Turning non-voters to voters is America’s best hope.
Election Day is still fresh in my mind. It’s August of 2017 and I’m still thinking about last November. Why, you may ask. It’s simple. I’m coming to the realization that I was never a true skeptic. Sure it’s cool to say everyone is evil and we are all screwed. But there was a part of me that fundamentally believed in the steady march of progress. Or as the saying goes “the arc of history bends towards justice.” I guess I swallowed enough propaganda to believe that America was interested in fixing its flaws.
What the election of Donald Trump taught me was that there will always be people who have different ideas about what’s right. We all may be a little too close to our own truths and I know everyone feels like their side is the right side but I was naïve. I guess I was always aware that America was capable of bowing down to someone like Donald Trump after all White Mediocrity, blatant cronyism and subservience to the moneyed elite was the recurring theme of the Bush Administration. That’s just how Republicans want to be governed.
What’s unique about Donald Trump though is that he seemingly has none of the qualities Republicans claim to care about and all of the things they actually do care about. The same way some of us were superficially supportive of Obama because of how he made us feel about our possibilities is the same way Trump diehards judge him. They are happy mainly because we are unhappy. When I say we I don’t mean black people. I mean people of good conscious, people who are pro equality and anti-discrimination, people who prioritize people over corporations, and would rather give welfare to a hungry family than to multi-billion dollar corporations. The truth is we are actually the majority. Although you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
My constant refrain (in the previous iteration of my blog) is that Trump voters are a coalition of the Greedy, The Ignorant and The Hateful. So we must be The Selfless, The Informed, and The Compassionate. With that being said we can’t be aimless hippies slinging empty slogans like “Love Trumps Hate” and despite the outcome of the previous election we should be looking for candidates that know how to govern responsibly. What we have to realize is that even amongst ourselves there is room for disagreements on the specifics of policy. But we must agree on the underlying principles. Before we even get down to the legislative agenda of the other side we must stand universally opposed to their harmful worldview.
When considering your power to affect change in America you must consider what you want your role to be. If you wanted to be an activist you would probably already be an activist. But if not all you can do is inform yourself and vote your conscious. Don’t shy away from reality no matter how tiring it is. The steady stream of scenarios coming out of Washington, D.C. that wouldn’t happen if Hilary Clinton was President are mind numbing. But never lose sight of one thing. The legislative Agenda doesn’t belong to Donald Trump. It belongs to the Republican Party first and foremost. As a rule of thumb if you are in favor of little kids receiving their cancer meds you should never vote Republican under any circumstances. (There may be exceptions that’s why it’s a rule of thumb).
You should never vote Republican if you are willing to suffer a few welfare cheats in order to ensure some needy kids won’t go to bed hungry tonight. You should never vote Republican if you believe that people fleeing war zones deserve a chance at a better life. You should never vote Republican if you think that black people deserve to not be killed indiscriminately by overzealous law enforcement. You should never Vote Republican if you want millionaires to pay their fair share in taxes. You should never vote Republican if you think science class should teach science and not religion. You should never vote Republican if you want to rebuild the corrupt criminal justice system. You should never vote Republican if you want to be a responsible global citizen.
Before you start with to rebut me with the “yeah but the democrats…” I’m going to stop you right there. If I told you the majority of the peaches in the produce section were laced with arsenic and that you should never buy peaches would you reply “well some of these bananas are overripe”? I know it’s hard to resist the urge to compare and contrast. But I’m going to ask you to do just one thing. First and foremost never Vote Republican. That’s your first answer. They are effectively a white nationalist front at this point. If you don’t believe heterosexual white male Christians are more important than other people you should never ever vote GOP.
Now that we’ve established this. Feel free to vote your conscious among the candidates that remain. You may feel like you’re an independent but I would urge you to change your voter registration to Democrat. I say this for two reasons. I’m presuming if you are not already a registered Democrat or a registered Republican you feel like neither political party reflects what you is important to you. And without knowing your values off hand I would not presume to try to persuade you otherwise. But before you decide that make a list of things that are important to you and take a look at the Democratic Party platform. If your views align on 7 out of 10 issues come on you’re already a Democrat just do it. The second reason you may want to consider being a Democrat is to take a look at the state of the Republican Party. There was a time when conservatism was subdued and pragmatic. They may have been fundamentally racist but they were measured in their approach there was room for compromise, there were actually a few decent Republicans who did and said things that weren’t horrible. But starting in the mid 90’s the grassroots of the GOP constituency began a slow and steady ascent in the party hierarchy. All of which came to a crescendo in 2010 with the rise of the tea party and with Trump we can only pray that white anger has reached its climax. The entire Republican Party’s priorities have shifted. They represent the worst most unhinged untenable aspects of so-called conservative thought.
Now imagine an equal but opposite reaction from the forces in society that want true equality. Imagine an influx of young people who represent our ideals. Imagine some of them get elected in local government, state government, and the house of representation. Imagine free college, single-payer health care, judicial reform, police reform, immigration reform, and sensible policy on combatting climate change all become the new obsessions of the Democratic Party. It’s not up to Congress. They are old and getting older. Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders, Maxine Waters and Nancy Pelosi won’t be sitting in those seats forever.
The fact that Bernie Sanders was even a viable candidate in the Democratic Primary speaks to the potential of the Party. The only litmus test for Democratic voters is a basic respect for humanity and a loose adherence to the basic principles of the party platform. As an example there are pro-gun, anti-choice Democrats, there are no Pro-Choice Republicans. But okay you don’t want to be a Democrat that’s fine. Remain an independent because it’s your right. On Election Day do some more calculus. Being disgusted with the whole sordid affair is your right. I would persuade you to look at all available candidates. Does the Green Party candidate embody all of the things you are looking for in a candidate? Or perhaps some other third party candidate on the ballot in your district has caught your eye. You can vote in a vacuum that is vote strictly based on your principles using none of the mental calculus associated with the prediction of a reasonable outcome. It doesn’t matter what anyone says once you get in the booth.
When evaluating candidates I would advise you to not let perfect be the enemy of the good. If you follow politics, you know which way the wind is blowing in America. I’m going to say this not without love, but a huge swath of our country is suffering from their own ignorance. Don’t be like them. I’ll use our favorite whipping girl Hilary Clinton as an example. As a negative people on “our side” brought up some pretty incendiary racist comments from the early 90’s that she made in reference to young black gang members. I believe the term was “Super Predators”. Others on our side pointed towards her vote to authorize the use of Military Force this led to a perception of Hilary as a “Hawk” although I argue that the Presidency of The United States is inherently militaristic as Obama himself demonstrated.
We sometimes forget that candidates are human beings and that even as we evolve they evolve. Using Obama as an example: He took America’s temperature in 2008 and came out against gay marriage. As America showed him it was more chill on that subject he loosened up. I’m sure Hilary has taken her party’s temperature on that racist bullshit from the 90’s (racist shit that many in the black community supported and echoed at the time) and reckless military engagements and evolved her position. Hell she said as much in-between her Trump bashing. She took the step of meeting with black activists and having the temerity to not patronize them with simple answers. Bernie Sanders soon followed.
The Differences between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump are perhaps too many to count. I’m sure some people who voted for a third party candidate feel some regret. I’m sure some people who sat the election out feel some regret. Hell even a few of the idiots who voted for Trump have regrets. If we were to look at election 2016 pragmatically I’m sure there are some Hilary supporters who truly felt like she was the best thing to ever happen. Her credentials as a Senator and Secretary Of State mattered more than her divisive tenure as a first lady to most people. There are others who were generally supportive but only because their candidate (Bernie Sanders) was no longer an option. There are some still who may have felt some apathy about the whole process but really just didn’t want Donald Trump to be President. If you are looking for someone to vote for instead of someone to vote against in future elections take some lessons from those Bernie supporters who made the switch. If you believed in what half of what Bernie believed in, Hilary Clinton was the only viable choice.
But enough about the 2016 election. Lets look at elections in general. So many of the things that affect your life are decided at the local and state level. Unfortunately our people, and by our people again I mean people who want the arc of history to bend toward justice don’t show up for non presidential election cycles. We tune out when its boring. American Civics may be unbearably boring but they are necessary. Renewing your car registration isn’t exactly a thrill but we manage to do that every year. As my generation turns from the governed to the governors (already I see several of my FB friends are actively involved in political campaigns) we must realize that there are people who don’t take it for granted that we should vote. Some of them don’t feel like they are a part of the political process. What The Democratic Party must do is to ensure that when the pendulum swings back in their direction that they do enough for those people. Improve their lives and they will vote. Turning non-voters to voters is America’s best hope. But as a voter or non voter or whatever, the next time a candidate pops up take a long hard look at them. Spoiler alert: They will not be perfect. They might have a flawed record on civil rights, or campaign finance reform, or gun control but are those compromises or are they fundamentally opposed to your existence as a human being. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.