Polarized: Why this Massachusetts progressive voter supports Joe Biden and Ed Markey

‘I’m not opposed to people changing their minds about things’

Chris Riotta
New York
Sunday 20 September 2020 13:50 BST
In a divided time, The Independent is highlighting unique voters every week from all 50 states – featuring a nation of diverse voices
In a divided time, The Independent is highlighting unique voters every week from all 50 states – featuring a nation of diverse voices (AP)

Polarized is a weekly series featuring Americans from all 50 states sharing their views on the 2020 elections. Click here if you would like to be a part of this project.

Teachers throughout the United States have struggled with the transition to virtual learning amid the coronavirus pandemic – but they’re not the only ones working with children from a safe distance in pursuit of their best interests.

Samuel Harold is a juvenile public defender in Massachusetts who works in the youth advocacy division at the Committee for Public Counsel Services. He is appointed by the courts to represent anyone under the age of 18 who is charged with a crime in the state.

While Harold spent most of his days in court before Covid-19 hit the US, he now mostly works from home, attending sessions of what he calls “Zoom court” while working to build socially-distant relationships with the children he represents.

“It’s been an interesting transition,” he says in a recent interview. “I’m not happy with everything, but I feel like I’m being productive now, which definitely wasn’t the case in the beginning.”

“You know what’s funny?” he adds. “I have a couple clients who I call and we FaceTime and text, because most of them are kids, and I actually feel that I have been able to build a pretty good rapport with most of them.”

Samuel Harold is a juvenile public defender
Samuel Harold is a juvenile public defender (Samuel Harold)

Harold seems to have adapted to our collective “new normal,” in which our most important meetings are done online and the people we work with remain in a virtual cloud.

A resident of Massachusetts for nearly seven years, Harold says he’s had experience voting by mail before the pandemic and decided to do so again during the state’s primary elections earlier this month.

In a tight senatorial race between incumbent Ed Markey and his opponent Joe Kennedy, Harold tells The Independent that he voted for the 74-year-old senator after the Democrat aligned himself with progressive policies in his recent years.

“It’s funny, he does have sort of a mixed record,” Harold admits. “He’s been involved in congressional politics for years. He supported the crime bill and stuff that I wouldn’t necessarily be super thrilled about if he was voting that way these days. But he did a really good job attaching himself to a platform that was really progressive.”

From sponsoring the Green New Deal along with progressive freshman Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and embracing the new left-wing of the Democratic Party, Markey’s arguably progressive record became his defining trait as a candidate in the primary election.

“A lot of people can say he was sort of altering his trajectory given his moderate stance for most of his political career, but I think it’s a really big deal when you’re sponsoring the Green New Deal, getting endorsements from Elizabeth Warren and AOC, and I think he’s really sort of championed a lot of stuff that I think are super important,” Harold says. “Even if his vote in the past has been sort of more moderate, I felt like he was representing my interests now more than Joe Kennedy.”

Check out more of The Independent’s series, Polarized: Voices From Across America

Although he’s done mail-in voting before and says he has “a lot of faith in the US postal service,” Harold was initially concerned with filling out the ballot incorrectly. He says he was also initially afraid that he didn’t send it in on time, which would prevent his vote from being counted. But he says the process turned out to be clear and easy — a hopeful indication that the November election can run smoothly despite the ongoing pandemic.

“I was kind of concerned that my vote wasn’t going to get in, but there’s actually a website where you can go and they’ll tell you if it’s been received or not, so I was able to check and they had received my vote,” he says about the most recent election. “It was actually pretty easy.”

Harold says he plans to vote by mail once again come November. His choice between the candidates is just about as easy as it was in the state primaries.

As a Democrat who would describe himself as progressive, Harold’s first choice to lead the Democratic ticket is not former vice president Joe Biden. One of his top issues include criminal justice reform, and, according to Harold, Biden’s authoring of the crime bill and some other marks on his record are concerning.

But, much like with Markey, the former vice president has attempted to attract the Democratic Party’s progressive base with new policy platforms like achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 and reforming the nation’s criminal justice system.

For Harold, it’s working.

“I’m not opposed to people changing their minds about things,” he says. “If someone voted one way and then comes out and says, ‘listen, I’m seeing things differently,’ I’m for that."

He adds: “With Biden, I shared a lot of people’s concerns on the left about not only his middle-of-the-ground approach to pretty much everything political throughout his years and years in politics, but he also doesn’t have that charisma that I felt like a lot of other people have.”

“But I also have been seeing that he’s pretty malleable,” Harold says about Biden. “If we give him the right push, we might be able to get some things that we want. He wasn’t my first choice, he wasn’t my second choice, but at the end of the day, if we can get him on board with some of the things I think are important, I’m not going to fault him.” 

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