Your Political Activism Should Not End with Voting

What has gone from Election Day to Election Week has been a whirlwind of constant poll-checking, nonstop coffee, and that kind of exhaustion that makes your eyes permanently baggy. And once we regain our energy (and Nevada finishes counting those ballots) I think there are some takeaways we have to recognize. Firstly, it’s kind of terrifying that people feel like their rights are up for grabs every four years. And secondly, it is both unsafe and selfish to think our political responsibility should end at voting.

I am all for encouraging electoral participation, and there is nothing like good youth turnout to give me a sense of hope in the world. Marginalized groups have worked long and hard for these privileges, and we shouldn’t take that for granted. And now that democracy is safe, we have a chance at delaying climate change, and so many people’s rights aren’t immediately at stake, we can exhale and regain our strength. But that strength does not mean slipping back into political neutrality. The belief that our problems will disintegrate the moment a Democrat is elected into office is a privileged kind of ignorance that we must be critical of.  

crowd of protesters holding Black Lives Matter signs Photo by Life Matters from Pexels

Racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, climate change, etc. are things Donald Trump perpetuated but did not create. They are so deeply ingrained in the way that the U.S functions that they are not extensions of the person in office, but rather the office itself. In other words, there is no such thing as a “good” president. The role itself is littered with a history of imperialism and violence. It is the job of the people, historically, to fight, to protest, and to be hypercritical about the people who assume power over us. Though participating in electoral politics can better people’s lives and protect certain rights in the moment, it changes nothing about the system itself. 

Voting, thus, should be the least we do. If your plan was to cast your ballot, to post black square or a resourceless hashtag, to pretend like systemic racism was a product of the man in office and not four hundred years of American history, then you are resorting the comfortable complacency that has allowed the U.S to go on so long like this. Choosing to accept this cycle, to celebrate for four years as though we did our one job on election day, is choosing to uphold this violently oppressive system,and choosing to let it function as it was designed.

Now that we have a president who doesn’t so casually disregard democracy, our job as activists, accomplices, and organizers is even more important. There is so much we as a people want that we cannot expect our government to do for us. And so, this is a call to myself, and anyone without a post-election action plan to find a way to do it yourself. Plan a monthly amount of your own money to redistribute to organizations, mutual aid networks, and people in need--and get your friends and family who are financially able to match you! Go to protests in your area, use your body to get headcounts up, and protect the people around you. Become a pen-pal with someone incarcerated, donate to bail funds, provide post-protest jail support. There is so much that needs to be done that will happen in or out of a Trump presidency. 

With Trump gone, there is so much relief to be felt, and it fills me with joy to see that kind of celebration fill the streets across the country. And we can funnel that celebration into organizing stronger and harder than we did before. This is not a sign that we should stop our momentum. It’s the opposite actually. It’s time to get to work.

person holding a sign that says Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels