Election

September 2nd, 2008  |  Published in Defiance Ohio  |  2 Comments

Reported from the Defiance, Ohio site:

Two nights ago, at our show in Bloomington, I talked about why I’m voting in this election and why I’m frustrated that many of my punk and activist friends feel like not voting somehow changes all the things that are wrong in our world and all the things that are problematic about electoral politics. As usual, I didn’t feel like I articulated myself as well as I wanted to, but instead of trying to explain at greater length why I’m voting for Barack Obama in November especially in the presidential race, despite realizing all the problems with many of Obama’s policies and rhetoric and the shortcomings of electoral politics in general, I’d like to quote from Adrienne Marie Brown (who works with projects like the Ruckus Society, League of Pissed Off Voters, and Allied Media Projects) from her post i want barack obama to be the next president of the united states, but.. because she says it really well:

… i feel like two people watching this.one sees this strategic, dynamic, mixed race man, skillfully touching all the bases on his way home to the white house. that self drinks the kool-aid as much as a cynic can, i am impressed by his grasp and execution of community organizing and mobilization, how he has crafted himself as king and kennedy and more. he seems to have been made for this moment, even for skeptics and community organizers. i lean in when he speaks, trying to disguise my own smiles at some of the lovely lines that slip in between the ones that hurt me, or disappoint me.

the other side sees the parts i disagree with, the special interests, the effects of a broken and at this point actively stupid and elitist, capitalist, empire-protecting system. i see how he has to say things that are morally reprehensible if he wants to consider being elected to this position, and god knows which of his values will have to be compromised once he’s in office, that place most distant from the people of the nation. i believe that we would need 50,000 baracks or people more radical than him running at the local level to experience any changes based on leadership like his. and yet…

what the rest of world will understand with this shift!

i am not on a fence between republican or democrat, i am not tempted by green at the federal level. i want a multi-party system with permanent records of voting (paper ballots), same day registration, a vote for anyone paying taxes, and proportional representation, but i don’t think the path to get there is by placing us in john mccain’s fragile, feeble, maverick hands by splitting the progressive vote. i specifically want barack obama to be the next president of the united states, in spite of all my doubts and cynicisms and fears. i like how he splits the difference on the hardest issues, i like his (or his speechwriter’s) ability to find a common sense middle ground, and i like that he is passionate and visionary at a time when the easiest space to occupy is debilitating and isolating anger.

and because it scares me to feel even slightly authentic in my excitement about a candidate, understanding what i do about the history of candidate failures, disappointments, flip-flopping or sheer incompetence, the broken system, the inherent flaws of humanity that makes us desire hierarchy so…i will not hit the streets stumping for obama, i will not start a little fundraising page for him that spirits more money away from the projects i work on 365 days a year election or not. i will continue to pour my energy into election protection, and raise money to support grassroots organizations who make sure candidates who are willing to listen have organized bodies to hear from.

but behind a closed door, rereading the transcript of his speech on race, delving into his organizing analysis from his early years in chicago, seeing parts of my story in his own, and wanting to debate him about those issues on which i deeply disagree with him, i confess: i want barack obama to be the next president of the united states.

I urge everyone to read the post in its entirety. What I love about it is that it shows that political engagement is not about a singular decision or moment, it is not about investing oneself fully in the promises or rhethoric of a candidate (or a grassroots movement for that matter). To me, politics have always been about the constant process of questioning and requestioning both the external and internal messages. It has always been about reconciling hope, fear, anger, cynicism, and accountability to my history, my family, my loved ones, my community, and the social work that I do.

  • I’d be interested in hearing why people don’t want to vote.

    From the people around me, it sounds like the US has an increasingly deep pool of distrust towards politicians. Statements like:

    “not doing their jobs”

    “hundreds of politicians, and zero statesmen”

    “all I ever hear are words words words”

    It seems like people not only think that their voices are lost in mix; their elected officials’ voices don’t matter anymore either….

    I’m not sure that’s actually the case (sample bias?); so I’d like to hear what people think.

  • For most of the people that I know, I think that it’s an identity as an anarchist or anti-authoritarian and that voting is unpopular/uncool with that identity. I also think it’s inertia. High school civics class didn’t compel folks to register to vote in the first place – this coupled with itinerant lifestyles means that people can’t be bothered to get registered and figure out where their polling place is.