Hypothetically, your vote means something. Yeah, I know, that’s a cracking start, like, real hopeful and inspiring, especially now you have to choose between an actual active fascist, racist bigot and, I dunno, Dracula or something, but hypothetically, hypothetically, your vote means something. The good news is it kinda doesn’t mean anything.
Lemme explain.The United States as it is currently functioning is not a functional democracy. Its electoral system fails to accurately mirror the thoughts and opinions of the population, and its agents, broadly speaking, are insulated against the impact of their actions on people’s lives. This is not, by the way, corruption: This is how the US electoral system works. There has never been a non-corrupt period in politics, and while there are some nice actors amongst them (and hey, Bernie Sanders seems like an okay guy), the odds are really, really good that every single political process you’ve seen, in the United States has been in some way fucky, by design of the system. There’s this weird mental history model we have where somehow this time it’s the worst of both worlds, because in part a lot of young people have gotten involved in 2008 and then in 2016, but mostly because historical context is something we’re actively taught to avoid and our brains love complying with that.
I know some people, and I support them wholeheartedly in choosing to do this, who will not vote at all in 2016. That’s fine. On a personal level, their vote is their support, and they look to the idea of giving support to someone they think of as the lesser of two evils as a functional failure of their own moral character. This is a totally acceptable way to think of it.
I don’t think of it that way. I don’t, in part, because your support doesn’t really matter, usually, and the political system you’re buying into isn’t really about support in the first place. It’s about a very weird, wonky game, and it’s a game that doesn’t work. And your vote is not a shard of your soul.
If your vote was in a country with a representative democracy, it’d be a meaningful thing to throw it behind an asshole. It’s not though.
If you view this in terms of steering a broken, collapsing, dying empire on a path that’s less likely to involve bombing everyone, even if that means that you’re probably going to bomb someone, well, that’s a sucky decision to have to make. But when it comes down to it, if you’re one of those folk in a swing state, and therefore, your vote may mean something, you are not surrendering a shard of your soul. You are ticking a box on a piece of paper to declare ‘I know who the shittier person is.’
What I’d like to see happen, which is what we said in 2008, and then sadly were shown was not going to happen in 2010, is if all this young energy that has seen ‘success’ in the polls could be directed to building lasting infrastructure, of committing to longer-term interest and awareness in the political world, and doing things like turning out to vote in the midterms.
Buuuuut it won’t.
The power in the United States at the top of the tree is pretty fucky. But you know all those people who are making laws restricting abortion rights? Those people making trans bathroom laws and have power enough to ignore or fight the federal government for their wants to abuse queer folk? Those are mostly know-nothing assholes running unopposed in state districts, Voting Population: Brenda And Chuck. There is so much power that is sitting at the bottom edge of the political system that is simply being left alone because it’s not the Big Race that happens every four years.
Because hey, from outside the US? If Donald Trump gets elected, you’re not going to have an imperial decline that will make Britain’s look elegant and soft.
Finally, Hillary Clinton, from everything I can see of her is a fairly malleable political agent. Look on the bright side, this suggests that she’ll do what she can to keep courting young folk and paying attention to their issues. I mean, young folk in non swing states can probably go fuck themselves, but that’s just how the game is set up.
In the United States, if you step out of the political system, that’s fine. Odds are good you’d never have made a difference, because the system is set up bad. You’re not obligated to invest in a system that doesn’t work.
But you’re also not obligated to invest meaning in a vote in that same experience.