got a picture of Beeker standing next to Beaker. I wish I could find that picture.
Pretty much all the nieces and nephews call him that. I think some didn’t even know his real name at some point. A handful of people on Janean’s side of the family might still call him that too.
And somehow we messed up the spelling I guess, Beeker vs. Beaker. Oh well.