In South Philadelphia, Juan Lopez is still deciding what to do.
“I might end up voting for Joe Biden - I’m not completely sold yet,” said Lopez, who describes himself as “very far to the left of most party politics in the United States.”
Philadelphia, long a Democratic stronghold, has seen progressives gain influence and power in the past four years, with the election of Larry Krasner as District Attorney, Kendra Brooks of the Working Families Party to a seat on city council, and progressive candidates who have knocked out incumbents in the state legislature. Now the question for Democrats is whether they will turn out to support Joe Biden in the presidential race.
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“The reality is it’s real simple: we can have the devil or we can have the Democrat and I’m 100 percent Democrat and I’m 100 percent for Joe Biden at this point,” said Krasner, who initially supported Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic primary.
Krasner said progressives have shown how much power they have in elections like his in 2017, and that this year “they need to turn out.”
“I am confident they’re going to show up and I am going to spend an awful lot of time doing everything I can to get them to show up. This city needs to vote,” Krasner said.
Asked about outreach to progressives in Philadelphia earlier this month, Biden senior adviser Symone Sanders said the effort mirrors the one nationwide.
“I think what it’s really about is understanding where we align and how we can expand on that alignment, and ensuring that it’s not about our progressive friends pushing Vice President Biden or Vice President Biden asking our progressive friends pushing to change what they believe, but it’s truly about where we can come together where we already align and then how do we do more to expand upon that alignment,” Sanders said.
Sanders said that, for example, “we agree health care should be a right,” though not on the tactics.
For Democrats, turning out the vote in Philadelphia is critical to winning Pennsylvania. In 2016, former Secretary of State and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton lost the state by less than 45,000 votes.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who lost the Democratic nomination to Biden this year and to Clinton in 2016, recently held a virtual town hall to reach out to Pennsylvania voters called “Fighting for Justice in Pennsylvania.”
“The future of the world depends upon who wins this election,” the Vermont Senator said In the town hall. “Our job is to elect Joe Biden, and the day after we elect Joe Biden, our job is to rally working people all over this country to make sure that we finally have a government that reps all of us and not just the few.”
But some voters like Lopez are struggling with the decision.
“This is something that really upsets me because I don’t want to vote for Joe Biden but I also don’t want Donald Trump in office,” Lopez said.
Lopez said he would like to see Biden or the Democratic Party say “we’re going to really take a look at Medicare for All,” citing the health issues underscored by the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden does not back a Medicare For All plan and does not support eliminating private insurance. His website says Biden has a plan to “build on the Affordable Care Act by giving Americans more choice, reducing health care costs, and making our health care system less complex to navigate.”
Makayla Maddison says she only voted in local elections in 2016 - not in the presidential race. Maddison says she was “more idealistic” in 2016 that others would show up to vote in the race. This year, she’s deciding whether she needs to do it.
Maddison, of West Philadelphia, told NBC10 if she does vote in the presidential race this year, it would be for Biden.
Maddison said she likely won’t make her decision based on anything the candidate says, but based on conversions with others in her communities.
“Seeing if values-wise if we’re just going to try to avoid the electoral process and go into deeper community organizing,” she said. “Or if we’re going to just kind of do this now and then fight later.”