Even more, I do not think we should guilt black people and people of color (and poor people and women and native people and disabled people and immigrants and anyone who does not fit under the tiny GOP umbrella of priorities and is therefore at risk of spending the next 8 or 16 or 100 years cold and soaking wet) into voting for one of the two major parties. I do not think that voting for a third party is stupid. I do not think that hoping for a more progressive future is stupid. I think that calling it stupid is condescending and myopic.
More practically, I think that calling it stupid—or entitled—is simply not convincing. I assume that people on the left who are not voting or are voting third party this election know exactly what's at stake. I assume they've read the same articles about Trump that the rest of us have. I assume they weighed their priorities just like the rest of us, and that their calculus produces a different answer. That may be because of privilege or idealism, or maybe not. But if Hillary voters are looking to sway people in these last few days, I don't think that insults are going to get us very far.
I find it exhausting and a little annoying that liberals have not yet managed to find a way to bring in other leftist voters without resorting to scare tactics and accusations of entitlement and idiocy. I think it's laughable that we blame Nader voters for Bush's win, instead of shifting some of the responsibility to the so-called moderates who voted for Bush, or blaming the state legislatures that took the right to vote away from beaucoup voters, a disproportionate number of whom were black and brown. (I also find Nader laughable these days, but no matter.) I see a whole passel of people berating those who aren't voting for Clinton and yet when organizers whistle for helping hands in the fight against felon disenfranchisement laws or voter suppression, nary a one of those people comes running.
I can endorse the use of the poll tax story as inspiration, but I cannot in good conscience validate it as a tool of guilt.
I am a black progressive woman who will vote enthusiastically for Hillary Clinton next week.
I am not voting third party and I pray to all that is holy that most liberals don't either. (There are states where a third-party vote is slightly less stress inducing, like the states where Hillary will win even if Jesus himself floated down and announced that God had personally endorsed Trump.)
So I am faced with a dilemma. On one hand, I do not think shaming people into voting Democratic is effective or reasonable. On the other, I am absolutely voting for Hillary Clinton, and I want to strongly encourage others to do the same.
If there is a worthwhile appeal to the left, then, perhaps that appeal is some form of aspirational pragmatism.
As a country, we put a lot of stock in voting. We frame the act as our biggest civic duty and, therefore, our most important. But if you are living right, the two don't equate. If casting that vote is the most important civic duty you do all year, you need to go out and rethink your life. I won't guilt you about your ballot, but I will sure as hell shame you if your yearly fight ends at the ballot box.
I have more than I deserve across the board, and my soul needs a couple centuries of manual labor before it'd be polished enough to brag about. In the race for sainthood or martyrdom, I am still eating popcorn at the starting line. But I am absolutely proud of the fact that casting this ballot will not even crack the top 20 on this year's list of my efforts to make this country goddamn great (for the first time).
There is much nobler work than mine—ask my friends representing immigrants and prisoners and death row inmates. But for what it's worth, my days are spent trying to bring attention to issues and officials and elections that matter to me. My days are spent demanding radical change and reform. My work days are primarily spent refusing to compromise on the things that I care about.
And, on the other hand, I'm constantly compromising. I complain about gentrification when I'm part of the problem, I complain about climate change when I'm part of the problem, I complain about systemic inequality when I'm part of the problem. I speak for people who are perfectly capable of speaking for themselves if someone would just ask them. I am a compromising, hypocritical mess. I promise you that you are, too.
"How can you live with yourself if you compromise your values at the ballot box?" someone asked me recently. Easy. Because I try not to compromise other days. Because I compromise all the time.
I like Hillary Clinton, in part because she surrounds herself with people for whom I have deep moral and intellectual admiration. I am going to vote for her even though I don't agree with her entirely. I'll make some concessions at the ballot box, and I'll sleep fine at night.
Listen: I am a firm believer that in a country like America you should vote for your opponent. Who do you want to fight against for the next eight years? Who do you want to push left? An organizer I admire first framed it to me this way, and it stuck with me. This, it seems, is the way we should think about voting, especially when the stakes are high.
I don't know about you, but I'm going to spend four to eight years pushing this administration left. And I'd rather fight a Hillary Clinton presidential administration than a Donald Trump one every single day of the week.
I think I'll be doing this work until the day my grandkids are dumping dirt over my grave, and I'm sure that I'll die before the work is finished. I'm sure there is no day of reckoning soon coming, no solid victory that will cut through the bramble and assure those like me a clear path to the finish line. There is no easy fight. Racism isn't going anywhere anytime soon, nor is over-incarceration, nor is poverty, nor is gender violence. I do not expect to be vindicated and I sure as hell don't expect to be vindicated by any president.
There's a prevailing idea, though, that just because I can't win means that all my losses are equal. That is fundamentally not true. This is why you vote for the opponent you want. This isn't a concession to any ideology. I'm still going to fight. But I think it's worth doing what I can to make the fight toward victory easier. I’m confident that fight is much, much, much easier with Hillary Clinton.
I'm sure the response to this will be "Well then shouldn't all Republicans vote for Donald Trump?" But actually I think my argument is a solid argument for why I think those on the right should vote third-party. Donald Trump is not only racist and sexist and borderline insane, he's also unpredictable and selfish and inconsistent. If you vote for Donald Trump because you think he will look out for your priorities, whether it be abortion, or taxes, or national security, you are frankly a total sucker. If you vote for Donald Trump because you think he can be moved right (or left, or up, or down) you have completely lost all perspective.
You don't even have to believe everything he says to know this—Donald Trump will only look out for Donald Trump. He will not hesitate to sacrifice anyone's values for his ego. He is vengeful and unforgiving, childish and overly sensitive. Those who want him to burn it down think that he values burning it down and handing it to the elites more than he does anything else. But that's demonstrably untrue. He values winning more than he does anything else. He wants to win. For himself. That's it. If he gets into office and someone sweet talks him or there's a benefit to be had by playing to the "elites," he will not burn a single thing down. Putin massaged his ego for twenty seconds and Trump has been praising him ever since. Fundamentally, his ideology is not conservative, or populist, or white nationalist. Fundamentally his ideology is Donald Trump.
In fact, if there's ever been a case for a third-party vote, Donald Trump is it. If you vote for Donald Trump expecting any protection, or hoping to impact his views in any possible way, you're doing this whole thing wrong.
Hillary Clinton is not perfect (neither is anyone and I hate that we keep having to disclaim that as if it makes her different from anyone else who would decide they wanted to run the country) but she ascribes to a rational and somewhat predictable logical model. She has morals, for the love of God. She has the capacity for empathy. And yes, call me foolish, but I think she cares. You don't hire Maya Harris if you don't want to be challenged to do better. I do believe Hillary Clinton feels accountable to her voters, and I believe she can be moved. I absolutely don't think Donald Trump will budge a single inch once he's in office, and we will all be subject to decisions based on his passing moods and whims.
I wake up in night sweats at the threat of a Trump presidency. I am truly terrified of what it would mean to let him lead our country. Everything about me thinks that it would be just as bad as we imagine and worse. I find his priggishness and bravado literally revolting. I am shocked at the transparency of his porcelain-fragile ego. He is a bully, stuffed fat with hubris, too stubborn to even apologize. The only other person I've watched refused to apologize so steadfastly is the little boy I babysat in college. He was four.
He is someone who, also like a toddler, compulsively distills all complicated issues into black-and-white. He is someone who is delusional enough to think that the people around him respect him, despite the fact he pays them to nod vigorously and say yes. He is someone who doesn't realize that he is an embarrassment and laughingstock to most everyone he admires; while also being someone who would never willingly be friends with the people who love him. He is someone who thinks most women, people of color, Muslims, and immigrants are to be viewed with suspicion and pessimism. I do not know if he's driven primarily by prejudice or delusion or fear or ignorance or ego or insecurity, or if it’s a tangled amalgam of all of those. But I do know that I simply do not believe that eight years of his rule can end in anything but tatters.
Like I said, I do not think it's wrong for the far left to look for more at the ballot box—but I don't see where you get evidence for such idealism. I don't think my political views are representative of the majority of America. I don't think my political views will ever win entirely. I live in New York now, but America is not New York. America doesn't look like me, and it doesn't look like most of the people I know. I've seen enough of America to know that I ain't it. If the far left wins, it won't be through the highest office in the land.
Its obnoxious to talk down to third-party voters, especially on the left. It allows us to ignore their concerns in the name of some false triumph of logic. It allows us to ignore the reality that there are large swaths of progressive America that don't feel heard, don't like this system, and don't like our choices. And when I say large, I mean it—while many Democrats were rolling their eyes saying it was impossible, Bernie made serious headway in the primary fight. The party likes to forget this, but Democrats owe the far left more than they’ve conceded.
Stop telling black people it’s our job to get her into office. Stop telling women we have to vote for her because she’s a woman. We know what’s at risk, because we live that risk every single day. You don’t have to remind us. We show up to vote in percentages vastly higher than white men, and yet you don’t see any headlines speculating whether white men will fulfill their moral obligation to vote against a tyrant.
I'm not saying that third-party voters—or any voter—shouldn't be challenged. But I think the way we challenge them has been demeaning and patronizing and kind of gross.
Here's my challenge: I would implore people with more leftist values to think about November 8 as the day to elect your opponent. I would push back on the idea that our vote is or should be the purist expression of our political values.
Surely, I feel a unique duty to vote. But voting is not where I have the most impact. Every day I hope my work is more valuable than my hole-punched card. This is why I'm going to vote for the opponent I want. Democracy isn't seasonal. I'm looking forward to electing her president, and I'm ready to push her for the next eight years.
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