I awoke this morning to a Facebook notification: a friend had mentioned me in the comments of an article about Ned Lamont’s victory in the Connecticut midterms. It was, as the pros say, “a close one,” and by no means the only such election last night. I almost feel that the anxiety I felt last night was greater than the anxiety I felt in 2016, although I believe this is mostly due to my shock and horror at the presidential election results stopping me from truly feeling anything at all. This time I didn’t feel as though my self had left my body; I was firmly planted in my skin and thus able to feel all the terror that had two years ago been more closed off to me.
Another difference between this election and the last was that I was able to vote in this one. In 2016, despite being functionally no different from my eighteen-year-old peers, I was not permitted to vote due to my age. It’s horrifying to think about how many young people –– not just sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds, but true children –– have been and will be impacted by the Trump administration and have no “democratic” way to express their grievances. Voting is by absolutely no means the pinnacle of political action (if anything, it’s a starting point, and even then its ultimate effectiveness is questionable at best) but the fact that the very same kids at risk of immediate death by school shooting, or prolonged death by starvation or lack of health care, have no official voice against such mortal threats is despicable. Not to mention the countless immigrants and refugees barred from having a say in things like, you know, whether or not they’re separated from the infants they’re still breastfeeding.
I’m no believer in the democratic process; u.s. elections are farcical given that neither major party will allow a candidate to enter the political arena to challenge the wider social order; no system that seeks self preservation will enable the population to dismantle it via “playing by the rules.” In fact, we’ve seen that the ruling class actively prefers clearly-illegal actions that preserve white supremacist, imperialist capitalism to legitimate democratic principles.
For a class, I’m examining fascism, and in particular the ways in which capitalist liberal democracy can so easily birth fascism once in crisis. Given that, I feel the need to point out that fascist governments have been and will continue to be democratically elected. I will note that a population subjugated under capitalism and deprived from the fruits of their labor has and will continue to unite based on false ideas of [racial; national] “unity” in order to recover the selfhood they have been forced to sell to their bosses. I will remind you that the “other” is a far more convenient figure to fear than the rich person who looks just like you. I’ll remind you that the violent divisions by race, gender, and nation that underpin the fascist state, whose goal is the eradication of “the other” by total war, were specifically created to delineate types of labor to different groups of people and to stymie groups’ effort to unify against the capitalist class.
Of course, none of this goes away when elections “go our way,” either. We should have been having this conversation if the democrats had won the senate, too; we should have been having this conversation if Hillary or even Bernie had won. With a more friendly-faced administration in power, less people would probably have read that paragraph with seriousness. It appears that the unignorable-even-by-wealthy-whites Trump administration has opened the privilege to more “radical” possibilities, even if those possibilities are permitted to applying for a protest permit, walking around with a sign, and thanking the cops for supervising your ‘protest’ once it’s over. I don’t think this administration was “worth” the pain it causes so many, but if nothing else, I’m glad people are actually responding with some teeth.
At the end of the day, I’ve seen a lot of hot air blown from different news sources I follow. Some of those further to the left, usually more ideologically in line with me, seemed to tend toward the “I’m not voting because democracy is a sham” camp. Some people with similar political views with the former group, such as myself, continue to vote while simultaneously expressing our rage and disillusionment with a system designed to keep the ruling class in power. Others, unfortunately, go in the other direction, and valorize voting in a way entirely disproportionate to its real effects. As usual, I see a great grey in-between. I’m certainly not a “patriot”, nor am I a nihilist.
Now that I’ve voted in a primary and a major election, I feel I can say that I consider voting in elections to be a form of harm-reduction. I consider voting to be a responsibility for those who can, not because we’re going to vote ourselves into some imaginary “perfect america” but rather because what little we can control with the vote, we should, since those who are most impacted are also barred from voting. In the weeks leading up to the elections, I saw a bit of buzz among leftists online about the idea of donating one’s vote to an incarcerated or otherwise disenfranchised person if uncomfortable personally participating in the process. That would mean speaking to a prisoner and asking them how they would vote, and then voting in their stead at the polls. I would really recommend this method in the future to those who “didn’t want to get involved with” voting this time around.
We’ve seen some token improvements, some close saves, and we have breathed signs of relief at a re-won House even while disappointed by other races both local and national. I think I speak for many of us when I say we also breathe a sigh of relief that this election season is over, at least until the (oh, god) presidential election activities start up for 2020, which looms uncomfortably close.