This was originally going to be one of those bullet-point lists like “five reasons why voting matters” or whatever, particularly geared toward those of us at the more radical end of the progressive spectrum. Because there’s definitely a lot to talk about. My own views continue to evolve and become more nuanced as I get older, talk to more people, and expand my perspective. What I’ve landed on is this:
Politicians don’t create change; mass movements create change.
And if I’ve learned anything over the past decade or so of being involved in different movements, for different causes, in different roles/capacities, it’s that movements aren’t built by flawless, air-tight philosophical analyses; movements are built by relationships.
I know that election season has the power to co-opt activist energy. I know that voting for the lesser of two corporate-controlled evils has consequences. I know that even the most liberal major-party candidates are still super problematic about this issue or that issue.
But I also know people. Organizers I look up to, activists with years more experience than me, community leaders I trust, and love, and respect, most of whom are women, most of whom are people of color, most of whom have deeper roots in this community than me: these people are telling me to get out the vote. So I’m going to vote, and I’m going to strongly encourage everyone I know to vote.
We’re not laboring under the delusion that any politician can “save” us. We are acknowledging the power of voting as one tactical move in a larger strategy. As I’ve written before:
Elections represent a few important opportunities. First, they’re winnable. Even small victories are something concrete and energizing, which helps sustain larger movements (when these victories are put in a means-to-an-end context and not treated as ends themselves). Second, they’re a great media force-multiplier: because so many people still see voting as the primary way to “get involved,” a specific candidate can sometimes spread the word about an issue further than a broader activist campaign can; they may even be able to mobilize people who wouldn’t otherwise get involved. Finally, elections can put good people into positions of power. We’re not just talking about the president here—this is about school boards, city councils, state reps and more. Local elections are a power bottleneck, and it just makes tactical sense to take advantage of them.
But again, my buy-in to all of this is people-centered. So shout to friends, neighbors and allies at NOC, TakeAction, ISAIAH, MPIRG and everyone locally and nationally doing this work, all of whom know damn well that this work doesn’t end on election day.
At top: Sims, Toki Wright, me and Rep. Keith Ellison