American Voter: Reverend Jennifer Butler | US & Canada

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US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling for the presidency in a sharply divided United States.

Trump has been focusing on “law and order”, Biden has been trying to strike a conciliatory note. The Black Lives Matter movement and whether Trump will release his taxes are among the many issues Americans will consider when choosing their president.

As the hotly contested election approaches, Al Jazeera has been speaking to voters across the US, asking nine questions to understand who they are supporting and why.

Jennifer Butler

American Voter Reverend Jennifer Butler [Courtesy of Jennifer Butler]

Age: 52

Occupation: Non-Profit Executive Director

Residence: Montgomery County, Maryland

Voted in 2016 for Hillary Clinton

Will Vote in 2020 for Joe Biden

Top Election Issue: Healthcare and Racism


Will you vote why/ why not?

“I have already voted, in fact, and it was an exciting moment. I was all by myself with my mask standing next to a ballot delivery box, and I spent a lot of time on Sunday filling out my ballot. I voted all the way down the ballot. Every elected office is important and the good thing about voting from home is that I had a lot more time to research and think. That’s something I’ll be sure to continue doing because I’ve realized over the past four years how fragile our democracy is.”

What is your number one issue?

“My number one issue is saving lives by electing people who are going to preserve the Affordable Care Act, ending the pandemic, and ending, once and for all, white supremacy in America.”

Who will you vote for?

“For Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and all the down-ballot candidates that will support the kind of policies they support.”

Is there a main reason you chose your candidate?

“Both of them are firmly behind the Affordable Care Act. They have tackled racism. They have condemned white supremacy. And I believe we can work with them to, once and for all, heal this country from our original sin of racism.”

Are you happy with the state of the country?

“I’m appalled by the current state of our country, but I am hopeful. I feel like this is a turning point. We will either go toward autocracy or we will once and for all address the formative rift that we have in this country around racism in the way we were founded. It’s a turning point. A lot of us are talking about how this the soul of the nation is at stake in this election. And we have a choice over whether we become a country for everybody that honours the dignity of everyone or whether we become a country that is about the wealthy and powerful and only.”

What would you like to see change?

“I want to see a president that speaks to the dignity of every human person, to love their neighbour. I want to see a president that fixes our broken healthcare system, ends this pandemic, that addresses racism, policing, and other areas of society. We can fix this. We have incredible people in this country who have incredible resources. We shouldn’t be the worst off when it comes to COVID. We shouldn’t have the worst healthcare system in the industrialised world. We’ve let greed go rampant. We’ve let corporations control our politics. And until we change that and fix that, we’re not going to be able to even be called a democracy. And as a pastor, I find it morally egregious. I mean, it’s so clear that our faith teaches us that we’re supposed to love our neighbour as ourselves. And we haven’t had the kind of leadership in this country that’s going to help us live into that and implement that instead, we have a president who is fanning the flames of white supremacy, who’s condoning that kind of behaviour. And violence is spreading throughout society. So, we need to address that. And we need to return to a kind of politics that honours the dignity of everyone.”

Do you think the election will change anything?

“I think it could change everything. I think if we have a change of leadership from top to bottom. The presidency, vice presidency, the Senate, the House. Then, we can overhaul our systems. We’ve learned all the more what’s broken and if we listen to people of colour in this country, they know the reality of what these policies are doing to communities. We need to let them take the lead.

“We need to fix communities that don’t have access to healthcare and jobs and good schools. The hope here is that we’ve been through such a terrible four years and it’s been a real education, I think, for people who, maybe, were asleep at the wheel. You know, who just didn’t understand what was happening with regard to racism and economic inequality. And now with the pandemic, with the racial justice uprising, I think it’s like a revelation to some people. I think people are coming alive in a new way and they’re getting engaged in politics. I was on a phone call last night with a thousand people who want to watch the polls and it was all young people. I didn’t know any of them. You know, there’s probably 20 years older than the average of them. So I think, you know, people are motivated.

“They understand how important democracy is. They understand what we can accomplish together. They understand what’s broken. And that’s really not happened in my lifetime. And in terms of the advocacy work that I do, I’m seeing the religious community come alive in new ways. We used to be a little cautious. Some of us used to be a little timid. Some of us used to be a little afraid to speak on moral terms about the policies that we supported and now we’re more mobilised than ever. And so that gives me hope. You know, it gives me a lot of hope. So, I think there’s a lot of promise. There’s peril and promise in this election. But right now, I see promise.”

What’s your biggest concern for the US?

“If we overhaul the leadership. Well, this is a turning point for the country. If we do not vote for a change in leadership at the very top, then we will, as a nation move closer toward having an autocracy and a white supremacist autocracy at that. Lots of people will die. They’ll die from the pandemic. They’ll die from growing economic inequality, from not having healthcare coverage. From rising violence and racism. And so this election really is about life and death. It is about our daily lives, and it is about whether or not we continue to be a democracy or not.”

Is there anything we haven’t asked about the election that you would like to say?

“It’s not just about our country. Our country often exerts a kind of leadership around the world, especially with regard to human rights. We’re not perfect. We haven’t always done the right thing. But I do think we have helped other nations establish democracies, and so what’s also at stake here is the fate of much of the rest of the world. Autocracy is rising in a number of countries in every region of the globe and some of the reason for that is that autocrats are supporting each other and they’re supporting each other with great personal benefit. So, we see Putin interfering in US elections, we see Brazil being very friendly with President Trump, and that’s very dangerous for the world. That’s dangerous for the environment because these are people who don’t want to do what’s needed to address climate change. It’s establishing a kind of crony oligarchy around the world where resources are being taken from the people and put in the hands of very few. And that’s very threatening for all of us.”


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