In the Meantime: Some Thoughts on Voting

4 Nov

I got a lot on my mind, so bear with me. 

Though the gains the Republicans/Tea Partiers/general all-around fools have made this past Tuesday should be no surprise, they are, nonetheless, disheartening.  Living in Alabama where the electoral choices seem to be conservative candidate A v. ultra-conservative candidate  B, it’s hard for this crunk feminist to feel good about her choices. ‘Cause let’s be real: when you choose between the lesser of two evils, you’re still choosing evil.

Nonetheless, with a heavy heart, I went down to my local voting spot to exercise my right and, to be honest, to show my damn face.  As I walked toward the entrance, there was a trio of law-abiding black folk sitting exactly thirty feet from the front door. One called out to me, saying, “My princess, here’s a sample ballot.” (Side bar: I don’t think I’ve ever been called “princess” in my entire life, but I’mma let that one slide since the sister was an elder and trying to do her civic duty). I noticed they were handing out sample ballots to every black person who crossed their path. I also noticed that they were getting some serious side eye from some melanin-lite voters. Sigh.

I entered the building feeling a lot more sad than I did two years ago. Not that I was jumping up for joy in 2008 either, but I digress.  Once I got inside I noticed lots of black people voting. Like, a whole lot. Like, most of the people in the room.I’ll admit it. I had a sort of kumbaya moment seeing everybody.  Standing behind a sister, we exchanged greetings. I asked how she was, and she replied, “Blessed, really blessed. Happy to be able to do this.” She said this with a simple grace and dignity. All I could do is nod in reply.

Herein lies the rub. Black folks in Alabama have not the opportunity and safe conditions to vote in for all that long. The politics here are so retrograde that driving through this state sometimes I feel like I am not in the 21st century at all, but in some strange time warp. So, I can’t dismiss the mere right and opportunity to vote as something that is not particularly significant. At the same time, in a place like Alabama (and increasingly across the country), those of us on the left–shoot, even moderates!–are getting shut out as the Right/Wrong has a very successful political temper tantrum. So, what does it mean when 1) you have to choose between the lesser of two evils and 2)your “lesser evil” has no chance of even remotely winning. Let’s be clear, while fools like Palladino are dismissed in New York (for now), candidates in his vein (who are ridiculous, uninformed, and who spew hateful nonsense) summarily thrash their more moderate opponents in my neck of the woods. In other words, what does exercising the right to vote mean when the system is so ridiculously effed up?

I guess what I’m trying to figure out  is, what are the strategies those of us on the left (can) employ in the face of such rapidly encroaching/re-entrenching conservatism, both locally and nationally? For while I see the most efficacy in battling oppressions in our local communities, the fact of the matter is national de jure sanctions do affect the everyday lives of Americans. For example, I remember reading about so-called welfare reform as a kid in my social studies class and not soon after experiencing its effects in my own home, so the notion of opting out of the national dialogue does not ring true to me at all. At the same time, I’ve been known that hope is not a political strategy and that we are going to need more rigorous and radical applications for justice and social change.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on voting, the election, and the state of progressive politics.

4 Responses to “In the Meantime: Some Thoughts on Voting”

  1. MsAfropolitan November 4, 2010 at 5:07 PM #

    I share your sentiment! I’m not a US citizen but I’m a black feminist and politically left and I feel the pain you are talking about in realization that the way things are going I might never have the option to vote (let alone be governed by) a party that accommodates real liberal values.

    It’s an international problem. The richest nations in Europe too are all becoming increasingly extreme right-wing.

    • Sheri November 9, 2010 at 10:39 PM #

      So I had a similar experience on election day. My partner and I walked to our poll and we were happy that there was a small crowd. And then I spent the evening watching the beat down we knew was coming. I am stuck thinking about the real anti-racist work that young “progressive” white folks don’t really want to do and how we will always experience a strong backlash with any steps forward we take. I argue that until white folks on the left start to organize their lives around going into their community and convincing their community to vote right (which is hard because liberal urban educated whites tend to distance themselves from conservative whites or poor and working class whites from ex-urbs and rural places).

      Black folks vote in their own best interests, not with depth like knowing which judge to elect, but for the big stuff we are on point. White folks on the other hand (especially poor and working class ones) vote to protect their whiteness or white interests as defined by the top 2%.

      Until their is a strong anti-racist agenda to send young progressive white kids, like in a Teach for America kind of way, to live and teach their progressive ideas in places where the people look like them and not me (black) we can hang it up. Orrrr the other option is to be deliberate about building strong black brown alliances and with the hatred each group is spewing about the other I really just don’t know which is more likely.

      All I know is whoever put together the Obama political marketing campaign in 2008 went on a long vacation. But what I know is that marketing is no substitute for real organizing. People, particularly white people, bought that Obama product and once they got what they purchased (post-racialism and good feelings) that product got tossed into the American landfill in a “been there done that” way.

  2. Anthony Ware November 10, 2010 at 12:05 AM #

    I have family in Alabama. Your commentary elucidates their experiences. In fact, my family was forced to leave South Carolina due to my Great-grandfather voting, registering Black people to vote and defending himself against white racist terrorism in the 1940’s.

    The white left needs to organize in white communities to stem the tide of conservatism displayed on election day. Poor and working class white opposition to Obama’s election provides cover for austerity measures by plutocrats, even in this gripping economic climate. America is ruled by plutocrats with support from a white electoral base that cuts its nose off to spite Black and brown people.

    Its imperative that Blacks-Browns form coalitions despite the hatred spewed by both sides in this period. Our collective interests require it.

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