Now that we’re a few days removed from the 2018 midterm elections and we’ve all seen the results, analysis of the results and opposing, ideological analysis of the analysis of the results, I want to take some time away from the election and the candidates themselves, to talk about how trash the conversation around voting/not voting has become.
Especially now, in the social media age, the discourse around the importance of voting (or not) has devolved into nothing more than a royal rumble of finger wagging and platitude slinging.
On one side you have the unabashed non voter who’s become so jaded and cynical about our political process that they’re, not only loud and proud about not participating, but inexplicably contemptuous toward those who do; and on the other side you have the voting enthusiast who spends election seasons on their own personal campaign tour to every mountain top within reach where they can shout “VOTE OR DIE!” (or at the very least “vote or be persistently condescended to.”)
It’s all become a big blame and shame game where there are no winners, losers or prizes but anybody with a social media account can be a constant. I’m over it. Both sides are annoying as fuck and here are just a few cliché arguments I’m tired of hearing/reading:
- “If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain.”
First of all: hol’ up, lil’ bitch, I pay taxes!
In fact, I think that’s all I need to say on that, let’s move on.
- “Our ancestors died so we could vote.”
This one, of course, speaks specifically to black people admonishing other black people for choosing to abstain from voting. It is as tired as it is cliché and it irks my entire black ass soul for a couple reasons.
First, our ancestors didn’t.. just.. die; they were murdered. This is a necessary distinction because I think it’s important we don’t romanticize the terror our grandparents, great grandparents and beyond suffered as we invoke them at our convenience to make a point.
When you say that they “gave their lives” for this shit, you make it sound as if they offered themselves up to the noose fucking Joan of Arc style or some shit. Nah, fuck that; they were mostly kicking and screaming victims before they were martyrs and they were putting themselves at risk for a lot more than the right to cast a ballot.
What our people fought and bled for was access. What they wanted, for themselves and for generations to come, was equal access to all things readily available to the larger society. And, yes, that means access to the vote, but it also means access education, ownership of property, the use any public facility we choose etc. And those of us black folk who are fortunate enough not to still be fighting tooth and nail for all of the above (which is still far too few) are taking advantage of all these freedoms our forefathers sacrificed for everyday to the point where, in my opinion, singling out declining to vote as a reason to shame folk almost seems arbitrary.
The other issue I have with this argument is, it implies we should vote for the sake of voting out of obligation to ancestors. Let me be clear: no one of any race needs to vote if they don’t have a reason. I don’t believe that’s what those who were part of to movement to win us the vote wanted for us; to be dragging our feet, begrudgingly and without inspired reason. And people with reason go to the booth without needing to be convinced; either way the “do it for the ancestors” guilt trip is played and useless.
(SN: Oh, and don’t think I ain’t noticing a lot of y’all using this argument are the same ones who were all “We are not our ancestors!” like a month ago. Summa y’all #TeamSlaveryWasAChoice ass niggas need to stop.)
- “Both sides are the same/ They’re all corrupt/ The system is rigged/ They don’t do shit for MY people!”
I suppose the biggest issue I have with the nonvoter (or, at least, the average ones who pop up on my various news feeds) takes us back to what I mentioned before about platitudes.
Again, if you see no practical reason to vote (be it because of informed distrust of all candidates involved and/or general disillusionment of our political system) I’m fine with you choosing to stay home. But far more often than not, when I come across the rantings of expressed nonvoters, I’m seeing a lot of quasi-intellectual buzz phrasing, but little to no well researched, thought provoking and logical explanation for declining to vote. And I certainly don’t see any viable alternatives to community building on a governmental (or otherwise) level. I see vague problem naming with no offer of solution; I see plenty of “this is what I don’t do” sans “this is what I do instead.” And I get the sense that if I hit any of them with an impromptu pop quiz on all (or even a few) of the candidates running for various offices in their states, who has promised what and who has the best/worst record of keeping said promises (all info a person should have ready before unequivocally deciding that voting is useless), they’d look at me like Rachel Dolezal looking at 23andMe results.
First things first, let’s all get it out of our heads that voting was ever meant to be an end all solution for all the socio-economic ills of our respective communities. All voting does is give you a say (however small) in the system of governing you as a citizen have to live under whether you choose to participate or not. (I’ll also point out that all these apparent voter suppression initiatives, gerrymandering and incessant political lobbying we’re seeing wouldn’t be happening if voting was truly inconsequential.)
It’s also worth mentioning that candidates aren’t the only things you’re voting on; there’s a plethora of bills, propositions and referendums you get a say in as well. In fact, after election day, I took to Facebook, out of curiosity, to ask my friends and followers what, besides candidates, was on the ballots in their cities and districts.
The responses seemed damn near endless: propositions and measures to raise funds for affordable housing, tenant protections, cannabis regulations, water privatization, new voter ID laws, new tax propositions, school bond referendums, measures to get remaining Jim Crow laws off the books, Marsy’s Law – a law requiring the courts to notify family & victims at least 6 months prior to a violent felon being released, hunting regulations, EPA regulations, restoration of voting rights to felons who have served their time, ending offshore drilling, homestead tax exemption, public school funds and on and on and the fuck on.
So, you mean to tell me you can read through all that and not find a single thing to vote on or vote down that may directly impact you and yours? Word? I mean, I guess, bruh.
Look folks, I’m not claiming to have all the answers; I can’t leave you with sure fire ways to make the conversation around voting more productive and less toxic. All I can suggest is less smugness and condescension and more informed substance on both sides of the debate.
That’s all I got.