Do More Than Vote

With the presidential election coming up in November, we’re all being bombarded with messages to vote. Many have been framing this issue as an end-all-be-all issue that will be solved by just showing up to the ballot box and voting. These are valid feelings about the election, I’m not saying they aren’t. It’s also important to keep in mind that the people who have been historically disenfranchised by voting who feel like voting isn’t enough or that it doesn’t even do anything also have valid feelings.

Many of the people I described in the latter part of the first paragraph have been characterized as purist leftists who don’t want to concede to a moderate candidate (AKA Biden). I won’t disagree that there are people within this group that I described who may feel that way, but it’s also important to remember that Biden has a past and it’s not very pretty. The 1994 Crime Bill is something so many BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) can’t forget because of how it rocked our communities and still does today.

I understand that Biden gives the vibes of being the lesser of two evils in this election and that is what has motivated so many people to campaign and eventually vote for him. But this sense of the lesser of two evils, acknowledging that both candidates suck, is what is also making people not want to vote or take part in the two-party system. 

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels So, how do we reconcile both of these groups and ensure that our democracy is upheld? Well, first thing’s first, we don’t vote shame groups that have been historically disenfranchised unless you’re from the same group. A lot of people within disenfranchised groups have complicated relationships and feelings when it comes to voting, and no one should shame them for not wanting to take part in a system that’s been wanting to exclude them from the start. You can encourage them to vote, I’m not saying you can’t do that, but there’s a difference between shaming and encouraging.

Voting is great and it can be important, but voting is not enough civic participation in our democracy. I do want to argue that voting is harm reduction, but that it’s not harm reduction on its own. Your engagement in civics shouldn’t start and end at voting. My biggest pet peeve with the election this year is how people who want positive change don’t want to do anything, or want to do just the bare minimum, for it. That’s not how this works. I like to think of voting as pushing for specific ideas or values that you have, but there needs to be actions outside of that to make sure that they’re being upheld.

The takeaway that I really want to come from this article is that outside of the election, whether you decide to vote or not, it’s important that you do the work in your own communities for positive change and to make sure that whatever (or whoever) you’re voting for is followed through. I am a big fan of protesting for change, but I think that longterm and mindful organizing does more. It’s important that we reinvest into our community by offering what we can whether that be donations of money or items, time, skills, connections, etc. Change doesn’t happen by only voting, it’s the things that you do outside and in addition to that that create the positive change you want to see. I want to encourage everyone to get involved in local organizations that are fighting for change within your community, or to create one if you can’t find one. If you’re in Kansas City, I recommend checking out Sunrise Movement KC, Black Rainbow, Kansas/Missouri Dream Alliance, KC Tenants, Stand Up KC, and SURJ KC.