I would be grateful to have that final bit of student debt be gone. But does that debt cancellation make up for all the things about Joe Biden and the Democratic Party that drives young people away from the party?

By Ryan Black

A few weeks ago, Joe Biden tweeted with the promise of another round of student debt cancellation. For good reason, this one really caught my attention.

Biden student debt and voting booth

Biden’s tweet said, “Starting next month, borrowers enrolled in SAVE who took out less than $12,000 in loans and have been in repayment for 10 years will get their remaining student debt canceled immediately.”

After numerous piecemeal student debt cancellation efforts, the Biden Administration finally came up with one that includes me!

Or does it? That’s the thing. We’ve been duped before.

In 2022, the Biden administration promised people with federal student debt that up to $20,000 in debt would be canceled. But as many student debt cancellation advocates (including The Debt Collective and RootsAction.org) rightly predicted, the legal route pursued by the Biden Administration wasn’t likely to withstand GOP legal challenges.

As feared, Biden’s student debt cancellation plan was rejected by the Supreme Court last July before it ever took effect.

Since then, the Biden administration has pursued narrowed approaches to student debt cancellation. Debtors with disabilities, those in public service, folks who went to scam schools, and more have seen some or all of their college debt canceled.

But for a while now, it’s seemed like window dressing – for the cameras and headlines, with no serious progress on broad student debt relief being made. Besides, not a single person I know actually had their debt canceled by Joe Biden.

I’ve never owed much. I went to Indiana University for four years on a scholarship that I received from the state of Indiana while in middle school. It was based on financial need and good grades and paid for the entirety of my tuition for eight semesters. Another scholarship from the University covered a chunk of my room and board. In total, after the scholarships, grants, and summer classes, I borrowed less than ten-thousand dollars over the course of four years to attend the in-state college. That was thirteen years ago. Today, I still owe $2,500. And I’ve been paying a hundred dollars a month since 2014 toward it, more than covering the initial amount I borrowed.

Now, Joe Biden is supposedly canceling the final $2,500 I owe. That’s great! But I still won’t vote for him.

Leaving aside that Biden hasn’t touched the $30,000 of federal loans my wife still owes, I’m not keeping my hopes up that it will actually apply to me. Sure, I fit the description in his tweet, but I’ve seen how fine print has prevented student loan debt cancellation in the past for so many.

Besides, living in deep-red Indiana, my vote doesn’t really matter when it comes to deciding the presidency anyways. Indiana went blue in 2008 for Obama, the first election I voted in, but that seems like a million years ago and a million miles away politically. Indiana isn’t going blue again anytime soon.

So then a vote for Biden here would really just be a ‘thank you’, a note of my support, a continuation of my name on voter rolls so that I can be targeted by future Democrats who will see me as a “likely voter.” Hell, I may even be called to voice my opinion on a poll.

Sure, I would be grateful to have that final bit of student debt be gone. But does that debt cancellation make up for all the things about Joe Biden and the Democratic Party that drives young people away from the party?

Is $2,500 and a pile of future Get-Out-The-Vote mail from the party worth ignoring the genocide that Joe Biden is actively supporting in Gaza? Active support that also increases the risk of a wider war by dropping bombs in Yemen and Iraq, and supporting strikes against Lebanon and Syria and threats against Iran.

By huge margins, people under 35 disagree with Biden’s unflinching support for right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the apartheid Israeli government. And I’m one of them. According to a CNN poll in December, Among voters younger than 30, his approval rating stands at 26% overall and 20% on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. More recently, a Quinnipiac poll in swing-state Pennsylvania found Biden up only 5 points against Trump with voters under 35. In 2020, just before the election, the same Quinnipiac poll had Biden up 16 points.

If I lived in a swing-state, this would be a harder decision. Of course, another Donald Trump presidency will be worse for the environment, racial tensions, police violence, activism and the right to organize, immigrants, gun violence, healthcare, and so much more.

Not that Biden is great on those issues – he’s not – but Trump and the GOP are explicitly for making those things worse.

Maybe if Biden was canceling $25,000 instead of $2,500 of my debt, I would feel a little different. Or if my wife’s debt, which is way more of an anchor on our lives, was included in the cancellation. But it’s not.

And so here we are again.

Once again, we are deciding if we should vote for the do-little Democrat who will continue to give in to corporate demands and support war after war, or the racist Republican who will gladly give the rich whatever they want, while destroying domestic progress, punishing the poor and vulnerable, and taking away rights from LGBTQ+ folks.

Both options are terrible.

But what would be even more terrible would be giving Biden and the corporate-funded wing of the Democratic Party the green light to continue onward unabated. To send the message that the Biden Administration is doing a good job, that we approve of his wars, and that the economy actually ain’t so bad for working people.

Voting for Biden in states where you really, honest to god, don’t have to because it will not make a difference, is the wrong message to send. If you live in a swing state, you have a responsibility and a tough decision to make. If you don’t, the decision should be much easier.

The best we can hope for, as progressives, is to convince voters to send loud and clear messages at the polls: If you live in a state that isn’t competitive, like Indiana, it makes much more strategic sense as a Democrat not to vote for Joe Biden.

You can vote for someone else who isn’t named Trump, write in ‘ceasefire,’ or don’t vote for President at all which will send your vote into the realm of “undervotes” – the place where candidates receive fewer combined votes than there are voters who cast ballots. The result won’t change, but the Democrats may be forced to confront the lack of support and enthusiasm for a candidate like Joe Biden.

Based on current polling, Biden may well lose in 2024. And that’s his own doing. By falling short on so many promises and refusing to listen to his own voters about Israel and Palestine, he has positioned voters who really want things to get better into a position of hopelessness.

And that’s exactly what scares me the most about 2024: Donald Trump is the candidate of hope and Joe Biden is the candidate of the status quo – meaning, he’s the candidate of unpopular wars, of an economy that is largely failing working people, and of continued climate destruction.

The fact that Biden would be eighty-six when his next term ends makes the situation worse, as his image of fragility and marble-mouthed gibberish pushes more and more young voters and independents away, and further secures a Democratic Party disaster in 2024.

If Democrats are to win in the future, they need to understand that our votes have to be earned. If you’ve promised it to them for nothing (or a measly $2,500), nothing about the party will change.

Ryan Black is the Managing Editor at ProgressiveHub.net, Organizing Coordinator at RootsAction.org, and leads organizing efforts for the DefuseNuclearWar.org coalition.