No One Died For Your Right To Vote
The Ancestors vs The “Vote”
The Midterms of 2018 are all but over. A few razor-thin races are still going on. Most notably, the Governors races in Florida and Georgia. These are races where some “Black Firsts” are on the line. Again, this is 2018.
Black voters have been getting hammered by Black voices from Left, Center, and Right. They fall basically into three categories:
- Don’t Vote: Voting is a waste of time and we should not bother.
- Just Vote: There are likely policy issues on the ballot that you haven’t heard about even if you decline to support the current red/blue duopoly.
- For the Ancestors: This group wants to guilt Black people into voting for the Democratic Party.
There is a short-term harm reduction subgroup that overlaps categories 2 and 3.
Category 1 is often a Black conservative position. In many cases, this group is saying withhold your vote since the system has failed us and don’t vote until there are policies on the table that help Black people now. Don’t confuse them with the tiny, nearly-negligible, poorly executed Black Republican Blexit or #walkaway campaigns.
I personally fall into Category 2.
Notice that Category 3 (Cat 3) is the only faction that avoids policy beyond preserving tepid legislation like the ACA/Obamacare, which is based on conservative legislation models from the right-wing think tank, the Heritage Foundation.
Cat 3 is the most heinous group on the list. They use the names & lives of slain Black leaders and historical movements to get us to “vote blue no matter who (or what).” This keeps the Black community running in circles. Since, of course, our Blackness is completely dependent on our blueness every 2-4 years <eye roll emoji>.
I’m going to say something semi-controversial here:
No one died for your right to vote.
People died for us to have some power and influence in a system that has killed, enslaved, jailed, and mistreated us for centuries. The “Vote” is a proxy for holding politicians accountable and to impact policy. Not just the ability to go into the booth and pull the lever. If you disconnect voting from accountability and policy, it means absolutely nothing. That is the point of all of these platitudes around voting from Cat 3.
Why Are We Here
A reasonable person could easily assume that this is an innocent, well-meaning misreading of history and people are only doing what they think is best. That makes sense, on the surface. However, if you take a step back and look at the political landscape, you soon realize that this is a cynical & insidious ploy to actually take power away from you. Voting is transactional. Your vote should come with a clear mandate. It must be earned through good policy that has a positive impact on your life RIGHT NOW. This is especially true for social, economic, and environmental policy.
One of the broad goals of neoliberalism/conservatism is to disconnect the wishes of the people from the direction of legislation on every level of governance. If we vote without concern for policy outcomes, it is much easier for powerful people to manipulate lawmakers through direct lobbying and “donations.” Essentially, we silence ourselves by voting Team Blue, /Team Red or “for the ancestors.” This is one of the myriad ways the rich and powerful maintain control of our institutions with their money.
What Can You Do
Ask Category 1 This Question
“If my vote is valuable enough to die for, why can’t I use it to demand good policy (or accountability from politicians/parties) for me & my family?”
If the response is “This is an EMERGENCY! WE MUST STOP X, Y, Z!!!” with no further explanation, they are likely a charlatan try to dupe you. Walk away.
They should be able to fashion some sort of plausible explanation of how the current vote will lead to more influence over policy and making politicians more accountable in the future.
Sometimes a shrug and “Shit. I don’t know. We gotta try.” is the sincerest response you’re going to get. At least, you know you can deal with that person later.
Do Your Research
Read up on the issues and the candidates. Check their donors and see if there is a connection between their actions (word or deed) and the money they receive.
Voice Your Concerns
Go to town halls. Ask how politicians and officeholders how they plan to earn your vote. Don’t let them hustle you with “the other side won’t let us…” You can say something like “What specific policy is your top priority? What will be the impact on me & my family? What is your schedule to put that legislation forward, once in office?”
Questions like this can end the tap dancing. Keep pressing them.
You can also call their campaign or government office. Stay on top of them. Get people with the same concerns to voice them, too. Speak to others about your point of view and see if they will join you. You and this group of like-minded people can use social media to push your position and get answers.
It’s Your Vote
In the end, when you are in that booth you should make the best choice for you, your family, and your community.
Here is a story about my community: