Monday, October 29, 2012

My Thoughts on the 2012 Election + Link to Voter Guide

Part of the trouble with releasing an album on Election Day is that a lot of my energy and ink is put toward promoting that, rather than the obviously-more-important election. But before we get to a deluge of music videos and promos and reviews and all that, here are my thoughts on 2012:

This one is easy. Both the marriage amendment (which would write discrimination into the state constitution) and the photo ID amendment (which is a costly and dangerous solution to a non-existent problem) are mind-boggling unnecessary. They're both on the ballot this year largely because state Republicans are worried-- and rightly so-- that their straight, white, middle-class male base is shrinking. Photo ID explicitly addresses this for the future by attempting to backdoor-disenfranchise voters (which is scary and which is why we need to defeat it), but both referenda are meant to drive conservatives to get out and vote, especially in a year when no one is excited about the Republican candidate. It's all sinister political BS, and beating back this amendments would be a powerful step forward-- both as a symbolic victory and as a real, concrete victory. See the video PSA I shot at the top of this post for more info, and here's a cool "Vote No on Photo ID" song recorded by a bunch of great Twin Cities rappers:

The League of Women Voters have this handy voter guide that tells you what will be on the ballot in your area, as well as interviewing candidates so you can be more informed. One example of how this guide was helpful: in the race for Chief Justice, which I usually don't pay much attention to, I learned that one candidate (Lorie Skjerven Gildea) is the current Chief Justice, and that another candidate (Dan Griffith) likes to quote Ayn Rand. Now I know how I'm voting.

Winning isn't just about showing up and voting; it's about getting everyone you know to show up and vote. Have that difficult conversation with your family. Take that commercial break during the the football game to make sure your friends are planning on getting out to the polls. Record your own video PSA or write your own blog/Facebook post about why you're voting on 11/6 and spread it around. Forget that MN-nice "let's not discuss politics" rule and DISCUSS POLITICS. One vote is great, but 10, 50, 100 are even better. You don't need to spend millions of dollars on TV commercials to have an impact.

No matter who you vote for, there's going to be work to do on November 7 and every day forever. We can't let Republican victories destroy our morale, and we can't let Democratic victories make us complacent. I'm not the type to say that both parties are exactly the same, but they are both imperialist, corporate-backed, power-mongering political parties who don't have our best interests in mind. It's up to us to build mass movements to challenge our leaders no matter what party they belong to, and it's up to us to cultivate independent media, community power and real relationships at every social and cultural level. That's where positive change comes from. Organize.

That being said, I believe that elections can be effective tactical tools within this larger movement. To me, the important question is:

Does supporting Democrats enable their unprogressive policies, OR is supporting Democrats a tactical block of Republican policies that would be just as bad and almost certainly worse?

To me, that's the real question. It's not whether Nader cost Gore the election, or whether the two party system isn't fair, or whether both parties are exactly the same. It's not about theory or ideology or conscience-- it's about tactics. What is going to make our world better in a concrete way? And I don't have the answer. If you do, please post a comment.

I also think it's worth stating: some of the smartest, most effective organizers I know are hardcore Obama supporters, and some of the smartest, most effective organizers I know would never in a million years support Obama. I know smart, committed people who aren't going to vote at all, as well as smart, committed people who are going to vote for Jill Stein. Multiple sides to this debate make very good points; as progressives, let's not lose sight of that and tear ourselves apart.

I'm planning on voting for Obama (and other Dems), because when I do the math, I think it's worth blocking Republican policies (and taking a stand against the values those policies are based on). I think the "small" differences between the two parties aren't equally small for all people. I also really want the hateful, backwards, hypocritical conservative movement in this country to be dealt a death-blow, or at least a backhanded slap across the face. Mostly, I want us to be able to build a movement that can be on the offensive instead of the defensive.  It's not a choice I make lightly. Again, if you agree or disagree, feel free to leave a comment.

In the end, it's about what we do more than it is about who we vote for. We have work to do, and I think 2013 can be a great year for the progressive movement no matter what happens in November. Keep fighting.


Nick said...

I think this helps explain how our vote for the Democrats, doesn't send a "death-blow" to the right wing. but essentially allows the whole political spectrum to shift to the right because the Dems no longer need to worry about progressive votes. You can see how clearly this happens when you look back at Republicans from the past and they sound more progressive than Obama sounds now. It is continued support from the left that has allowed the whole conversation to shift to the point where the Repugs now talk like they are on a different planet. I like the below phrase and link:

The ratchet effect

Guante said...

Thanks for the link and the comment. Good stuff. My only counterargument would be the idea that we all already agree that change comes from people organizing and forcing politicians (no matter what party they belong to) to do whatever. So aren't the Democrats' failures OUR failures for not pressuring them? We have more leverage than our votes, right?

I totally agree with the whole "graveyard of social movements" stuff and that we shouldn't drop everything and dump all of our resources into getting Dems elected. But as voting is only one small piece of a larger movement toward progressive change (something I think we both agree on), I just haven't been convinced that the argument should be "don't support Dems" rather than "vote for whomever you want, and then organize."

I don't think we'll move further and further to the right-- look at the last 50 years, look at the shifting demographics of the country, the way culture evolves, look at the conversations we're having right now on a national/cultural level.

But I see where you're coming from. We had a great conversation over at on the lesser-evilism stuff where I said more about my stance (you'll have to scroll down some).