(This post is formerly titled “If You Don’t Vote, You Can’t Complain”…well, actually…)
Another election season is upon us and the stakes are sky-high (…well…that’s what people keep insisting). However, despite this, the overall enthusiasm around this year’s most “viable” candidates is as low as I can recall there ever being for an election.
Now, I have absolutely no idea why people wouldn’t be excited about candidates like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but excitement is low, nonetheless — evidenced by the fact some of the most popular hashtags around these two are #NeverTrump and (my fav) #GirlIGuessImWithHer. So, as a result, some of the expected election season rhetoric is coming back up to “encourage” (hint: guilt & shame) people to get out to the polls come November. One of my long-time favorite tactics is the classic phrase, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.”
In the minds of people who believe in this phrase, voting is the foremost action where your voice can be heard by government. It’s your civic duty and a right that people died for you to — blah blah blah (I don’t care about the counterpoint and neither should you). Truth of the matter is, it’s all propaganda. There are a lot of ways that change has been made in this country and voting is often only the tip of the iceberg. In this country, most radical, worthwhile change has been via other means…a lot of which violent. After all, I’m pretty sure ‘Murica wasn’t founded via a voting booth. I’m also pretty sure the Stonewall Inn wasn’t a voting precinct.
This obsession with voting tends to erase the fact that change is forced in several other, more immediate ways. Activism, including protest and direct action, yields results. Community building and engagement among the people is also another method of seeing more improvement and cohesion in addressing issues. And even raising awareness of things via various mediums like social media often proves invaluable. Yes, voting has its place in the grand scheme of things, but it’s just one of various options. In a time where we’re seeing protests on top of protests and many other kinds of civic engagement (much of which against elected officials that were voted for), it’s a bit disingenuous to treat voting as if it’s a be-all, end-all.
Also, people who love to shout the virtues of voting completely erase the fact that a significant chunk of the population hasn’t seen their needs met by the very politicians who depend on their votes to hold onto power. Prime example is the coveted “Black Vote.” The democratic party has been comfortably maintaining almost-unanimous support of Black voters since the Civil Rights Era…yet we don’t have much to show for it. Not to mention, we’ve seen various Black and Brown countries throughout the world be (further) decimated in the last 8 years, under democratic leadership…which followed 8 years of decimation before that under republican leadership. For a large chunk of the world’s population (pretty much entirely people of color), which party is in power really doesn’t seem to matter much; the end result is the same for them…which a lot people don’t seem to be all that concerned by (which segues into my next point).
Another reason why we should be more weary of our reliance on voting is because the way we practice it often just isn’t all that effective…at least not for most people. Reality is, we’re largely voting for politicians who serve the interests of those with the most access and privilege, handing down scraps to everyone else (if even that). We don’t look at these candidates with a critical eye because we’re so concerned with having our “team” win. We’ve been conditioned to buy into the notion that getting those few scraps from “our team” is better than getting nothing from the “other team.” It’s created almost a kind of Stockholm Syndrome, where we’re essentially being taken advantage of by people who need us, with them selling us a hope that they’ll get to our issues “eventually.” The result — as I’ve ranted about extensively onTwitter — is a lot of important issues get swept under the rug with perpetuity. So, you have the handful of people of privilege (usually white, middle-class) living high on the hog, as most others (usually Black and Brown) are scraping to get by…all while they feel entitled to our votes. It’s all extremely abusive and violent.
Ultimately, this sense of urgency that we’re seeing from folks (particularly democrats and liberals) to vote is largely spurred on by a fear of a possible Donald Trump presidency. While I absolutely detest the man, myself, I think it’s important to acknowledge all of the reasons that we’re currently in this situation.
First, for anyone who’s actually been in the weeds of this shit and has been remotely aware, ‘Murica has been a racist cesspool this entire time…the rabid hatred didn’t just start back up from thin air. Middle-class, white liberals have been existing so far above the issues of people (again, whose votes they depend on for their party to retain power) with less privilege, that they’ve been able to convince themselves that these issues don’t exist anymore.
Meanwhile, these very, middle-class liberals have consistently been tossing everyone else under the bus, dismissing other people’s issues. They continue to hold up that dangling carrot of promising to get to those issues at a more “convenient” time (i.e. the “white moderate” that Dr. King warned us about). These liberals and democrats of privilege have been skating around holding their party’s politicians accountable, as they’ve spent the last few decades doing things like passing crime bills that target Black communities and manufacture criminals, gutting welfare programs, further fostering the oppressive police state, bombing and disenfranchising Black & Brown people in countries all over the world, driving gentrification, etc. These are all things happening just as easily under democratic rule as republican rule, if not more so.
This is an overall system of white supremacy that has been enabled by so-called liberals for years and has never been properly checked by those who had the privilege, access and power to do so, all because they were so comfortable, that they didn’t feel like they had to worry about anyone else’s needs. So many people happily vote for these politicians and have made excuses for them as they’ve run roughshod for decades, in lieu of actually holding these people accountable and attempting to be actual progressives and move the country forward (like liberals love to claim that they do).
Truth of the matter is, the failure of so many loyal voters (especially the white middle class) to put in the work of making sure that everyone’s needs were met by a party that’s long been dependent on those, very votes, is a significant part of what contributed to an environment where a Donald Trump would be considered remotely acceptable by any portion of the U.S. population. These people selfishly put their comfort ahead of doing what’s right, and let the rest of the world burn…while not giving a single, solitary damn about it.
Yet now, because we have an outright, honest white supremacist in Donald Trump running for office, we’re all to be expected to rally around a covert white supremacist in Hillary Clinton, all because the white middle class is now being put in a position where they’re made to feel uncomfortable? These people are apathetic, entitled leeches…and are entirely guilty of perpetuating the very systemic, violent racism that they hypocritically associate with Donald Trump and his ilk.
Democrats and liberals could’ve spent these last few decades actually being true to their promises and ensuring fairness and quality of life for everyone, but instead they opted take the easy road and remain comfortable, with their heads planted firmly in the sand (…as well as other orifices). They’ve spent decades pointing the finger of racism at republicans without ever bothering to sweep around their own porch. As a result, the culture of white supremacy and racism continued to go largely unchecked, and here we are, today.
Therefore, if we wanna talk about people who have no right to complain, I’d say the first people we should look at are the ones who have been faithfully voting to keep these corrupt people in office, with minimal accountability. ☕
And just to be clear, I’m not saying one shouldn’t vote, nor am I saying there’s absolutely no value in it. All I’m saying is, there are various reasons why one might abstain from it and they’re largely valid. Vote if you want, but let’s cut the shame and the judgement of those who opt not to. Especially since I think it would be best to look at the systems you’re actually contributing to with how you choose to exercise your vote, before fixing your mouth to come at anyone else.
…and really, even if none of this were true, considering that I literally paid out thousands in taxes this past year, alone, the notion that skipping an election disqualifies my right to an opinion is one that I’m just gonna have to flip a middle finger to. I’d kindly suggest that all of you screaming about my or anyone else’s right to practice our freedom of speech come down from your high horse and have several fucking seats.
If you don’t vote, you have every right to complain, and all of the detractors need to just climb out of their own asses and deal.
“Our people” have functioned in this country for nearly a century as political weapons, the trump card up the enemies’ sleeve; anything promised Negroes at election time is also a threat leveled at the opposition; in the struggle for mastery the Negro is the pawn.