A Leftist Calling Out Leftists: The Ethicality Between Political Participation and Uprooting the Current System

After a summer full of the passion and education needed to fuel a movement for tangible change came and went, the “radicalization” of many towards the left has remained. With the majority of this “radicalization” concentrated on young adults and students, many opposing ideologies regarding our economic system, humanitarian plights and—most importantly, the method by which to go about refashioning these systems and issues—have emerged.

Many students have become self-identifying communists, socialists and Marxists and have furthered a discussion around uprooting the current political and economic system as a solution to the predicaments facing our country. As a self-identifying leftist, several conundrums have been presented to me in my time studying political science. Yet, the dilemma that has left a mark on my identity as a Black, woman, political science major is the ethicality of working within this “system” as someone whose ancestry, current identity and personal ideologies inherently disagree with and is continually oppressed by this same system. 

In my journey to ascertain a feeling of contentment within my studies while simultaneously working on political campaigns, I have come to understand my place within this system. To begin dissecting the leftist idea of “uprooting the current system,” one must ask what methods are available and ready to initiate this upheaval. Do the same leftists responding to political events with the words “this is why we have to get rid of capitalism” also have a tangible plan in place or, at the very least, a place to even begin, to deracinate our current infrastructure? While I am not attempting to place this burden on any specific self-identifying leftists, I am pointing out that rhetoric alone will not act as a savior from our capitalistic struggles. Without a pragmatic perspective focused on palpable solutions, we will never take hold of the changes we continually call for. 

The definition of “uprooting the system” is also called into question. Identifying the direct correlation between capitalism and the myriad of political, economic and social issues facing our state is crucial but, frankly, what happens next? Where do we go from here? What actions are readily available to take preceding “the (vague) revolution?” Once more, this is simply a reflection of my thoughts in this journey as, undeniably, there are no clear answers at the ready. 

blue mask with tiles spelling Photo by Glen Carrie from Unsplash Another glaring concern on which I focused includes the absolute hypocrisy of leftists who have forgone political participation. The duplicity in the idea of “uprooting the current system” in order to create truly equal opportunity and end economic suffering at the hands of capitalism, while the rates of homelessness, disproportionate incarceration, evictions, food deserts and other social plights skyrocket continue to oppose one another. Without an established plan of action and with the absence of participation in our current political system, the only true sufferers remaining are the very people leftists incessantly claim to advocate for.

At the minimum, choosing to engage in democracy (as flawed as it continues to be) through voting must become normalized. Choosing morality and a theoretical utopia over political participation blatantly ignores the very real consequences of elections and, plainly, highlights the privileged lens through which many leftists perceive these issues. Shaming others for actively participating in our political process simply because our process is flawed provides no productive outcomes but instead shies away from the truth: active political participation, specifically voting, is the only tangible way to bring any real change to our communities right now. Flaws and all, voting for officials that closest align to our political beliefs is the only political method that allows for immediate relief for our communities. 

It is quite simple to forget and overlook the atrocities that come when our lack of political participation leads to an autocrat-adjacent man leading our country. A man and his administration, under whom children were ripped from their families and detained, a ban on an entire religious group entering our country was placed and hundreds of thousands died due to the gross mishandling of a virus that has gripped our nation. Many, including myself, continuously forget that these atrocities and their numerous unmentioned counterparts were, for the most part, avoidable. While that burden is not necessarily ours to carry, it is essential to recall the very real consequences that come from our participation, or lack thereof, in our country’s political process. Quite frankly, if we, as a community, do not begin to correlate, at the very least, voting with the outcomes that we champion, then our core issues stem from naivety. 

In taking the time to cerebrate this ethical dilemma, I have learned these internal feelings of betrayal I constantly battle are genuinely valid. However, I have come to question this burden placed, especially and specifically, on Black women within the political sphere. While I am personally obligated to explore this quandary for myself, why do others feel the need to brand us as “traitors” and “panderers to the establishment” for choosing to study and subsequently work in and for those in the political system?

There is a stark contrast between choosing to abandon all morality for the sake of political power versus actively working to bring immediate relief to those who are struggling in this very moment through political positions of power and participation. Attempting to amalgamate the two grossly simplifies this moral conundrum and, furthermore, unjustly places this burden disproportionately on Black women. In reality, this question is one each leftist must answer for themselves before continuing to advocate for the upheaval of our unjust, oppressive system.