I am emotionally exhausted from this election season. This is more of a rant than a well-heeled argument. I could reread and rewrite a few more times to strip it of my cynicism of your cynicism, to be more compassionate and to appeal to your “rationality”, but I don’t care to fight in your designated arena of battle right now. I’d rather play in the field of earnest emotion. I’m just going to use my blog to, ahem, blog. Actually, let’s just add a blog category of “rant” right this fucking minute. Mm, yes. Hey, don’t even read this. Just go fucking vote please.
I finally figured out what I hate so much about the one-liner that you get all the time when people aren’t going to vote: “My vote doesn’t matter anyway; I’m not in a swing state.”
Because you got me har har, it is hard to argue with the weirdness that is the electoral college. And my standard response was always: “Who the fuck cares, go vote for the downballot stuff that affect your local politics, which will affect your life way more on a day-to-day level.” Of course, that stuff’s not as sexy and not as fun and way more complicated to research, that it’s definitely a conversation killer. “It’s so haaaaaard, it takes so much tiiiiiime to get involved in local politics. Let’s just continue fighting and spewing hate on the national stage where I understand how to make hateful comments without concrete plans for making any real change.” (Local = e.g. A-Z propositions on the SF Ballot this time: Here are some handy resources for SF 2016 btw if you need last minute research before showing up at your local polling place.)
Another response which I believe in, but which doesn’t seem to work in changing people’s minds is: “If your vote didn’t matter so much, they wouldn’t be trying so hard to keep it away from you.” People fought hard for the right to vote, and you’re just wasting yours. But you don’t want a guilt trip today, so you’ll maintain that you’re still not in a swing state.
I have a hunch that we’d have a lot more swing states if we actually increased voter registration and voter turnout, but I have no research to back this up.
Instead, you’d rather keep the line of apathy you’re towing because then you can fight it with more apathy! If you don’t vote today, you’re fucking perpetuating this apathy in politics by legitimizing that people should only vote when their vote “counts”. As if showing up to speak your values isn’t important unless someone is able to hand you results on a silver platter for your one-time opinion. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. I’m sorry if you’ve never had to create a movement to get basic rights, to even be heard. Newsflash: there are millions of people and tons of movements who show up day after day, voicing their opinions, presenting visions of a better future, and demanding justice — they know it takes time and commitment and multifaceted approaches and fucking showing up again and again and again. Because showing up for something important means it’s important to you. Because if you don’t show up, people don’t have any reason to pay any attention to you.
(And no, voting is not the only cure-all you have in your toolkit; I know we will have continue to have so much fucking work to do after today. I spoke with one local businessperson and artist who said, “No I cannot register to vote because of reasons, but I am very involved for political change on the local level in other ways.” If everyone who used the electoral college as an excuse for not voting were instead and also on the ground in their local communities working for the change they believe in every single week, I would be absolutely thrilled.)
None of those arguments work. Which is fine; I’m going to keep using them. But this morning, I realized why I am so fucking mad about this electoral college excuse — and it is a fucking excuse. You’ve found a way to be logical about your apathy that allows you to be high-minded about it: “I understand the system, so I’m going to play the system by not participating in the system.” This also is the undercurrent for people who are voting third party “I’m going to vote third party because my vote doesn’t matter anyway, and I want to advocate for a new system than the one we’re stuck in.” I get so furious on a gut level at these arguments but have up to now not been able to articulate why.
Now I can articulate why: You only fucking do this for systems you have no intention of actually challenging, the systems for which you have no strategic plan for dismantling. You never question or opt out of or cast “protest votes” in any of the other oppressive systems that we swim in, live in, breathe in, have to survive in — that, ahem, we do have strategic plans for dismantling. I don’t hear you divesting funds from banks which support the Dakota Access Pipeline. I don’t see you opting out of work to go protest for anything. I don’t see you “voting with your feet” to work for organizations that promote multiculturalism and inclusion. I don’t hear you upset about the systemic racism that plays out in police brutality and the prison pipeline and housing discrimination. I don’t see you supporting female and people of color in leadership positions, so that they can create and advocate for new systems other than the patriarchal one we’re stuck in.
Make no mistake, this election has been about policy and our values as a country on an uncomfortably visceral level. I know it might be safer to stay on the logical level of “it’ll be about the same no matter who the president is” but “lesser of two evils” is BULLSHIT. Trump has shown you his values. And Hillary has too. Now it’s time to show yours.
Your voice matters; showing up matters. Voting is one way of showing up. I expect you to keep showing up afterward, too. I believe in you. Maybe you’ve stopped believing in your agency to affect change in these kinds of systems, but I believe in the full power of you. This is probably the least sexy least cool argument of all: I earnestly believe in the power of your voice and in your ability to stand up for your values. Fuck, I expect you to do it even if no one is listening. Because that’s how change happens. That’s what it means to be a social justice warrior and an ally and a human being whose itty bitty life here on earth still fucking matters — we just keep showing up.
OMG just please go vote.
(If it’s not blazingly obvious by now, #imwithher.)