The Enemy of Democracy
Complacency is what got us here in the first place.
Ever since the Democratic party’s convention, I’ve noticed Clinton supporters taking their candidate’s victory for granted.
By this, I mean that other than articles circulating on Facebook and constant posts “encouraging” people to vote for Clinton because she’s not quite as evil as her opponent, I haven’t seen a lot of direct outreach from Clinton supporters to other voters. Maybe I don’t travel in the right circles — after all, it’s no secret who I supported in the primary — but as a member of the group Obama called “the best organizers in the country” during his convention speech, I’m seeing a frightening lack of enthusiasm from the people who need to lead the charge for the Democratic nominee.
During the primaries, Bernie supporters actively recruited friends, family and even random people to come and support Bernie’s candidacy. He inspired that kind of passion. While there are certainly many vocal Clinton supporters out there, most don’t seem to be actively applauding their candidates’ accomplishments. This ringing endorsement of Clinton might be the best I’ve seen so far, owning the candidate’s faults and framing this unbridled truth as an asset. Calling Clinton a “badass bitch who knows how to get things done,” RuPaul says what we’re all aware of: whatever you think of her policies (or her political history) Hillary Clinton is a tenacious, driven, smart candidate with the ultimate qualifications for the nation’s top political office.
(Can you imagine if Clinton embraced that brand?)
Other than that, most Clinton supporters I know personally have focused their efforts on why Clinton is less evil than Trump. One said that all she could do now was sigh and “hope for the best”.
That is a problem.
In the narrative currently being broadcast both online and off, a Trump presidency is nothing short of an existential threat to both America and the world. But in the narrative his most fervent supporters follow, he’s the Bernie of the right. He’s going to save their fogged-up view of America from the threat of women, people of color, people who love differently than they do or worship differently than they do. When he urges “2nd Amendment People” to “do something” about Clinton or any Supreme Court nominations he might make, he’s standing up for their rights and “just saying what everybody else is thinking.” He may be speaking hate to the rest of us, but to his supporters, he’s speaking truth to power.
So no, Clinton supporters, you cannot just sit back and sigh and hope for the best. Complacency and satisfaction with the status quo doesn’t get people to the polls. It doesn’t make them call their friends and family and urge them to jump in the car to go vote. It doesn’t spontaneously mail stickers and encouragement to strangers across the country. It doesn’t crowd-fund hundreds of delegates or inspire people to stand for office at every level of government or organize the shit out of tens of thousands of volunteers. You know what does that?
Passion. Which, in today’s political climate, is synonymous with anger. Trump supporters are already angry. Parading around saying their candidate is going to lose is only going to make them angrier.
Anger will get you to the polls. During the primary, Bernie’s supporters were hopeful — incredibly, incredibly hopeful — but we were also angry. Furious. Incensed. At every turn, the DNC stoked that anger. They scheduled a shitty number of debates, aired on shitty nights and times. They colluded against our candidate. They denegrated us (and some continue to do so). They didn’t take us seriously. We may have lost the primary, but we took a candidate who nobody knew about and we brought him nearly half the number of total votes cast.
Do you really think Trump’s core of supporters aren’t doing the exact same thing?
This isn’t a conversation about Trump’s campaign taking a nose dive in the polls, or about the Greens and the Libs “siphoning” votes from a major party (and as I heard on late night TV, it’s not “siphoning” when it’s Republicans voting Democrat, which seems like a linguistic trick to help de-legitimize outsider parties). It’s not about who’s a raging tire fire if they don’t vote for Hillary. It’s about the necessity of motivating an ambivalent constituency faced with passionate, furious opponents.
Because let’s be real — Trump’s supporters aren’t the only ones who are angry. The Greens have seen an influx of donations and supporters, with Stein urging her supporters via email to vote for Democrats in all Senate races (with two notable exceptions, Margaret Flowers and Preston Picus). Stein’s supporters are angry at the rigged, capitalist, supremecist framework of American society, and they’re not interested — as Bernie was — in reforming the Dems from the inside out. Are the Libertarians angry? Only at the prospect of voting for a main party candidate. And guess what motivates people to vote?
That’s right. Anger.
You don’t make people angry by telling them the opponent is really scary. In this election cycle, you make people angry by pointing out the ways in which modern American society is failing to meet their needs (regardless of what those needs might be). Sanders got it. Stein gets it. Trump definitely gets it, even if the anger he’s inspiring is some of the basest and most disgusting stuff humans are capable of feeling.
Clinton, or at least her supporters, don’t seem to get it. People are angry at her, not with her. They’re angry at the DNC, which has come, through Debbie Wasserman-Shultz’s “leadership,” to represent an extension of the Clinton campaign and the underhanded tactics widely (whether fairly or not) associated with the Clinton brand. Clinton and Obama’s work to help Wasserman-Shultz in her upcoming primary against Tim Canova isn’t helping.
Now, I understand why Clinton can’t lash out at Trump in the same way as, say, Elizabeth Warren. A presidential candidate shouldn’t be getting into Twitter fights. And I can even see why this particular brand of anger might not appeal to Clinton’s supporters. Moderates in both parties can talk about how terrible Trump is until they’re blue in the face, but unless the electorate starts to feel passionately enough to go to the polls and wait in line and deal with whatever anti-voting rights bullshit has been enacted in their jurisdiction, this lack of passion will lose Clinton votes.
It’s not enough for the Democrats to insist that everyone left of center will fall in line. Many won’t. Furthermore, while watching people align and realign their politics in the primaries, I started to realize that the old poles — left and right, Federal vs. State supremacy— are no longer sufficient labels for the politics we live with today. Right now, the strongest divide I see between voters is the corporate vs. anti-corporate struggle. An eroding middle class, perceptions (and evidence of) governmental corruption, the decline of American manufacturing — these are the signposts of the battle. Clinton has major issues in appealing to voters on these issues. From NAFTA to the DNC email leak, the optics of current DNC leadership play terribly to potential voters. And maybe that isn’t fair — Trump seems to escape criticism for creating jobs overseas instead of in America (though he justifies himself with the black-and-white legality of his actions) — but then again…certain political figures, particularly those running as the grown-up in the room, should do what they can to appear sincere and beyond reproach. Or at least making an effort to reduce the reproach they face.
I’ve never seen an election like this before. Hell, my ninety-year-old grandfather has never seen an election like this before. And while I’m still struggling to decide where my vote will go in November, watching Obama continue to try and push the TPP through or seeing top Dems stump for Debbie against Progressive darling Tim Canova in Florida or knowing that corporate and dark money is still flowing into Democratic coffers regardless of Clinton’s professed willingness and drive to go as far as passing a Constitutional Amendment to get it out of politics undermines my desire to truly want this woman as our next president.
The media, meanwhile, seems to have once again decided the election result before voting day. Trump’s poll numbers are tanking, Clinton’s all but guaranteed the spot, et cetera, et cetera. Plus, the more outrageous Trump’s antics, the more likely it is that people won’t admit that they support him. But polls — as Bernie supporters know from the primaries — don’t always predict results accurately. The Bradley Effect or the Shy Tory Factor come to mind. How do we know that polls are accurately reflecting the number of people who plan to vote for Trump? There’s a lot of motivation for them to stay schtum this season.
But inaccurate polls aren’t my only concern, here. If the election is already decided, then Greens and Libs can go vote for whoever they want without worrying it will impact the results (not that they’re worrying). (Hell, having been told by a Trump supporter that “any vote for a third party is a vote for Hillary, it very well might impact the results!) People who don’t particularly want to vote for Clinton can stay home. Nobody needs to worry about it. Indifference and complacency, reinforced by the idea that the election has a pre-determined outcome (and in my more cynical moments, especially after the DNC leaks, it certainly seems plausible), will keep voters home on Election Day. That’s the narrative that’s being built right now.
Meanwhile, Trump’s supporters will still be angry. And with a media all but guaranteeing a GOP loss, a lot of other people will feel empowered — like some #Brexit voters — to use their vote as a pointed criticism of the system, without fear of its leading to a Trump presidency.
The enemy of democracy is complacency among the electorate, and unless Clinton — or, perhaps more likely in the current atmosphere, strong local candidates — finds a way to pull people out to the polls, a Trump loss may not be so certain after all.