Friday, 11 November 2016

I Didn’t Vote and I Stand by My Decision

If you’re one of the people who are unfriending people who didn’t stand with Hillary, find the ‘How do I stop someone from bothering me?’ button and press it hard now.

First of all, my choice not to vote had no effect on the election’s outcome. I am registered to vote in California. I wanted to vote. I wanted to vote to legalize pot. I wanted to vote to stop the death penalty. I wanted to vote for a lot of issues on the ballot. I wanted to vote.

Not Voting Was My Protest Against the Democratic Party

I chose not to vote as a protest against the Democratic Party (of which I am and have been a fairly active member for 30 years, including giving them money when I couldn’t afford to, protesting and canvasing when I lived in the States, etc) a party that resorted to Nixon style sabotage of a primary opponent, a party that purged its own voter rolls in the primaries to weed out ‘undesirable’ votes, a party that became intolerant to its own internal opposition.

I live in Ireland now so I had to make the decision to vote well before last Tuesday just to get my mail-in ballot to the polls on time. I spoke with a friend who convinced me to vote. I printed out the ballot. I carried it around with me. I agonized over this decision. The way I agonized over voting for Obama’s second term.

The Final Blow

The clincher for me was reading the Clinton campaign’s response to the protests at Standing Rock:

We received a letter today from representatives of the tribes protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. From the beginning of this campaign, Secretary Clinton has been clear that she thinks all voices should be heard and all views considered in federal infrastructure projects. Now, all of the parties involved—including the federal government, the pipeline company and contractors, the state of North Dakota, and the tribes—need to find a path forward that serves the broadest public interest. As that happens, it’s important that on the ground in North Dakota, everyone respects demonstrators’ rights to protest peacefully, and workers’ rights to do their jobs safely.

This was such a horribly thought out response it left me speechless and it was crystal clear that this is what an HRC administration would do for the next 8 years (and the 8 years matters because there would not be a possibility of another Dem opposing her in 2020 if she had won). This statement is an insult to the human rights violations that are going on there, it is a slap in the face to the freedom of the press violations, and it is a complete rejection of an opportunity to even engage in an environmental issue.

While Sanders took a long time to get involved (this has been going on for more than a year) and the Obama administration finally stepped up, albeit tepidly, the Clinton campaign did this – probably because she is a partner to the banking industry that is funding DAPL.

As the Democratic Party is jumping up and down about climate change, this was the silver platter event when the standard bearer of the party could have seized the moment, driven home the message about climate change, stood up to the banks and probably picked up a rather large portion of the Sanders contingent that had been lost along the way.

It would have been politically savvy to address the issue like a forward thinking, Democrat rather than a feckless politician. That she had to be asked by the tribes to respond was frustrating enough (but I had convinced myself that maybe she wasn’t responding in case it might look too much like exploitation and opportunism of some tragic events), but being asked – even pressured - into a response absolved her of those burdens and she not only completely fumbled the play, she revealed a kind of thinking and a kind of policy that is unacceptable for the Democratic Party.

This is a Republican response. This is a George W. response. This is the response from a group of people completely and utterly out of touch with what matters to a lot of the contingencies they were campaigning to represent – including and especially standing up to corporations and banks, an over militarized police force, and the gas and oil industry . (It made me realise that she was never going to successfully repeal Citizens United and would have probably sabotaged the process.) 

This was an event that came to her wrapped in a big red ribbon and she threw it in the garbage. If she wasn't willing or able to make this a campaign changer when her very success with the electorate was at stake, what was she going to do when she was in office and there was more pressure to serve the special interests than the people?

I Lost Faith with the Democratic Party After Obama Was Re-Elected

When Obama ran for the second time, he had just killed 3 children in a drone attack in Yemen. His tally of murdered children was about 90 and there was no end in sight for his drone war. I was livid, sickened, disgusted. This is a president who has a Nobel Peace Prize.

I debated with my political pals in California about not voting for Obama's second term and they went nuts about it. They told me that Romney was terrifying, the end of the world and that women's rights would suffer and on, and on, and on. And they promised me that they would help fight against the use of drones and Obama's foreign policy that was causing death and destruction on this side of the planet once he was re-elected.

I voted for Obama's second term out of fear. I caved and gave into all the ultimatums that were hurled at me. I fell for all the manipulative ‘you’re either with us or against us’ rhetoric - and then no one helped to do anything about the drones or the wars or his administration’s failed foreign policy. Since 2015, there are over 6,000 refugees who have died trying to flee conflicts the US has fuelled, 10,000 missing children who are feared to have been trafficked – not to mention the millions killed within the conflict zones. An estimated 95,000 unaccompanied children are refugees in Europe. The US is now involved in at least 10 global conflicts.  

The question that keeps running through my mind as I read all sorts of posts from other Dems condemning Dems like me, who didn’t vote or who voted third party, is: is your way of life more important or more valuable than a Syrian’s or Yemeni’s or a Grecian’s, German’s, Frenchman’s? When trade agreements mean that American companies can outsource to Chinese and Indian companies that treat people like slaves, does that matter less to you? By voting for her, you are supporting her policies (you can’t say you don’t and also say the things you’re saying about all of Trump’s supporters being fascists because they voted for him). Considering how much America reaps from the rest of the planet,are Americans not world citizens?

Voting out of fear haunts me. It’s hard to cope with voting for an administration that has destroyed the lives of millions of people outside of the US, as well as leaving behind millions of US citizens within its own borders. And I’m a part of that. I towed the party line, and once I cast my ballot, the party not only fucked off, it became entrenched in its own self perpetuating hero stories, which was dysfunctional at best and insulting at worst. And I had given up the only power I had to effect change - my vote.

I don't owe my vote to anyone who hasn't earned it. As an individual I have very little power. I refuse to throw that power behind something I can't support. 

In many ways it’s like sex. Once you put out, you lose all your power. In fact, that time around the party demanded my vote, turned its back and then re-invented itself as the new Republicans (just like the old Republicans but without the religion and the costumes). The party began to embody things that I had been fighting against for years. It resorted to bullying tactics to get me to stay, it attacked the reason I would have stayed, it resorted to campaign tactics that contradict free and fair elections and then tried to manipulate people like me to its own ends. And the party itself put hubris and its own special interests above service to the country.

It Is All or Nothing – It Is a Mandate

Dems vehemently tried to convince me that I didn't have to support all of HRC's policies to vote for her. They tried to convince me that what I disagreed with mattered less than a Trump win, but I'm watching too many Democrats vilify everyone who voted for Trump by using the logic that if you voted for him, you are a racist, homophobic, bigot by extension. Why would that logic not have applied to me if I had voted for Hillary, considering that 70% of what she stands for I don’t agree with or even condone?

Democrats were committed to the idea that a vote for HRC didn’t mean 100% support for her ideology as long as that logic got them votes. Many Democrats resorted to strong arming, threats and vilification as a way of manipulating people into that dice and splice mentality about policy, but they certainly aren’t willing to apply that logic now that they’ve lost.

I believe that a vote is a mandate and I couldn’t give HRC a mandate to govern.

I Know What’s at Stake

The Reagan era killed about 30 of my friends, most of whom died of AIDS. They died as a direct result of Reagan's reaction to the disease and his policies about homosexuals. I know that politics has real consequences. I've been to the funerals.

When I was 17, a 19-year-old friend of mine was murdered in gay bashing. It was a horrible hate crime, the police didn't bother to look for the murders because they had killed a fag. I'm not naive about how horrible people can be to each other. But just as I am not responsible for all of the mass shootings and hate crimes that happened during Obama’s presidency, I am also not responsible for the same because I didn’t vote for Hillary. My vote would never override the personal responsibility of anyone who resorts to violence for whatever reason. The violence that has started might just as well have started, and or have been worse, if HRC had won. The people who perpetrate violence are the only ones responsible for that violence period.

I still mourn the losses of those friends who might have been spared if the Reagan administration had supported and funded the CDC (which was amazing in the face of being stonewalled by an entire administration) and I fought against Reagan's administration and everything it stood for and things changed. I will do the same with Trump.

White Privilege

I’ve been accused of flaunting my white privilege and I probably have as the a bi-sexual, polyamorous, white woman I am– but my voting for HRC wouldn’t have gotten her and more elected than she is now. My real privilege is that I have Irish citizenship and I exercised that privilege 9 years ago and moved to Ireland.

I honestly don’t know what to do about that. I don’t know what to do about the fact that I have the choices and the opportunities I have. They are significant. I fight for voter rights, minority rights, gay rights and women’s rights as much as I can. I give away as much money as I can to charities I believe in. I’ve always been on the far, far, far, far left. And I will continue to look for ways to be progressive and serve progress – but the one thing I could not do is vote for this Democratic Party and I stand by that even as I read horrific stories of violence breaking out all over the US.

Voting for something out of fear is the most counter-intuitive issue I've ever had to deal with. I did it once, and I won't ever do it again. Principals have to matter, especially in the face of fascism, criticism and coercion. I won't live in fear and I won't vote out of fear. I realise this is very upsetting to a lot of people. You have a right to be upset. You can unfriend me. You can leave nasty comments. If my thinking is flawed, then it's flawed.

The thing I know I can deal with is that my decision not to vote this election was mine and did not come from coercion. My vote for Obama's second term came out of coercion and fear, and I can't help but think right now that if Obama had lost that election and Romney had become president, we certainly would not be dealing with Trump, and the DNC might have done its soul searching and restructuring 4 years ago.

What gives me hope is reading stories about Planned Parenthood being protected, seeing lists of charities that I can donate to that are really going to fight for their causes now rather than silently standing behind the Democratic Party and most importantly seeing people galvanised out of their complacency that the system works. The system doesn’t work and it’s been broken for a very, very, very long time and the Democratic Party became part of the problem not the solution.

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