Not That You Asked, But... | Voting
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Last night I posted a funny meme on Facebook making fun of Joe Biden.
A good friend called me out on it, which I always welcome - I don't open my mouth about anything unless I'm prepared to discuss and defend it and admit if I'm wrong - but my response ended up being so long that I decided to make it this week's topic.
We ended up talking about why it's important to vote for Biden, and the concept of pushing him left after he's elected; the usual liberal talking points, all of which I disagree with. Ultimately he asked me the ultimate question:
"Since you seem to be 'willing' to do so much, how about you point to the right choice in this situation since you seem to have all the answers?"
My response (edited and embellished for clarity in hindsight):
Gladly. The problem - the deep problem, the actual problem - not Trump, but the problem, or one problem, that led to us getting Trump in the first place - is the way we think about voting and how we decide who to vote for. Changing that mentality is the key to actually making the changes we need to make to the system.
Aspect One: Relatability Politics
I wrote on this in my column last week and called it Relatability Politics. It's the concept of idolizing and celebritizing politicians because of aspects of their character that we relate to or admire.
A big example right now is Biden's response to Trump attacking his son: he stood by his son the addict, which is HUGE for a politician, and it's amazing, and he earned even my respect for it. It's a big deal. It also has exactly nothing to do with what he will or won't do for the country. It just doesn't. A person can be wonderful to the people they love, have all the integrity in the world, and still have horrible intentions for the future of our country. Assuming a good personal quality translates to a good plan fir the country just isn't logical - not that I'm directly comparing the two men, but Hitler loved dogs and painting, that didn't make him any less evil.
Another example is AOC: I'm not making any presumptions about why you may personally like her, but I see a whole lot of support in comments and in the news based on her attitude: "AOC claps back," "AOC shuts down GOP senator," "AOC sums up perfectly," etc. Not "AOC's new proposed legislation and how it affects us" or "AOC in talks to head house subcommittee," just a whole bunch of love based on her 'tude.
And of course, my favorite thing to be salty about: the major surge of support for Nancy Pelosi when she ripped up Trump's speech.
What the hell did that accomplish? Did that undo anything he's done? Did it lose him this election? Did any Trump supporters see that and think, "Wow, y'know, she makes a great point and I see things differently now?" No. Of course not. It was just a petty little power play. It was just a performance.
It's all about the show; it's all about characters or Character. That's what most of the country - in both major parties - is basing electoral decisions on. That has to stop. We have to start actually paying attention to actions, intentions, and accountability.
Aspect Two: Accountability
Specifically, holding our politicians accountable to their charge as public servants, and that starts with violently disengaging from the two-party system.
When I talk about accountability, I'm talking about the fact that, supposedly, these people are meant to be enacting our will for the country, and they very much aren't; and I'm also talking about the disparity between what candidates say they want and say they'll do, and what their actions actually are.
As far as the second part goes, I'm talking about the fact that Biden says he believes climate change is a major threat, but when presented with a solution that will actually help, he calls it a "framework" and offers a toothless plan that has no effect until it's too late, in the interest of not pissing off his wealthy donors. I'm talking about all his talk about racial equality, versus his plan to do precisely nothing to stop cops from hunting black people for sport. I'm talking about all his talk about being in this crisis together and needing to take care of each other, but not supporting Medicare for All. His intentions and his actions don't correspond to his words. I know which one I generally believe in people.
As for the first part: the DNC and all its candidates up- and down-ballot know full well that as long as the Republicans are horrifyingly awful, the Democrats have your vote. I see a lot of talk about "demanding" that Biden support policies like M4A and the Green New Deal; but when you're completely open about the fact that even if he doesn't, he still has your vote, that demand is more toothless than a 90-year-old meth-head.
Demands have consequences if not met. What consequences are you willing to dole out to Biden if he doesn't start bending to your will as he's supposed to? Are you aware of what consequences would actually be effective? Because objectively, the only thing you have that Biden needs is your vote. If he already has that, there is literally no reason for him to listen to you unless he wants to, which he's been pretty clear is not the case.
I mean you're not going to riot; you might protest, but you won't be terribly disruptive; you've got nothing to force his hand once he's elected. You've got nothing to force his hand now, except one option: openly and LOUDLY let him know, en masse, that fear of Trump is not going to win him this election; that if he wants to win, he has to stop focusing on his corporate interests, who don't want anything to change, and start listening to the American People, who do. That if he refuses to support what you want, your vote will go to someone who does. That's literally the only weapon you have in politics (besides a violent revolt, and no one wants that).
We need to stop thinking of voting as public transportation - that analogy about it being like a bus, pick whichever one gets you closer - and start thinking of votes the way Christians think about virginity: you have one vote, and it matters who you give it to.
I mean would you tell a teenage girl, "You have to lose your virginity to someone, so don't waste time looking for the perfect person; just find the person who's closest and go for it?" If a teenage girl you care about told you they were thinking of losing their virginity to someone, and that person said they loved her but treated her badly, said she was amazing but constantly insulted her, said he was going to take her places "someday," but never did - would you tell her that's a great idea, or maybe suggest that she can do better?
(Virginity is a misogynistic social construct designed to reduce a woman's worth to her sexual "purity" as though she were a piece of property that's been "damaged" by having sex, so ideally we should be telling our daughters to just know their worth and to avoid sleeping with people like I described above just based on not rewarding bad behavior, not turning their first time into some creepy coming-of-age event, but I needed a metaphor and it fit, gimme a break - I'm a good feminist and an anarchist prophet, that don't mean I know how can do write words good)
That's how we should be thinking about voting: your vote matters, and you should give it to the person who shows you that it matters to them. If that means you vote for an unpopular candidate, so be it; if that means you just don't vote, that's just how it is. But as long as we give our votes by default, there's absolutely zero incentive for politicians to actually change things in our favor.
Aspect Three: Strategic Voting
The idea that who's most likely to win should influence who we vote for - in other words, "strategic voting" - is toxic as all bollocks and completely illogical, and is the biggest killer of democracy in our culture, and is more than anything else in the world the reason we wound up with Trump in office.
I'm not sure if you know this, but Sanders had overwhelming support based on policy in 2016 and 2020. Granted, in 2016 the DNC pulled some HFMF (acronym to censor NSFW phrase, find me on Facebook to find out what it is), but even without it Sanders wouldn't have won the primary, because in both elections all anyone could talk about was "Well I love what he wants to do, but I don't think he'll beat Trump!"
Mathematically, yes, he would've. Easily. If everyone voted based on policy instead of polling, Sanders would've won in a landslide against all other primary contenders and against Trump.
Same goes this year for Howie Hawkins, with the Green Party: He supports Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, recreational weed, and a dozen other things that y'all are hoping to convince Biden to support. When I say you can have an administration who fights for the Green New Deal, I'm not saying "Biden supports a watered-down version and maybe by the end of four years you can convince him to make it an actual plan." I'm saying "There is a viable, intelligent, passionate candidate on the ballot in 30 states (and registered as a write-in candidates in 17 Others) who already supports exactly what you want." It's like Frozen:
Only instead of climbing the staircase, you're choosing to fruitlessly try to climb up the cliff face, making zero progress, because - what, you don't think enough people are going to go to the staircase with you?
I got news for you: that's what everyone assumes, and that's literally the only reason it's true. It's circular logic. I've typed this out literally over a thousand times at this point:
1. People are convinced third parties won't win
2. People don't vote for them
3. They don't win, because people didn't vote for them
4. People don't vote for them, because they didn't win
5. They don't win, because people didn't vote for them
6. People don't vote for them, because they didn't win
...and on into infinity. Doesn't that seem dumb to you? Like, infuriatingly illogical?
It's not that people disagree with the policies - especially this year, where, like I said, Hawkins supports literally everything liberals talk about pushing Biden toward - but people aren't voting based on the policy; they're voting, more than anything else, based on who's likely to win, without ever considering the fact that who wins depends on who gets votes, and that we all (on this side) agree on what we want, so if we vote for what we want, that candidate will win. But that doesn't matter, because we assume that everyone else wants other things (despite quite literally all evidence to the contrary), so we don't vote for what we want. Does that not just make you want to friggin' shake someone?
The two best solutions to this are to end pre-election polling and to abolish political parties.
Polling is misleading. Plain and simple. It's billed as an accurate gauge of who's more likely to win, but I think we saw clearly in 2016 that it doesn't work at all. Here's the thing:
1. Not everyone who votes is polled. Responsible polling agencies try to make polling pools as representative as possible, but there's only so much accuracy you can get from even the most diligent sampling, as any scientist can tell you. So despite best efforts, no poll is going to be completely accurate.
2. Any poll's accuracy depends on sample size. Polling a group of 100 people is going to get you very different results than polling 1,000 people with the exact same questions. Generally speaking, larger sample sizes are more accurate; small sample sizes are not definitive. The news doesn't report sample sizes.
3. Polls aren't equipped to give context; why people vote is more important than who they vote for. A person voting for Biden just to get rid of Trump, a person voting for Biden based on his policies, a person voting for Biden because they've always voted Democrat and aren't about to change it up now, and a person voting for Biden because they're confused in some way are all very different situations; lumping them all in together in an oversimplified generalization leads to much different conclusions than we'd draw if we had context.
4. Some people know who they're going to vote for before candidates are even announced. Some people know they're going to vote Republican no matter who the candidate is, and some people were "blue no matter who" way before Trump. So when early polling data comes out, it's based on the people who are pretty sure of themselves already, and there are generally a lot of undecided voters looking at that information and letting it affect their decision-making.
So we have this polling tradition which is inaccurate, unreliable, lacking in context, and poorly communicated, but which plays a huge part in determining election results. That is not a responsible use of democracy. That has to go. Publish policy. Publish voting records where applicable. Publish public statements. Let voters draw their conclusions about who the best candidate is instead of distracting them with "look how many people are voting for this one!" Or, in this year's case, "OMG LOOK HOW CLOSE IT IS YOU BETTER VOTE FOR YOUR GUY DON'T EVEN EFFING THINK ABOUT VOTING THIRD PARTY OR WE'LL ALL DIEEEEEE"
Political parties are also misleading - intentionally so. They don't mean anything. As I've mentioned before, the entire DNC party platform is very much in the conservative authoritarian quadrant of the political compass; and if you look at individual policies of Democrats vs. Republican, there's a difference in reasoning and in rhetoric, but ultimately the practical plans of both parties are more or less identical:
- R wants war to "protect our freedom;" D wants war to "bring democracy to other countries."
- R wants militarized police to stop "anarchists;" D wants militarized police to stop "anarchists."
- R wants immigrants in cages because Immigrants Bad; D wants immigrants in cages but knows how to shut the hell up about it and fly under the radar.
- R wants poor people to screw off and die with people hating them; D wants poor people to think they're rich while they screw off and die.
Across the board, no practical difference.
My point is, parties are meaningless. The only purpose they serve is to give the illusion of solidarity and the illusion of an opponent. Literally their entire use is tricking us into supporting people based on anything other than policy. They gots ta go.
There are more aspects, these three were just off the top of my head this morning, but that's a good start I think.
Now: if you're a liberal reading this, I know you're not going to be swayed by any of that, because nobody ever is. Nobody ever listens, most don't respond, and if they do it's usually something about them being pragmatic and all this being idealistic. I disagree: this is realism; your "pragmatism" is nothing more than defeatism masquerading as rationality. My logic and reasoning checks out here; the only reason it seems idealistic and naive to you is because you're hearing it within your worldview that change is impossible except in increments, that abject compromise is the only option for resolving differences, and that your only power is in writing letters and calling representatives and voting for the lesser of two evils. I disagree (but we'll address that another time).
If I'm going to leave you with anything, it's this: The way it's always been is not the way it always has to be. Real change is not only possible, but relatively simple: just change what you're doing, change how you view things, and you'll get different results. Take your power back. This is supposed to be democracy; we have the power. We've been taught for a generation or two that we don't; we have to unlearn that, or we will continue this spiral into more and more overt fascism and inequity until we're all dead and our grandchildren have to revolt. It'd be a shame to burden future generations with that responsibility when we have such a simple solution right now. Let's pull together and actually use it, yeah?