Filed under: Commentary
This year’s Blog For Choice question is: What will you do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?
It’s a good question. This is a good opportunity for me to flesh out my thoughts on all this.
My friends don’t really vote. Some don’t vote due to apathy or an aversion to politics, which I think is silly. But a lot of them don’t vote because there just isn’t a candidate that they want to vote for, in a nutshell. It’s a punk rebellion against a system that doesn’t speak for us, doesn’t represent us, doesn’t help us. Or a rightfully jaded and cynic realization that our votes just don’t count, and don’t change anything. Either way, lots of my friends voted for Nader for years, or didn’t vote at all.
We are told that we have to vote – voting is all we’ve got! Voting is democracy! It’s the way to have your voice heard! Haven’t you heard that enough? That the only real voice you’ve got is a blind ballot drop for a candidate willing to trade away your issues in a pinch? I grew up hearing that people who don’t vote don’t have the right to complain. I voted for Obama in 2008, and it was my first presidential election. And it felt SO GOOD. I partied on my quad at Syracuse the night he won, we even went to the inauguration for chrissakes. I was filled to the brim with pride and excitement and Hope. I don’t feel any of that anymore. I’m not totally off Obama these days like a lot of my friends, but I’ve grown more critical, more cynical about politics overall, and disappointed in the guy we thought would save us.
I recently went to a Planned Parenthood fundraiser at a woman’s house in Scarsdale, with my mom. NYS Senator Liz Krueger was there to speak, and she delivered a powerful, rousing and overtly pro-choice speech about how voting is imperative. About how voting is actual, and its effects are real. It’s a pretty privileged position to say “fuck this, this doesn’t work in my interest so forget it” because for some people, the most marginalized people, the decisions made by legislators are real. We can talk all day about how futile voting actually is, how unfair and unhelpful our system is, how politicians are in the pockets of the wrong people, how our taxpayer money doesn’t go where we want it to, how Obama hasn’t followed through on things that are important to us. And we’re right, sure. But if we don’t vote – we, the most radical liberals, the ones to the left of most self-proclaimed democrats – those other people win. And other people will suffer. IRL. And it sucks that it has to be a rock-and-a-hard-place things, a lesser-of-two-evils and democrats have to be there to stave off right-wing influence, but that’s the thing. Shrugs. But I’m not done there.
At the meetings of the as yet unnamed coalition formerly known at SlutWalkNYC, we are fed up with these options. It’s not good enough to concede and vote for Obama again just because we can’t (WE REALLY CAN’T, GUYS) let the alternative win. And I’m not sure if I’m voting for Obama in the presidential, but I only can say that because in New York it realistically ain’t no thang. We are tired of this idea that you go down to the City or DC for a big rally, presented by NARAL or PPFA, and it feels so GOOD to be there and to care about your issues and be surrounded by people who are ready to fight for that change – but the takeaway is “Thanks for coming! Now go home and vote for pro-choice candidates!” who in reality, aren’t fighting for our issues. Democrats and Republicans alike are happy to put family planning and reproductive health on the back burner, or to use it as leverage for “more important” issues.
We need to move away from a model that says that voting is all you’ve got, your most powerful tool against injustice. Because it’s just not true. Our most powerful tool is our voices – our real voices – and what we can do to change shit for real. SlutWalk was a glimpse into that for me – we were on the streets, screaming, giving a shit, demanding attention. And Occupy is the change I’m talking about – a movement where voting isn’t the be-all-end-all, and there is a world of other possibilities we can do incite change. And just like voting sometimes has real impacts for real people, you can see the change inspired by these grassroots movements too. I think it’s fucked up for people to say that if you don’t vote, you’ve given up your right to complain – We, as people, are more than a vote. We live here too. It’s a weird sentiment to say that if you don’t take advantage of this (hollow and symbolic) right, nobody elected has any right to care about you. These days I’m more supportive of my friends who don’t vote. I’m personally not ready to completely write off the idea of voting forever yet, but I’m ready for more. Fed up with the options given to us and ready to create more.
I’ve gotten away from the question. What will I do to elect pro-choice candidates in 2012? I lobby in Albany with my mom ever year, and it’s the most…nonradical (read: reg) democratic action I do all year. And it’s good to remind myself that these people are there and make important decisions. But I want to move away from beleving in our broken political system. I’m going to keep trying to make on-the-ground change, and raise awareness of the issues I care about. I’m going to keep signing petitions, reading articles and receiving emails to keep myself informed. I will keep tweeting and retweeting the truth about the candidates and how I feel about them. And I’ll probably vote, too.
Disclaimer: This post is muddled in terms of presidential vs local elections.
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