Voting Is Not A Political Action — I Still Feel The Bern, But I’ll Vote for Her

Your vote is not an identity. Your vote is an action you take to further your goals, not an avatar for your political identity. You do not lose your progressivism because you vote for somebody to the right of you. Progressivism is about your day-to-day actions, not your biennial votes.

Voting is not a political action. Organizing and protesting with Black Lives Matter is a political action. Supporting Planned Parenthood is a political action. Volunteering for a conservation/environmental organization is a political action. Canvassing for a local politician is a political action. Donating to the ACLU is a political action.

Voting every four years? That’s just upkeep. Voting is how we make sure that the day-to-day work of those who invest time and money into making the world a better place is easier, rather than harder.

I voted for Bernie in the primary. I still believe in everything that led me to vote for Bernie. I still believe that it is wrong that the majority of wealth in America belongs to a handful of millionaires and billionaires and corporations. I still believe that it is wrong that our political process is beholden to those same forces. I believe that education and healthcare are rights. I believe in sending our youth to college, not prison, and I believe that the War on Drugs is the Jim Crow of our day.

It is my positions on those issues (and many more) and my work to align society with those positions that makes me a progressive, not my primary vote for Bernie Sanders. And — now that the primary is over — the presidential candidate who will be more amenable to those causes is not at all questionable. That candidate is Hillary Clinton by leaps and bounds.

And I get it. There’s a unique conflict this year. Bernie Sanders fought not just for progressivism, but against entrenched power. And it’s harder to imagine a more entrenched power than the presidential office. If Clinton wins, our last 5 presidents will have included two Clintons and two Bushes. Worse, the leaked DNC e-mails suggest a level of internal nepotism in the Democratic party that validates the frustration of Bernie voters.

And voting third party in the face of that just seems so appealing. Fuck the two-party system! Having only two options sucks. But we will never not have a two party system.

People like to think that we have a two party system because The Democratic Party and the Republican Party have accrued so much political power and infrastructure. They like to think that if we can elevate a third party that we will end up with more options. That is false.

The Democratic Party and the Republican Party have accrued so much political power and infrastructure because a two-party is the end-state in a winner-takes all election system.

However, we can hope to shift what either or both of the parties stand for. For example, the Democrats used to draw working class whites until Reagan pulled them over with his platform of dog-whistle racism, a strategy Trump has perfected.

Speaking of Trump, most appeals to vote for Hillary stress how entirely horrible a Trump presidency would be. And it would be. But my point holds whether it’s Trump or Cruz or Kasich or Bush. Who will make it easier for us to push a progressive agenda? The answer will always be Hillary Clinton, regardless of which Republican had won the primary.

Republicans have taken actions to roll back progress — whether that is restricting the right of black Americans to vote or rolling back the right of a woman to control her body — and so I know that progress is not set in stone. We must fight not only to make progress, but to keep it.

But Donald Trump puts a special twist on it all. It is tempting to call Trump not a true Republican. If anything, he has heard the hidden messages behind Republican signaling: women are unfit to lead, blacks aren’t true Americans, Muslims are terrorists, Mexicans are criminals, the only true Americans are white Christian dudes and their subservient wives just like in the good old days. He is just the first Republican to come out and say those things. Far from making him unelectable, it might make him the most electable Republican presidential candidate of the last 8 years: he actually reflects the base. A Trump presidency will be a validation that all of those messages represent America. This cannot be allowed to happen.

There is currently no working class party, and once the Trump tantrum is over, I imagine many of those people would be amenable to progressives like Sanders who support workers and seek to narrow, not widen income inequality.

But if Trump wins, the opposite could happen. Democrats might not trend to the left. They could easily move to the right to have a perceived better chance at beating Republicans. The same thing happened after Nixon and Reagan and that’s how we got to where we are now.

So if you’re a progressive who works towards those goals on a day-to-day basis, your identity is not threatened by “settling” (which is actually bullshit because Clinton is more liberal than most Democrats but whatever). Keep doing what you’re doing and know that Clinton being president will make your political efforts easier than Trump would, and that’s all that should matter.

On the other hand, if your only “progressivism” is a vote every four years, I can see why you feel the need to make sure that your only political action is a “progressive” one. But at that point, how can you criticize Hillary Clinton for not being a perfect progressive when you’re only a progressive one day out of 1461?

Oh, and besides, Jill Stein is anti-science and Gary Johnson wants to repeal Roe v Wade and eliminate public schools…

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Mattias Lehman

Democratic Party Delegate, Black Lives Matter, Proud Social Democrat, Aggressive Progressive —