The effects of decades of voter disenfranchisement and partisan politics put a dent in the supposed importance of voting in elections. Margaret Valenti explains why voting, on its own, will not change the U.S. political climate.
If you took a look at U.S. social media today, you would think that voting is the most important thing anyone will do in their entire lives at this pivotal, hyper-political moment in our nation’s history. People are out on the street, protesting for racial justice — the abolishment of policing and the criminal justice systems that fuel the preschool to prison pipeline — even while military and police forces continuously use violence against them. While support for the Black Lives Matter protests continue to drop from where it was over the summer, those protests did more to change the incarceration systems in this country than years of voting and legislation ever did. At this moment, how am I — a person both sides target as a voting demographic — supposed to have faith in voting when I see more change happening on the streets than from the ballot box?
VOTE SAVE AMERICA? REALLY?
Despite the change occurring due to months of protests, there is only one consistent message from the pro-Biden media today, vote against Trump like your life depends on it. I open Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and everywhere they ask me what is your plan to vote? Are you registered to vote? Who will you vote for? Where do you live? All to help you get registered to vote and decide how, when, and where to vote, and who to vote for.
Via Facebook Via Twitter. New explore section on Twitter dedicated to U.S. election information.
Why ask me these questions? Why, now, more than ever, do you want me to vote? Why do you want young people to vote, now, more than ever? Why is it only now that social media companies are so concerned with election interference? Is it because they finally found their moral purpose, or, more likely, is it because of the man in the Oval Office? Both Facebook and Twitter both faced accusations of actively promoting or not adequately addressing misleading, damaging, or dangerous information on their platforms. However, they now promise to more completely address these concerns, angering Trump and other conservative voices. These platforms are now a part of a narrative that equates voting to an act of rebellion as if everyone who is against Trump is a part of the same group.
However, these social media sites, apps, etc. know young people can decide an election, and they know we hate Donald Trump almost universally. They simply wonder if we love Joe Biden enough — or they want to convince us to. Joe Biden, the man whose presidency will work more like a bookmark than a hand turning the page to a new chapter of U.S. history.
Voting for Joe Biden — for me, a white upper-class woman who experiences no infringement on her right to vote — is not a rebellious act, it is a multiple-choice test. For other parts of this country, in communities of color, particularly Black and Indigenous communities, voting looks more like the recent Belarusian election than a fair and democratic process. Consider what happened to Stacey Abrams in 2018. Going even further back in recent history, Trump stole the election in 2016, and Russia helped him do it. Russian propaganda won the U.S. 2016 Presidential election, not Donald Trump — he is an illegitimate president.
Two political parties, two choices, every four years, that system is breaking in front of our eyes, a system easily manipulated by Russian bots. It is simply not an equitable system anymore, it cannot speak for enough people, and it is way too vulnerable. If you want to convince me that this election is critical, that voting is essential, prove it. I am convinced it will not matter this time around.
NOT THIS ELECTION
Simply put, Joe Biden does not care about me, a progressive. We know how to drive this country forward, not him; while we have our feet on the gas he is more than happy to sit in neutral. Voting for Joe Biden, for me, is like voting for a blank vision board. At least Trump has a plan, though that plan would take the U.S. back to the 1960s. I am trying to say that my vote does not matter because I do not have a candidate to vote for. I only have one to vote against since Trump’s behavior and actions throughout his life personally disgust me as a human being. However, I do not want to be a person that votes against someone and for nothing.
Theoretically, the people could vote Trump out in this election. All of his potential and devious plans for his second term as President could come to a halt — though, theoretically, he could still run again. Still, what will change under Joe Biden? Joe Biden is not some change-maker that the Democratic Party tries to sell him as, any benefits that come out of his presidency will be minimal; aside from the fact that if Joe Biden is president, then Donald Trump is not President, and that is objectively a good thing.
However, to call this moment, right now, the most consequential election of our time is absurd. Biden’s presidency will not stop the alt-right rise in U.S. politics, nor will it stop the momentum of progressives. His presidency will not bring about racial justice, or further progress on LGBTQ2IA+ rights. He wants to fund the police, not defund the criminal justice systems, and he does not utter a single word about trans rights.
He claims to have a climate plan, but that is more of a potential to save the U.S. economy plan than a plan he believes in. Warren’s campaign estimated that an investment in green technology today could potentially help the U.S. be the leader in what could put $10,000,000,000 into the economy. That plan would mitigate national debt and put the U.S. on the right path towards a greener future, tackling two birds with one stone, proverbially. Joe Biden is not pro Green New Deal, he simply thinks it could help him improve the economy during his term. It is not an accident that he started listening to progressive voices in the climate movement right as the economic effects of COVID-19 became a painful reality.
INSTEAD, ADVOCATE FOR CHANGE
What I would need from Joe Biden is for him to apologize, sincerely and competently, for his past remarks, votes, and actions. I would need him to truly want the system to change, to actively tell us to go to the streets and demand change. In him, I would need to see someone who knows that the power of a march, of a protest, is just as powerful as the vote, if not more so.
Change is necessary, but change will not come simply through voting, and Joe Biden is not looking towards the future people like me want. Nothing will make the next four years any different unless there is a massive systemic reform, a call to action that puts millions of bodies in Washington, D.C. The Civil Rights movements and the suffrage movements, throughout history, and around the world, prove that theory.
The fact is that the most pivotal election of my life is years away, if not decades. I am okay with that. No one can convince me this is the election that changes my life given the disconnect between politicians, and the people whose interests they should make more of an effort to align with. Is it fear? Anger? Uncertainty? Panic? that drives people to believe that this election will change things? Is it those same emotions that keep politicians so disconnected from the people they serve? I have no answers, yet, only questions.
Until I stop having questions, I will be unable to answer why this election is so momentous. Trump is friends with autocrats globally, and, as a Senator, Joe Biden also made friends with segregationists. Remember the 1994 crime bill he helped create? If you look at the effects in the modern world, the United States now has a mass incarceration crisis that disproportionately affects people of color, primarily Black and Indigenous communities. There are more people in prison in the U.S. than any other nation per capita. That is why I have no faith this election will change anything. I have no faith in the importance of this election that is solely about voting against the other side, as politics has conducted itself for decades now. So I will save my strength for the election that counts. Thanks for all your efforts, your words, your strength, but I cannot find a reason to have any right now. I will be writing on blank space towards true change, what I call a rally on white paper, if you need me.