Marlon Duran and his mom decided to vote early because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Rio Grande Valley has been hit hard; more than 3,000 people have died.
Duran and his mom walk out their front door to a car that’s parked outside.
“It was nice of your friend to lend you her car,” he said to his mom.
Their car wasn’t working earlier in the week, but they were still determined to get to the polls.
A few minutes later they arrive at a polling station in McAllen. They grab their masks and quickly make their way inside to cast their ballots.
Duran and his mom are lifelong Democrats, so they’re not voting for President Donald Trump, but they’re each voting for a different candidate today.
“I’m voting Green because I think that’s the best choice, but if people vote for Biden, you know, I can’t judge them, but I can’t vote for him for several reasons,” said Duran.
Duran identifies as a democratic socialist, and over the past few months Progressive Rio Grande Valley Democrats like Duran have made some waves.
They’ve mobilized what some call a “Progressive Movement” in a region where the majority of the population is Latino. This faction of Democrats recently came close to getting several local Progressive candidates elected. Many of them also threw their support behind Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who had arguably strong campaigns and support in South Texas and polled well with other Latinos across the country.
With just days from the election, some Progressives within the Democratic Party are still not enthusiastic about a potential Joe Biden administration. There’s even “#SettleForBiden” that has been used across social media platforms.
Duran said he supported Progressive policies like those Sanders campaigned on, including a Green New Deal and Medicare for All. He said he believes the Democratic Primary was rigged. Duran also said Biden isn’t as far left as he’d like him to be, which is just one of the reasons he decided to back Presidential candidate Howie Hawkins of the Green Party.
Growing up, Durian said politics and participating in democracy had always been a part of his life.
“When I was like two or three, my dad ran for mayor or municipal president, as is known in Mexico of his municipality for the PRD, which is a leftist party. So I’ve always been a leftist,” he said. “I’ve always cared about people that are oppressed and marginalized. Especially because I’ve gone through some oppression. So I understand a lot about what suffering and oppression is.”
Duran said some of the oppression he experienced came from being a gay undocumented immigrant.
His mom is a U.S. citizen, and his dad is now a permanent resident. Duran said the declining Mexican economy forced them to move here.
“My dad tried to do a trucking business in Mexico, but it didn’t work out and with NAFTA. That really took a toll on the Mexican economy, so I was part of the wave of migrants that came across from the early ’90s to the 2000s from Mexico, just searching for a better life and better opportunities,” he said.
Duran became a U.S. citizen when he was 15.
“Ever since then, I’ve been a citizen and I’ve always voted. I’ve always been politically active, especially since I got out of high school,” he said. “I’ve been in and out of activism and doing what I can to make the world a little bit better for people and for myself.”
Duran recently got involved by supporting a South Texas Progressive candidate named Jessica Cisneros. He door-knocked for her campaign.
“The best way to bring about change is to go door to door and talk to people,” Duran said. “Communicate with them one on one, heart to heart and tell them we need change. We can have these great things, but we need to get people who think like us and feel like us in power.”
Cisneros faced off against an incumbent Democrat and self-identified moderate named Henry Cuellar. The race was close, but Cisneros lost. Many, including Duran, saw this as a sign that the Progressive movement was growing in South Texas.
“I think the vast majority of people are more progressive than we give them credit for,” he said. “The only thing that works against us is fighting that voter apathy. That apathy that most people who hold prorgressive views don’t vote, or don’t participate in the system because they don’t think that they don’t have enough power to really change things and so we need to unite them and give them the encouragement and the motivation.”
Duran felt a desire for change coming from the Cisneros and Sanders campaigns, but he hasn’t sensed that from Biden.
“There is this massive sense of entitlement from corporate Democrats and the Democratic elites,” he said. “If you look at Hillary (Clinton), if you look at Joe Biden, there’s this sense of, ‘Oh, we don’t need the left’ and ‘The left has to vote for us because if you don’t vote for us, then whatever happens is your fault. If Trump wins again it’s your fault. It was your fault that Trump won.’”
He thinks that sense of entitlement from candidates like Biden comes from living in a bubble.
“They don’t realize the struggles of everyday Americans, of everyday people, who are being oppressed, who are being exploited and so I think they have that we need to vote for them because the alternative is horrible,” said Duran. “I think the vast majority of Bernie and Warren supporters will vote for Biden in the same way that they voted for Hillary… not because they think that Biden is a good candidate, but also because I think that they’ve bought into the fear of Trump winning and that we have to stop that at all costs.”
Duran said he doesn’t buy into the lesser of two evils argument and said people should follow their heart when they vote, but his mom and siblings don’t agree with his rationale.
“They’re afraid of Trump, they’re buying into the fear of Trump winning,” he said. “I’m not saying Trump winning is a good thing. It would be horrible. It would be worse than Biden winning, so I don’t blame them. I don’t judge them and I hope they do the same for me and it hasn’t resulted in a family rift or anything. We still love each other and support each other. We agree to disagree.”
Moving forward, Duran hopes Progressives will overtake the Democratic Party because he wants to see major policy changes.
“I think what we need to do is, we need to organize ourselves and recruit more and more people to join us. My hope is that by the year 2022, by the midterm elections, we take over the Democratic Party,” he said. “We take it over county by county, state by state, replace all the corporate Democrats that don’t care about us with democratic socialists in the DNC.”
Back at the polling site, Duran emerges from the doors and said that he feels good about casting his ballot for the Green Party and that his conscience is clear.
“I just feel sad that I don’t think America will get a good enough President no matter who wins,” he said.
Despite this feeling, Duran is optimistic.
He said overtaking the Democratic Party will come down to organizing and waking people up and that he envisions a country where everyone is equal and given love, dignity and respect.