A Trolley, a Lever, and the 2020 Presidential Election

For the November 2020 presidential election, young voters will need to choose the lesser of two evils.


Julia Kovacevic

Katarina Kovacevic ’20, a devoted long-time supporter of Bernie Sanders, will be voting for Joe Biden in the November 2020 Presidential election.

Before you lies a lever, a runaway trolley, and a split in the tracks. Left untampered with, the tracks will direct the train onward, towards a group of ten people tied to the rails. A pull of the lever, you realize, would divert the train’s direction towards the second track, where only one person is bound to the rails. As the runaway train barrels towards you — steam pouring from its smokestack and wheels trudging onwards with speed and purpose — you realize that you have a choice. You, a bystander to disaster, have the power. What do you do?

With Joe Biden set as the expected Democratic nominee for the 2020 presidential election, young liberals will need their fair share of moral allegories to help them grapple with their role in the upcoming election. Across the country, Sanders has beaten Biden among voters aged 18-44 by margins of anywhere between 13 and 52 percentage points. Katarina Kovacevic ’20, a devoted, long-time supporter of Bernie Sanders, said of his candidacy, “He brought out the compassion in people and challenged people not to be complacent. He defied the mainstream, yet his platform appealed to so many. His interests were in the people, not rich donors.” For many young people, Sanders was more than a presidential candidate; he was the manifestation of a rising progressive movement towards equity and justice.

Already, the internet is teeming with young democrats who say they will not be voting in this year’s election. For many, voting for Biden feels like a betrayal of their principles. And in a democratic society, why should we vote for someone who we do not want to see in office? I, too, wanted to see Bernie win the nomination, and understand the emotional appeal of refusing to vote this year. As someone involved in education activism, I cringed as Biden tried to wriggle his way out of explaining his historic opposition to busing. As a woman, I am deeply concerned by the allegations of sexual harassment against him. As a supporter of ramped up wealth taxes, I was angered by him reassuring rich donors that “nothing would fundamentally change” for them. And though I would not be as affected by his presidency as some of my non-white, lower income peers, I do not want Biden in office. We need vast, sweeping change, and Biden represents the status quo.

Unfortunately, in 2020, there are scarier things than the status quo. Throughout his tenure, President Donald Trump has continuously demonstrated that he is a threat not just to the left’s agenda, but to the future of America’s democracy. He was elected through a campaign that relied upon and invoked xenophobia, racism, and misogyny. He has been accused of sexual harassment or rape by 25 women, and bragged on video about his ability to get away with it. He has spoken equivocally on acts of white supremacy, saying after a violent rally that there were “very fine people on both sides.”

He has given crucial staff positions to family members and cabinet positions to wealthy political cronies. He has called the press the “enemy of the people,” labels any negative news “fake,” and has attempted to punish news sources with unfavorable coverage. He has been caught obstructing justice for political gain. On at least eight occasions, he has verbally threatened or incited violence among his supporters towards his opponents. He has been impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after levying economic aid for political favors.

He has reversed progress in the fight for climate change. He once called global warming a “hoax,” pulled out of the Paris Agreement at the start of his term, reversed environmental regulations, and appointed ex-coal lobbyists as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. These facts, alone, should be enough for us to do anything that we can to vote Trump out of office. These next four years may determine the vitality of our planet for the generations to come. If we do not elect a president who will listen to science and implement climate policies with urgency, the future will inevitably be very grim. Allowing Trump to resume his agenda of climate denial and inaction will result in irreversible damage to the entire planet and its inhabitants.

None of this is to say that we should feel happy about having to make the choice between the lesser of two evils. Nor is it to say that we should not mobilize on massive scales afterwards to ensure that we are never put in this position again. More than anything, the fact that we are forced to choose between two privileged white men with sexual assault allegations to their names shows that we need to upend and rethink our institutions. But this is the situation that we are in, and these are cards that we have been dealt. And while I have heard a few people talk about a revolution as the “third option” to voting for either candidate, calling for one between now and November 2020 is a lofty order; if people did not turn out to vote pre-pandemic, we cannot expect them to flood the streets while still grappling with Coronavirus. 

While some Bernie supporters are adamant that they will abstain from voting, others have worked through the moral calculus of voting for Biden. “Biden is problematic in similar ways to Trump; however, at least his platform is more left-leaning, and he could potentially have more competent people in his cabinet. Biden’s record and platform in no way represents the direction that I want this country to be heading in. Yet, I am voting for Biden out of fear of Trump,” said Kovacevic.

When Tuesday, November 3, 2020 arrives and it comes time to check the box next to a name we despise, we will find ways to grapple with our decision: Vote for the climate. Vote against white supremacy. Vote for freedom of the press. Vote for democracy. Vote for the lives that Donald Trump’s presidency threatens through continued violence, detention, and inaction. Hopefully, for the next election in November 2024, we will not have to make the choice between the status quo and the worse-than-status quo. Until then, we must urge each other to seize the power that we have, and pull the lever.

Julia Kovacevic
Katarina Kovacevic ’20 was an avid supporter of Bernie Sanders for President, but she will now support Joe Biden in the November 2020 Presidential election, due to worries about a second term with President Trump.

















“Biden is problematic in similar ways to Trump; however, at least his platform is more left-leaning, and he could potentially have more competent people in his cabinet. Biden’s record and platform in no way represents the direction that I want this country to be heading in. Yet, I am voting for Biden out of fear of Trump,” said Katarina Kovacevic ’20.