It’s Election Day and yes, you should totally vote.
Just don’t get carried away.
Your bare minimum participation in our so-called democracy is not a courageous act or a moral high ground from which you can shame those who didn’t vote. The brandishing of an “I voted" sticker does not mean you are woke, politically educated, or not part of the problem. Since the advent of social media, voting has become a performative act, which has been imbued with a level of fake importance on par with participation trophies.
This self-congratulatory “I voted” feeling is dangerous and counterproductive. In this political moment, where white power and privilege are running drunk and naked through the streets, demolishing communities of color in their wake, the idea that dropping a ballot in a box is your big contribution to change is false.
In many ways, voting has become a way to throw off personal responsibility for the general shittiness of our political system. The underlying message being “I voted and if more of you lazy/ignorant people did the same things wouldn’t be so bad”. It’s an attitude aided and abetted by our liberal friends who like to blame low voter turnout, especially in Black/Brown communities, for their election losses.
With all that said elections matter. There are indeed candidates, propositions, and measures that will make your life demonstrably crappier. There are interests who monetize the suffering of the many for the benefit of the few. Sorting through a sea of mailers, campaign rhetoric, and goofily worded ballots can be a frustrating task. Anyone who claims to understand everything on the ballot is a 5th-degree policy wonk or a liar.
So instead of showing off my sticker, I’d like to share a couple tips that might make voting a little easier:
1) Learn about political organizations that represent your interests. Whether you care about the environment, raising the minimum wage, criminal justice reform, or some combination of all those, there are going to be organizations that align with your basic interests (for instance I like to see who/what the California Teachers Association is endorsing). These orgs do the heavy lifting of parsing through ballot measures and endorsing candidates. See what they have to say about what’s on the ballot.
2) Don’t be dreamy. It’s not about loving a candidate and all they purport to stand for. There are no perfect politicians. In fact, given what it costs to run for office every politician is beholden to interests that keep them from being the principled defenders of democracy we want them to be. In the long run that has to change. In the meantime, it’s about understanding who profits most from your misery and how you can block said politician’s agenda. In other words, be pragmatic. If you are looking to fall in love, try Tinder instead.
3) Don’t confuse tactics with strategy. Voting is a tactic. Voting in and of its self is not a long-term strategy for change. Get hip to the people and organizations that represent your interest and understand what their vision of change is.
Again, it’s Election Day and you should vote. Just don’t get carried away.
Demone Carter photo credit: Abe Menor
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