One of the themes of this years WMW anniversary rallies was Get Out the Vote (GOTV). Many rallies had opportunities to register to vote for those who had not yet, and many speakers urged us to swarm the polls in November. The tacit, if not open call was to vote for Democrats, without much thought to anything else.
We need to vote. 45% of the U.S. electorate in November, 2016 stayed home. While the Democratic Party rushed to blame the left for its losses, 45% of the US public stayed home. And look what we got.
We need to vote. Staying out of the process only implies complicity with the status quo. Voting is one way to exert our power and expand our voices.
Or is it?
If we merely vote, do we really have a choice? Or are we merely certifying the choice others have made for us? The choice, usually an unchallenged incumbent, will certainly use populist rhetoric to some degree or another. Does that mean they support populist reforms? Not necessarily.
Simply voting for whichever candidate is chosen for us in many cases leads us to picking the least noxious candidate who has sufficient corporate support.
Uncritical voting for whichever candidate the DNC feels is acceptable gets us Democrats who are pro-choice. Democrats who put Wall Street first, regardless of what they claim. Democrats who slow down our desire for single-payer, while pretending they are supporting it. Democrats who will never, ever seriously address Citizen’s United, because they are benefiting from corporate donations, same as the Republicans. Democrats who are soft on gun control, minimal on supporting minority rights, Democrats who stay silent about the epidemic of sexual harassment. Democrats who support warrantless wiretapping and militarizing the police.
Democrats who are part of the problem.
Anyone who tells you to vote, without trying to empower your voice throughout the process, is merely using you for their own gain. It’s a line that sounds empowering, but is quite the opposite. GOTV, alone, is saying, “Vote for us, or else. You really have no choice.”
It’s a lie. You most certainly DO have a choice. You have a voice. You have values. You can fight for them, or you can back the first corporate candidate who is less destructive of those values. Who speaks against racism, but does little to attack an inherently system. Who parrots ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric without thinking about how those words actually ring across demographic lines. Who champions “market-based solutions” and tries to convince us that this doesn’t mean giving control over to Wall Street.
Making a Real Difference
It’s time to move beyond the simplicity of GOTV. Nothing is simplistic about the world, or politics. We are not children who need a parent who will control their entire lives while cooing nice words to lull us to sleep. We are adults, and our country, our values, are under assault like never before. It’s time to show up, stand up and speak up like never before.
It’s time to have the courage to start running primary races against mediocre candidates in our own parties. It’s time to make our voices heard, not just at the rallies or an occasional op-ed piece, but in the very halls of power itself.
Any candidate who is not up to that task is not worthy of serving today.
Any candidate who wants to ride out the tide, while promoting an inherently corrupt system is not worthy of serving today.
Any candidate who is not up to calling out the hate, violence and downright bigotry rampant in the country is not worthy of serving today.
GOTV implies that anyone – anyone – who isn’t Trump is okie-dokie. It’s a lazy, fear-mongering tactic that disempowers the citizenry.
GOTV implies that really, their are only two party options, and you’d better get used to that.
GOTV implies that voting in the right party is sufficient, now go back to sleep, all is fine.
If I could compost this manure, I’d have the richest garden in Connecticut.
What, then, gives us greater power and greater voice?
Doing primary work, including challenging incumbents who do not measure up to our standards.
Researching and following how a candidate votes, rather than believing a biased 30-second ad filled with either reassuring rhetoric or fear-mongering. It’s time to stop being emotionally manipulated into voting against our interests.
Considering third-party candidates. Those who believe that the Democrats ‘gave’ us the New Deal need to understand that Democrats fought against everything in the New Deal for a decade. When union members rose up, when socialism and communism became viable options, when Democrats started losing votes and were seriously worried about losing power, then, and only then, did the Democrats adopt the leftist platform which served us so well for so long. While the Republicans spent the next fifty years destroying it all, bit by bit, Democrats failed in the defense of these programs, and were complicit in helping limit many of them. Bill Clinton ‘reformed welfare.’
Since Clinton and the Democratic policy of ‘triangulation,’ things have only gotten worse. Much of the DNC has moved steadily to the right, embracing corporate money and corporate models. If one thing comes clear from 2016, it’s that the DNC will do whatever possible to quash any populist movements.
If we only GOTV, that is the best we will get.
Don’t lose energy. Show up at town hall meetings, flood your representative with calls and letters. Speak out and hold our officials accountable to the highest standards. We have that right. I’d argue that we have that responsibility.
GOTV? Absolutely. But let’s not stop there. Ultimately, democracy relies on masses of people speaking their truths, not in following one team or another.
When we put party loyalty over values and principles, we win for the party, but lose for our values.
I believe we can do better.