Not left enough: Some Chapman Democrats say Biden is too “moderate” to make a good president

“Biden is just the opposite of what the [Democratic] party needs, and I don’t have any faith that he would be able to defeat Donald Trump,” said President of Chapman Democrats Alexis Sutterman. Photo by Claire Treu.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who announced April 25 that he will join the 20 candidates competing for the Democratic nomination for president, can’t expect much primary support from Chapman Democrats.

Biden, who has received criticism as a political opportunist and for his friendliness to big donors, is not popular among club members, said President of Chapman Democrats Alexis Sutterman. While the club has 138 members on its mailing list, about 10 students regularly attend meetings, according to Sutterman.

Biden is currently leading in the polls, according to a study conducted by SSRS.   

“Biden represents the worst part of the party,” said Sutterman, a senior political science major. “He doesn’t represent new Democrats, who are fighting for progressive causes,” such as Medicare for All, women’s rights and decreasing inequality, Sutterman said.

The disdain in Sutterman’s complaints echo snippets of a larger conversation in the Democratic party about its soul and strategy for the 2020 presidential election. Will the Dems select a brash, plain-talking visionary likely to energize young, idealistic voters or a less controversial, conciliatory candidate likely to appeal to centrists, independents and the undecided?

Biden is “funded by big donors. He is definitely a friend of Wall Street,” Sutterman said. “He wouldn’t be promoting the kind of policy changes we need in terms of tax reform that would benefit working class families.”

Prowl could not find a way to reach a Biden campaign representative on Facebook, Twitter or the campaign website.

The Democratic party is going through a rift as some contend the party is failing working class people and ordinary Americans, Sutterman continued. What Biden would call bipartisanship is seen as selling out by young progressives, said Sutterman.

The largest portion of Biden’s donations came from lawyers and law firms between 1989 to 2010, according to Open Secrets.

The former Delaware senator was recently criticized for what was seen as an opportunistic apology to Social Policy, Law and Women’s Studies Professor Anita Hill for failing to call witnesses on her behalf in order to appease Republican colleagues during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991. Hill, formerly an employee at the Department of Education and Equal Employment Opportunity Commision, accused Thomas of a number of inappropriate acts, such as describing pornography he had seen in vivid detail and questioning her about a public hair on his Coke can. Biden did not call the four witnesses ready to testify on her behalf.

Biden has also been scrutinized for being overly hands-on with women and children in the era of #MeToo. Vice News recently published an article called “Why touchy-feely Uncle Joe Biden isn’t funny anymore,” and on Youtube, cringe-worthy videos of Biden being less than appropriate with children have racked up millions of views. However, no public sexual assault accusations have been raised against him.  

Twenty percent of America’s 18 to 29-year-old Democratic voters can be expected to vote for Biden in the 2020 presidential primary, according to a 2019 national poll by the Harvard Institute of Politics (IOP). Sen. Bernie Sanders is still more popular among young Democrats, with an estimated 31 percent of the youth vote. Sutterman is rooting for Sanders, and said that Chapman Democrats’ most active members tend to support him as well.

“Young people now are seeing that they shouldn’t be trivialized anymore and they can’t be bought with memes and stuff – those are fun – but people need to be critical thinkers,” Sutterman said.

“Biden will initially rely on a decades-old network of big donors if he enters the Democratic presidential primary contest as expected, in contrast to the small-donor base that many of his 2020 rivals are racing to build,” the Wall Street Journal reported last week.

While Sutterman is disappointed that Biden is running, she says she will vote for him should he receive the nomination.

Some Chapman Democrats welcome Biden throwing his hat in the ring. Senior political science and screenwriting double major Juan Bustillo said he is “relieved. . .the more moderates there are in the race, the more they will just tear each other down and open [the] way for people who I think are actually viable candidates.” Bustillo is also a member of Chapman Democrats.

Bustillo is pulling for Sanders or Elizabeth Warren to win the primary. “If Biden was to get the nomination, I think Trump would devour him in a debate,” Bustillo said.

Biden “doesn’t really stand for anything, he’s just an amorphous blob who goes wherever money takes him,” said Democrat senior political science and screenwriting double major Juan Bustillo. Photo by Claire Treu.

“I personally like Biden,” said senior history major Barsegh Everekyan, another Chapman Democrat. Though Biden is not his first choice, Everekyan thinks his intentions are honest and sincere.

“Even before he officially announced his campaign, he was polling higher than the other candidates in early states,” Everekyan said.

“In this election, many people are going to have to wrestle with the question: Do we want the progressive who promises everything we want, or do we want the one who can win and beat Trump? And if those aren’t the same person, which do you go for?” Chapman political science professor Gordon Babst.

“Compared to this point in the last presidential cycle, young Democratic voters are more engaged and likely to have an even greater impact in choosing their party’s nominee,” said Director of Polling for the IOP at Harvard John Della Volpe in a 2019 report.

The youth vote will have a significant impact, but that does not mean it will be determining, Babst said.

“Whoever the Democrats pick will end up being popular with the youth, because they very much want not to have Trump again,” Babst said.

The increase of young Democratic voters doesn’t worry junior business administration major Ryan Marhoefer, a member of the Chapman Republicans.

“A lot of young Republican voters are coming out too,” he said.

Marhoefer supports Biden running because “he will be easy to beat.” Ultimately, Marhoefer said it doesn’t matter who runs, because he’s confident that Trump will win again.

Marhoefer said he is confident Trump will be reelected: It’s not even a debate.”

“The county is thriving under [Trump]. I don’t know too many people who are worse off because of him – who are American citizens,” said Republican junior business administration major Ryan Marhoefer. Photo by Claire Treu.

Five Tips to Keep Political Peace at the Holiday Table

As eggnog is poured and rolls are served, a looming topic of debate is likely to come up: politics. Especially with midterm elections recently occurring, students at college are more inclined to form independent political views without family pressures. Holiday gatherings – infamous for family arguments – may very well be the first time students will join in on the political debate and share their differing political opinions.

Dr. Carolyn Brodbeck, associate professor in psychology at Chapman, talked to Prowl about coping mechanisms intended to help prepare students for political disagreements that may await them at home. Here are five tips that stood out.


  1. Before heading to dinner, self-reflect.

As students spend a majority of time with peers and professors in a college setting, their beliefs may change or develop to differ from how they were raised. As a result, “a student may perceive their place in the family as changing,” Brodbeck states, which requires a reflection on one’s own beliefs as a separate entity. In the process, it is useful to reflect on the university experience in shaping ideas, as well as your place in the family and in the world. Ask yourself for example, “How would I describe my current relationship with my family? How has my relationship with my family changed since embarking on my Chapman university experience? What do I see as the most important challenges that my family and community are dealing with?” Brodbeck informs.

Self-reflection is important to creating a sense of awareness of the world around an individual, an essential part of the university experience as we learn to become more independent. Photo by Alyssa Harrell.


  1. De-escalate the debate.

Instead of lashing out at family members for their differing political views, note contrasting opinions and separate them from your relationship with the individual. “Dad, I can see that we have extremely different perspectives on this political issue. It seems like this is really important to you. I just want to let you know that I will always respect you as my father even if we don’t agree on this or other topics,” Brodbeck uses as an example.

Because many discussions occur at the table, it is useful to simmer down a heated debate with compliments about the food. Photo courtesy of Claire Treu.


  1. Use entertainment to divert debate.

Before heading home for the holidays, look to your favorite games to steer the altercation into a friendlier direction. Plan in advance, having games like “Monopoly” or “Life,” to extinguish a brewing or heated political debate. Just maybe don’t suggest Cards Against Humanity…

Games typically require sole concentration, so it is a good way to steer clear of debate either temporarily or permanently. Photo by Alyssa Harrell.


  1. Help out in the kitchen.

Although it is nice to show appreciation directly at the holiday table, a good way to express your gratitude is through helping set, serve, and clean up after the meal. This acts as a good way to escape from argument while earning respect from your family members. “Your grandparent or whoever is heading chef duty will be grateful that you are taking the initiative to help out!” Brodbeck states.

Heading into the kitchen is a good way to contribute help to the table rather than another person to engage in conflict. Photo by Alyssa Harrell.


  1. Engage in family tale-telling.

In a heavy discussion, make light of the situation through compliments of a family member. Perhaps ask how holiday dinners were when older family members were growing up. “Your interest shows respect, especially towards courageous ancestors who have made today possible,” Brodbeck informs.

The telling of familial stories promotes bonding as it steers away from a perhaps less than desirable debate. Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels.