I’m not here to tell you to register to vote. I’m not here to help you find your polling place. Every goddamn app and website you use is already giving you the tools to do both of those things if you haven’t already. Shit, I’ve already dropped my absentee ballot off at my city clerk’s office. I’m here to tell you about how I came to the decision to refuse to choose the “lesser” of two evils.
This was the first election since I’ve been able to vote that I almost voted for a democratic presidential candidate. I blame Twitter. Twitter is this weird alternate universe where nuanced discussions can’t possibly occur due to the character limit. As a result, an idea gets condensed into its most compact form and passed around from person to person like a lucky penny. From all angles, I was assaulted with the phrase BLUE WAVE. In reaction to Trump’s administration, frustrated liberals became convinced that the answer to our problems is to ensure Trump doesn’t get another term, flip the House, and celebrate the future of progressivism. Here’s the problem with that dream: Biden isn’t a progressive. He’s barely a Democrat. And as much as I loathe Trump, I don’t really see electing our creepy uncle Joe as an upgrade. Especially given his uncomfortably conservative voting record.
But by golly, I was assaulted by the defeatist rhetoric everywhere: Settle for Biden, Anything’s Better Than Trump, We’re Fucked 2020. I suppose 2020 couldn’t be the true banner shitshow of a year if we had a presidential candidate without a history of sexual abuse allegations and an ailing mental state. After reading enough tweets, Facebook posts, witty bumper stickers, and T-shirts, I became resigned to my fate. After all, voting for Jill Stein in 2016 was just me throwing away my vote, right? It’s my fault Trump got elected – not the people who actually voted for him, the over one hundred MILLION eligible voters that didn’t even bother voting, or the people who voted for fucking Harambe – it was my fault. I just need to accept a lifetime of choosing the lesser of two evils.
Then I went to a wedding.
On the way there, one of my best friends vehemently disavowed the Democratic party. He said what I already knew but didn’t want to accept: it’s just the other side of the same Capitalist coin. Democrat or Republican, the difference is so minimal these days that most candidates could switch parties and no one would really notice. Career politicians are a party of one: the wealthy. Whatever benefits businesses and millionaires, you bet they’re going to pass the respective legislation. Even my girl AOC, who I was such a fan of, has a habit of throwing a fit only to fold, vote the way the party wants her to, and forever compromise in exchange for little to nothing. To anyone really paying attention, it’s impossible to ignore the complete and utter lack of representation of real fucking Americans in our Congress.
After this chat, though, I still wasn’t convinced. Yeah, Biden is a real fucking drag and Harris makes Trump look like an amateur when it comes to throwing human beings in cages, but my one independent vote would be utterly irresponsible and a sad drop in a leaky bucket.
At the wedding itself however, the conversation came up again. This time, I was in a room full of people who all declared they were voting independent. And my heart leapt – it’s not just me. Twitter had made me feel guilty and alone for considering yet another election of refusing to support a party that only pretends to have my best interests in mind. But I wasn’t alone. And I’m from a teeny, practically rural city deep in red territory. So what does that mean for the population at large?
A friend pointed out Biden’s tendency to support more conservative policies than even Trump. He told me more about his favorite candidate. His face lit up in a way that no one ever does when they talk about Biden. And I remembered that that’s how it’s supposed to be – you’re supposed to be excited about who you’re voting for, you’re supposed to feel like they give a shit about you, you’re supposed to trust them to care about the issues that matter to you. There in that room of people refusing to support a system that only ensures the continued servitude of the American people, I was persuaded to follow my gut and go on record as supporting a candidate I actually wanted elected and not cast my ballot for someone who, under almost any other circumstances, I wouldn’t be caught dead putting my name behind.
I felt compelled to share this story because I’m sure that there are others out there like me who felt like they’re the only person uninterested in riding the “blue wave”. There are Republicans more liberal than some of our Democratic officials. Yet I’m bombarded by celebrities, Instagram Influencers, and “news” outlets all shouting from the rooftops: Biden 2020! Shit, Taylor Swift baked cookies with his name on them. Even though five million people voted independent the past presidential election, you never seem to see anyone proclaiming it or endorsing independent candidates. We’ve been fucking shamed into seeing the word “independent” as dirty. By major news outlets, by our parents, by well-intentioned but misled Americans across the nation. Here’s the thing: if everyone voted for the candidate they actually liked instead of who they hated less, the two party system would break overnight. But undoing that harmful myth that voting independent is “throwing your vote away” is unfortunately not going to be an overnight thing. Which is why we need to start chipping away at it now.
My husband is pretty defeatist about politics. He’s not interested in voting, no matter how much I say the words “civic duty” and “not even hard”. I get it even if I don’t agree with it. I think most Americans can agree that our government and the officials within are largely corrupted. But as much as folx like to joke about bringing back guillotines, the reality is that change is often much more gradual. We won’t root out problematic politicians overnight because we didn’t elect them overnight. We elected them over the course of decades, one begrudging ballot at a time. One choice between the lesser of two evils at a time. So the only way to undo this is to change the way we think and behave in the voting booth. Because choosing the lesser of two evils is exactly how we ended up in this mess.
So fucking vote. Vote with your conscience and ignore the people crying about how anyone would be better than Trump. Because if we don’t put our foot down now, it’s only going to keep getting worse from here. And we already elected a narcissistic reality television personality into the highest office in the United States so I really don’t want to see how much worse it can possibly get. We’re the only ones who can prevent that from happening – one ballot at a time.