Aya de Leon’s Top 10 Voting Myths
Voting is critically important. Especially in this upcoming November 6th midterm election. But there are many myths about voting that can confuse or block us from fully exercising our power. Here is my top 10 list:
- If you are going to vote, it is your duty to educate yourself about candidates and propositions. Conservatives intentionally make propositions deceptive and hard to understand. If there was a bill in Flint, MI to give corporations the right to dump industrial waste into the already toxic water supply, it would be called the “clean tap water act.” The intention here is to make us feel intellectually inferior, like we’re not smart enough to vote. This is one of many strategies to disenfranchise people. My black ancestors were charged a poll tax, which they couldn’t afford. This is a mental tax, which I can’t afford. So I refuse to consider it my individual responsibility to educate myself about everything on my ballot. I find one or two trusted sources (progressive newspapers, websites, voter guides, friends, family). I don’t read up on things. I don’t compare platforms. I just find sources I trust and vote how they suggest. I don’t have time to develop my own opinion on every single candidate and issue. But I NEVER let this stop me from voting the whole ballot.
- Voting doesn’t change anything. Since the stolen 2000 election and Trump’s capturing the electoral college while losing the popular vote, progressives are having to learn painfully that voting is crucial. And not voting or not voting strategically can have disastrous results. Above all, the GOP is unscrupulous about gerrymandering, purging voters, stealing votes, manipulating votes, and blocking people of color and younger people from voting, because they know they can’t win if they play fair.
- We can vote away all our problems. Voting is critically important. But our system is profoundly broken. We need more than candidates and ballot measures to make the kinds of changes needed to reverse climate change, end racism, sexism, classism, etc. These changes happen through larger movements and community organizing. But they are not at all mutually exclusive. On the contrary, elections create the conditions in which we can successfully organize and strategize for justice. Electoral politics need to be part of our liberation strategies.
- Democrats and Republicans are the same. If the Bush and Tr*mp administrations have taught us anything, it is that there are critical differences between the two parties. We dishonor the many lives have been lost or destroyed by policies that Democrats oppose.
Me and one of my favorite progressive Democrats, Pam Harris, who is running for City Council in Oakland District 4. Pam represents exactly where the Dems need to go to be truly for the people.
The Democratic Party will save us. Not all of us. Yes, there are progressives within the Democratic Party, but there is deeply entrenched racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism in the Party, as well as corruption and backroom dealing. The Democrats have brought us many disastrous policies: neoliberal trade, wars, deportation, and mass incarceration. Yet the Democrats—on paper—have a lot in common with the goals and values of many of our liberation movements. So the battle is on to move the Democrats in a more progressive direction, and to make them accountable to the values they claim to espouse.
- Millennials are the problem. Younger people are not the problem. Younger people are inheriting a huge mess that they didn’t make. How can it be their fault if they just got here? Younger people can be the solution if we stop scapegoating them for a broken political system. The more we scold, the more we push them away and turn them off. LISTEN to younger people and truly engage with their minds instead of lecturing them and acting superior and dismissive. Offer support and encouragement. It’s not easy to come of age in this kind of despair and chaos. Honor their idealism, even though you might feel jaded. Help them think strategically and find their place in voting, activism, and world-changing. I wrote about this in the anthology Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times Edited by Carolina DeRobertis.
- Tr*mp has been a good wake up call. Too many people are dead, families separated, human rights threatened for women, trans folks, people of color to claim this as good. At the same time, this disaster has given us a much clearer picture of the forces in our nation that have been lurking just below the surface. As our nation slides toward fascism, this lack of pretense has emboldened some of these forces toward violent action against people of color, women, LGBTQ folks, Muslims and Jews. At the same time, it is useful that some more privileged folks no longer can pretend everything is okay.
- With Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court we’re screwed. Yes, this is bad. But the GOP has shown us that the Supreme Court doesn’t have the final word. In spite of Roe v. Wade being the law of the land, they have managed to restrict abortion rights across the board, by leveraging their power with state and national lawmakers. Whatever the Supreme Court rules, we will have to fight, at the ballot box, and on the ground.
- If we can’t flip congress in these midterms, all hope is lost. We are in a battle for this nation, and for the future of our planet at every level. The stakes are high, and the losses are brutal. But we can’t give up, even when we have setbacks. Because if we CAN flip congress, it’ll put a critical check on Tr*mp’s power, and begin the electoral backlash to the backlash. If not in 2018, then in 2020, and meanwhile, our movements–although fatigued–need to keep up the fight.
- We don’t have the numbers to elect progressives in the red states. Steve Phillips has crunched the numbers in his book Brown Is the New White: How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority. According to his research, a coalition of people of color and progressive whites can win any election in the nation. The key isn’t for Democrats to pursue “swing” voters, but to take progressives stand that capture the POC and progressive voters who sit elections out when the Democrats get conservative and don’t speak to their issues. But the Democrats need to shift from their business-as-usual of big donors and TV ads, and take a strong community organizing approach, which has proven effective time and again. As Democracy In Color‘s Aimee Allison put it, “In 2016, Democrats spent 75% of their billion dollar war chest going after white moderate and conservative voters—and we know how that turned out … Our swing vote isn’t from red to blue, our swing vote is from non-voter to voter.” And even as Dems are slow to heed the call, progressive and POC organizations are standing up to make sure everyone’s vote is counted.
Our lives depend on it. Our planet depends on it. Vote November 6th.