There are less than 40 days to what will be be the most consequential election in our lifetimes.
Having listened to all the racism, sexism, xenophobia and general hatred coming out of Donald Trump and the GOP, it’s beyond belief that some people are talking about not voting. Salon recently noted that Trump’s candidacy and the forces propelling it are a last ditch effort to turn back the clock and restore angry white males to what they feel is their rightful place in the American hierarchy. That the politically inexperienced demagogue Donald Trump is running an extremely close race to the capable-on-all-measures Hillary Clinton tells you everything about the reactionary forces at play in this country. I mean, first they had to endure 8 years of a black man in the White House, and now the prospect of a woman? Add to that the fact that white people will be a demographic minority in this country in the next 30 years. It’s enough for plenty of people to rally behind a privileged, infantile narcissist like Trump.
If you’re cool with that then, by all means, stay home.
There’s no other way to say this: Y’all have to vote on November 8. It’s that simple. And I certainly hope things have changed since stories surfaces at the beginning of the summer (here and here) that black folks were sitting this one out. Singer Maiysha penned a powerful response at the time. President Obama even used strong language to urge every one of us to vote in order to continue the work that his administration has started.
And maybe you’ve heard this part, too: It’s not just the prospect of having a President Trump that should scare you. It’s his policies. It’s the fact that he will be able to nominate at least 1, if not 2, Supreme Court justices. Presidents come and go, but Supreme Court Justices last a long, long time. It’s that he most recently floated the idea of national stop-and-frisk, a policy that was struck down as both ineffective AND unconstitutional. More to the point, he’s 100% on the side of cops. He’s for dismantling Obamacare and throwing millions of people off the healthcare rolls.
Trump must be stopped. He’s given voice to the dark underbelly of American society. Granted, we’ve already known that the country was full of people who don’t like black and brown people, women, LGBTQ folks, Muslims, etc. But he’s made it okay to say those things loud and proud.
Voting matters. It also matters that you find out who’s running for the House and the Senate in your area. One of the reasons that it’s been so hard for President Obama to get things done–let’s just look at basic things like infrastructure bills to repair roads and bridges–is that the GOP-controlled Congress has held true to their mission to block him at every turn. To the extent possible (and it’s tough due to gerrymandered voting districts), we have to vote in people who will work to move things forward, not just obstruct.
So it’s not enough to keep Trump out of the White House: You’ve also got to pay attention to Congressional races. Otherwise, Hillary (and, yes, I hope Hillary wins) will face the same obstruction that Obama has faced. It’s that simple. We should all be clear that Presidents don’t have unilateral power. Presidents aren’t kings. They need Congressional support. That’s the way a representative democracy works. And that’s a good thing because power isn’t invested in a single person.
The other side of that people have to at least do their part and vote. You have to participate. Otherwise, you really can’t complain about the government you get. Pretty straightforward, I think.
Is Hillary “perfect”? Is anyone? There are plenty of issues you could have with her (here , and here). There are also real reasons behind why people feel that way about her. See here and here. And many black folks won’t let go of her “super-predators” comment. The Root‘s Kirsten West Savali wrote about why there shouldn’t be any whitewashing of the history around this. But let’s also remember that she wasn’t an elected official at that point. Earlier this year, Clinton apologized for using the term.
That said, not only is Clinton is a highly qualified candidate , she’s at the head of a what the Democratic Party calls its most progressive in history. Thanks to the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, both Clinton and the platform have been pushed to the left. Again, is it as progressive as it could be? AlterNet thinks not. Paste weighs the pros and cons of it. You can read the platform here for your self. On the other hand, the GOP went further right. Which would you prefer?
I’ll say it again: Trump must be stopped, and I feel like too many people are missing forest for the trees. As an example, right around the conventions, new media guru Clay Shirky chastised white liberals in a well-read Tweetstorm about their dismissing Trump’s chances of winning. A key point he made struck me as relevant to black and brown folks. He noted that liberals are in the minority in this country. Therefore:
Yes, yes, Clinton’s not as liberal as we’d like, but minorities never get the luxury of demanding a perfect candidate. Just give.
— Clay Shirky (@cshirky) July 22, 2016
“..minorities never get the luxury of demanding a perfect candidate.” Remember that.
What about Gary Johnson and Bill Weld (Libertarians) or Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka (GreenParty)? Johnson has shown himself to be not ready for prime time with his gaffe on Aleppo and his inability to name a world leader he admires. Stein is polling so low as to not be counted nationally. To be fair, noted public intellectual Marc Lamont Hill is supporting Stein and Baraka. Unlike Hill, for whom I have a huge amount of respect, I don’t think risking the damage that four years of a Trump presidency could do are worth it just to build viable third party. Here’s why: You don’t prosecute revolutions from the Office of the President. Rather, social and political change starts from the streets. Rallies and marches are great, but the next horizon should be to influence policy and move up to School Boards and City Councils, State governments, governorships, judges, the Congress and then the Presidency. And here’s a question: Why does it seem we only hear about Libertarians and the Green Party every four years? I feel like it’s a big ask to be invisible except during a presidential election cycle and then ask people to consider you for the highest office in the land.
In a “normal” election–one in which a major party didn’t put forth a reality TV star as its nominee–I could see people voting for alternative candidates. But Trump is dangerous beyond anything we’ve seen in the country. Again, it’s not just him, but the forces and people that propel his candidacy.
So, there really is no choice, especially if you consider yourself a pragmatic progressive. I urge you to register and vote for Hillary Clinton and other Democratic and/or progressive officials up and down the ballot. And then keep agitating and working to get even more progressive people into elected office at the local and state level. Getting Hillary elected–and stopping Trump–is one job of many. But believe this: The work that’s yet to be done will be significantly easier under a President Clinton than a President Trump.