I try to hold a nuanced view of voting that I think I don’t articulate much.
I don’t believe liberation lies in voting, in electoral politics. Everything is political but not everything is electoral. I think on many of the biggest issues in our country, voting doesn’t make a difference, either because the candidates all basically agree or because there isn’t enough power to achieve anything among the liberatory option if there is one.
Often, my own life won’t be affected by who I vote for. For example, no candidate is going to save me from whatever results of climate change ultimately will affect me. There is no candidate who has a position that can do that. Only movements can create those candidates, at this point, and indeed only movements can create and push candidates who could alleviate the suffering that is to come. Many issues are like this, especially for the ways our country affects those living outside it.
I’m not a vote shamer. I understand why people don’t vote, especially the majority of poor people in our country. They mostly are ignored, few people try to organize them, and it is hard for them to see how anything will be different. Not to mention the systems that constantly try to make it harder for them to vote, especially if they’re not white. I even understand why people vote for third parties. I won’t shame those people.
That said, I vote in every election and I vote for Democrats. I vote in local elections, I caucus, I go to primaries, I’ll do whatever voting is available. I even sometimes find candidates that I am somewhat excited to vote for because of one or more issues, but I vote even if I don’t like any of them much.
There are a lot of other issues. Some of those issues do get a lot of influence from elected officials, whether they be local, state, federal. Even on issues or races where there isn’t what feels like a liberatory option – nobody is proposing police abolition, for example – there is a less bad option. I’m the person who will vote for the less bad option.
I don’t vote only for safe candidates, I try to vote always for what I think is the most liberatory candidate. I listen to people who are affected, especially those who I trust from movement or other powerful spaces, and I try to make the best decision I think is available.
The reason I’ll do that is that there are real people who will be affected in real ways that make life more or less bad for them, sometimes in small and sometimes in big ways. They won’t be liberated by my vote, I know this, but they will be genuinely affected. Real people might live longer, suffer less, be less persecuted, stay with their families longer, be less criminalized, and any number of other things. Those issues won’t go away, probably even for the people affected by them, but they’ll be affected.
That is enough for me. Voting is very easy for me. It’s very easy for me to learn about candidates, talk about them with anyone who wants to, express what I think about them. None of those things take a lot of effort. Nobody has ever asked me for a ride or accompaniment to the polls, but that too would not be hard for me, and the ways that small act of togetherness could help those people who might need such a thing are very large. Those are examples of people who’s lives, often, will be better or worse in very real ways in some issues, even though other issues will likely be the same, by whoever is elected.
So I don’t approach the electoral process with any idealism, or with even a lot of anything resembling hope most of the time. But that’s fine. I don’t need that from the voting process, I have other places to get that. But on the issues where it does make a difference, I believe it’s worthwhile.
Voting is one tactic among many. I don’t think it is the most powerful, the most ethical, or one that I can do with what I think are clean hands. But that’s fine. I believe in using all of the nonviolent tactics that are available to me.
– Jonathan Stegall
I feel the need to offer a friendly reminder that one reason people don't vote is because they recognize that our political system is broken. So to me, all this encouragement to vote is sorta vacuous. Yes, yes, yes, please vote, but remember that the Democratic party, too, has brought you unending war, unlimited corporate power, climate change, health care crisis, etc., etc. They just try to make it a little more dignified and palatable. Just because we now have true evil at the highest levels doesn't mean that lesser evil is now good. We need to make some leaps, not just try to recover lost ground. On November 7, regardless of outcomes, we still need to make change in our hearts and in our minds and in our families and in our communities and in our systems. May it be so.
– Michael Sala
The greatest delusion is the belief that voting is the ONLY power we have as citizens. It's not. It's one tool among the many that we can use on the road to creating a more just and equitable society. The question we must all ask, when we vote, is who can we work with? Who will best listen to us, work with us, work FOR us when we apply pressure, make demands, hold our leaders accountable? It's simply not true to say that it makes no difference who you vote for. Yes, both parties have supported wealthy, powerful interests in the past, taken corporate money, waged wars, invaded and occupied other countries, attacked the weak and the vulnerable. But I have never seen such a stark difference in the two main parties today when it comes to issues that affect us all like reproductive rights, environmental protection, public education, criminal justice reform, protecting the rights of minorities, gay rights, women's rights, on and on. So please don't retreat into cynicism. Vote today and then tomorrow get down to the real work. Too many people have fought and died to win us this right. It would be a shame not to use it.
– Kurt Seaberg
Related Off-site Links:
Why Democracy Will Be the Biggest Loser in the U.S. Midterms – Gary Younge (The Guardian, November 2, 2018).
A Storm of Dirty Tricks and Presidential Racism Mar the 2018 Midterms – William Rivers Pitt (TruthOut, November 3, 2018).
Trump's Racism Can't Win Elections. Gerrymandering and Voter Suppression Can – Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Eddie S. Glaude, Jr (Common Dreams, November 5, 2018).
Republicans Are Working Feverishly to Stop Minorities from Voting – Eoin Higgins (Vice, October 24, 2018).
Judge Rules Against Republican Party, Says More Than 3,000 in Georgia Should Be Allowed to Vote – Christal Hayes (USA Today, November 2, 2018).
Get Ready for the Shake-Up: Grassroots Candidates Drive Midterm Surge – Ruth Conniff (Common Dreams, November 2, 2018).
Midterms 2018: Early Voting by Young People Up 500% in Texas and Georgia – Tom Embury-Dennis (The Independent via Yahoo! News, October 31, 2018).
High Early Voting Turnout Gives Hope to Progressives As Black, Latino, and Young Voters Go to Polls in Record Numbers – Julia Conley (Common Dreams, October 31, 2018).
Black Millennials Have a New Superpower in This Year’s Midterm Election – Chris Scott (Blavity, November 5, 2018).
Democracy Under Siege: Systemic Flaws May Override Record Electoral Participation – Tracy L. Barnett (Common Dreams, November 5, 2018).
New Polls Confirm That Democrats Are Poised to Take the House – Matthew Rozsa Salon (November 4, 2018).
The First Thing Democrats Will Do If They Win the House Is Pass Anti-Corruption and Voting Rights Reforms – Paul Blumenthal (The Huffington Post, October 31, 2018).
However the Midterms Go, the Republican Party Is Going to Get More Extreme – Jonathan Chait (New York Magazine, October 28, 2018).
Business Lobbyists and G.O.P. Operatives Plot to Take Down Wave of Ocasio-Cortez-Style Democratic Socialists in Midterms – Lee Fang and, Nick Surgey (The Intercept, November 5, 2018).
After the Midterms, It’ll Be Mueller Time – Paul Waldman (The Washington Post, October 31, 2018).
Majority in U.S. Still Say a Third Party Is Needed – R.J. Reinhart (Gallop.com, October 26, 2018).
Get Up and Go Vote – Roger Angell (The New Yorker, November 5, 2018).
What If the Polls Are Wrong Again? Four Scenarios for What Might Happen in the Elections – Domenico Montanaro (NPR News, November 5, 2018).
A Furious John Oliver Refuses to Let Family Separation Be Forgotten Ahead of the Midterm Election – Marissa Martinelli (Slate, November 5, 2018).
On Eve of Midterms, Americans Urged to Vote "Like the Planet Depends On It – Because It Does" – Julia Conley (Common Dreams, November 5, 2018).
Here's What to Do If You're Turned Away At the Polls – Christina Maxouris and AJ Willingham (CNN, November 2, 2018).
UPDATES: Voting Problems Surface as Americans Go to the Polls – Danny Hakim, Alan Blinder and Michael Wines (The New York Times, November 6, 2018).
Equipment Malfunctions and Voting Machine Shortages Bring Long Lines in Georgia – Pema Levy (Mother Jones, November 6, 2018).
Voters Turned Away at Detroit Polling Site Due to Missing Voting Machines – Aris Folley (The Hill, November 6, 2018).
As Counties Place Polls in Gated Communities, Florida Voters Are Left Out – Daniel Rivero (WLRN Miami/South Florida, November 6, 2018).
Voters Wait Hours in North Miami, and There Weren’t Enough Ballots for Everyone – Douglas Hanks (Miami Herald, November 5, 2018).
Voter Suppression in North Dakota Could Be Backfiring on Republicans – Ari Berman (Mother Jones, November 6, 2018).
Thirty-Six Million Early Votes Shatter Records for Youth and People of Color – Amy Goodman (Democracy Now! via TruthOut, November 6, 2018).
Under Assault by Trump's GOP and Supreme Court, Unions Lead Massive Get Out the Vote Effort for Midterms – Jake Johnson (Common Dreams, November 6, 2018).
Students Across Country Walk Out of Class to Cast Ballots in Midterms – Democracy Now! (November 6, 2018).
First Native American Women Elected to Congress: Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland – Eli Watkins (CNN, November 6, 2018).
Gay Native American Sharice Davids Wins Democratic Primary in Deep-Red Kansas – Meghan Sullivan (NBC News, November 6, 2018).
A Win for Muslims and Democracy: Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar Become First Muslim Women Elected to Congress – Eli Watkins (CNN, November 6, 2018).
Ilhan Omar Again Makes History, Becoming First Somali-American Elected to U.S. House – Erin Golden (Star Tribune, November 7, 2018).
Ayanna Pressley Becomes the First Black Woman to Represent Massachusetts in Congress – Stephen A. Crockett Jr. (The Root, November 6, 2018).
Texas Sends First Two Latinas to Congress – Laura Bassett (The Huffington Post, November 6, 2018).
It's Official: Unabashed Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Now Youngest Woman Ever Elected to Congress – Jon Queally (The Huffington Post, November 6, 2018).
Jared Polis Wins In Colorado, Making Him First Openly Gay Man Elected Governor – Hayley Miller and Lydia O’Connor (The Huffington Post, November 6, 2018).
In Historic Move, Florida Approves Automatically Restoring Voting Rights To Felons – Sam Levine (The Huffington Post, November 6, 2018).
Democrat Beto O’Rourke’s Underdog Senate Bid Falls Short in Texas – Roque Planas (The Huffington Post, November 6, 2018).
Win or lose, Betomania Has Been a Big Victory for Texas Progressives – Amanda Marcotte (Salon, November 6, 2018).
The Silver Lining to Beto O’Rourke’s Loss to Ted Cruz – Jim Newell (Slate, November 6, 2018).
Zach Wahls, Who Defended Lesbian Moms in Viral Speech, Wins Iowa State Senate Seat – Dominique Mosbergen (The Huffington Post, November 7, 2018).
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Concedes to Democratic Challenger – Elizabeth Campbell (Bloomberg, November 7, 2018).
Stacey Abrams Refuses to Concede Georgia Governor's Race, Hoping for Runoff – Veronica Stracqualursi and Devan Cole (CNN, November 7, 2018).
Money Still Rules U.S. Politics: An Interview with Thomas Ferguson – Paul Heideman (Jacobin, November 6, 2018).
It’s Official: Democrats Will Control the House – Ella Nilsen (Vox, November 6, 2018).
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
• Something to Thing About – November 4, 2018
• Quote of the Day – October 17, 2018
• Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence
• Quote of the Day – February 6, 2018
• A Timely Reminder . . .
• Quote of the Day – June 28, 2017
• Hope in the Midst of Collapse
Opening image: Smartboy10/Getty Images.