Okay, we’re nearing election day, and I’m going to go beyond just reblogging and retweeting people more eloquent than I am, and rant a little. Or a lot. I’m having trouble starting, because there’s something that makes me so angry I can hardly find words.
People who are saying, “Don’t vote.” You make me angrier than I know how to express. You’re doing more damage than you realize. “Don’t vote, because the candidates are equally bad. Don’t vote, because you’re lending your support to a corrupt two-party system. Don’t vote, because they’re not listening anyway.”
Okay, let’s take that on.
The easiest one first: the two-party system. There’s a lot wrong with our system. I wish we weren’t locked into two parties. I wish the Republican party hadn’t been hijacked by the Neocons and the Tea Party. I wish a lot of things. Still, I try to base my actions on results. Not voting isn’t going to actually do anything to change the two-party system.
And if you think the politicians aren’t listening to your vote? They sure as hell aren’t listening to you NOT voting. That doesn’t even make any kind of sense. What change to the system do you accomplish by not voting? Exactly nothing.
Now on to the more complex one: “The candidates are equally bad.”
This is such a gross falsehood that I can’t even understand how anyone could utter it. This post breaks it down possibly better than I will, but here are my thoughts.
It definitely sucks to feel as if you’re having to vote for the “lesser of two evils”, or the candidate which is “less bad”. Unfortunately, sometimes that’s the reality we live in. I personally don’t think that President Obama has been a bad President, but I’m aware that some people do, so let’s argue from that starting point.
“Less bad” is still an IMPORTANT FUCKING DISTINCTION.
Every criticism of Obama that I’ve seen from the “don’t vote” crowd is something that Romney will do, too. But there are oh, so many ways in which they are critically, life-threateningly different. In particular, health care (which is something I have a separate rant about), women’s rights, reproductive rights, gay rights, trans rights.
Obama hasn’t been as aggressive as I’d like on gay marriage; however, he’s expressed support of it, and has let DOMA die. Contrast that with Romney, who explicitly favors a Constitutional amendment against gay marriage. An amendment denying a group of people their civil rights. And remember, the next President will most likely be in a position to appoint at least two Supreme Court Justices. That’s a HUGE difference.
I wish Obama had done more for trans rights. But I guarantee you that even the little he’s done— first President to appoint a trans person to public office, first president to have a meeting with trans activists regarding trans rights, banning job discrimination based on gender identity in the federal government, and more— is more than Romney/Ryan would do. (And again: Supreme Court Justices.)
I wish Obama had been able to do more on health care (again, a whole separate rant of mine), but what has become known as “Obamacare” has meant many more people with coverage, and in particular, people not denied for pre-existing conditions. That’s HUGE. Here’s an example: I read a story about a little girl wtih an inoperable tumor in her spine. She received chemo to manage it, but will need MRIs every year for the rest of her life to monitor it. As she grows up, every time she changes jobs, or applies for individual health care, without the Affordable Care Act, she’d be denied coverage because her tumor would be a pre-existing condition. And thus, no scans, which she probably couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket. Anyone with a pre-existing condition is in that same boat. Contrast that with Romney, who has stated that he’ll dismantle Obamacare as soon as he gets the chance. That’s an ENORMOUS FUCKING DIFFERENCE.
And then there’s women’s health and reproductive rights. This article is longish, but a good read, and contains citations for every one of the scientific claims the author makes. Guess what? Even if you are anti-abortion because you believe abortion is murder, you should be in favor of legal abortion and covered birth control.Countries with the LOWEST rates of abortion are the ones where it’s legal and available; countries with the HIGHEST rates of abortions are those where it’s illegal. Yep, outlawing abortion actually makes abortions go UP! Furthermore, abortion rates can decline up to as much as 75% if hormonal birth control is fully covered by insurance policies. (By INSURANCE POLICIES, not by taxpayers. That whole “taxpayers paying for birth control” thing is a whole lot of lies and bullshit still getting repeated ad nauseum by the likes of Rush Limbaugh.) To say nothing of the fact that there are serious medical conditions for which hormonal birth control is the treatment. (Go and google PCOS.) And more. Seriously, go read that article; she links to all the research articles she’s quoting.
I don’t have to tell you which candidate supports women’s reproductive rights and which doesn’t.
As a subset of that, Planned Parenthood. A very small percentage of what they do is abortions. A very large percentage of what they do is provide cancer screenings and other health exams and birth control to women who could otherwise not afford it. I know, because they were my health care provider when I couldn’t afford anything else. Cervical and breast cancer can be treated if caught early enough in screenings. They can kill if they are not. My aunt died of cervical cancer that spread because she didn’t get screenings. Romney and Ryan have stated that they intend to cease funding for Planned Parenthood. No more cancer screenings for low-income women equals higher death rates due to cancer. Period. This is actually a life or death issue.
And don’t even get me started on how little a Romney administration would do for assisting the poor. The Tumblr post I linked earlier gets into the military and potential wars as well, which I’m not getting into here. The list goes on.
I’m not discounting the valid criticisms of President Obama. Drone strikes. Gitmo. I’m not saying those don’t matter.
It sucks to say this— I HATE having to say this— but do you think any of those things will cease under Romney, if you allow him to become elected by not voting?
I’m also not saying “be quiet and ignore those things.” I’m saying, please vote for the candidate who will actually do the most good and the least harm. Then be LOUD about the things you disagree with. Get out with petitions, stage protest marches, call the President’s office, call your congresscritters, write and speak out and YELL. Cynics might say “that won’t change anything.” I say it will do more than staying silent by not voting ever could.
Here’s why the “don’t vote” thing makes me angry. It is speaking from an incredibly privileged position to say “oh, they’re both the same, so I don’t care, I’m not voting.” It is STAGGERINGLY privileged to believe that since gay and trans rights don’t affect you, reproductive rights don’t affect you, low income health care doesn’t affect you, poverty relief doesn’t affect you, you don’t have to care which candidate wins. Y’know what? I fucking well have to care which candidate wins.
If you say you don’t care which candidate wins, you’re basically saying you don’t give a shit about my rights, about the rights and health of any woman in your life. You don’t give a shit about the poor. You don’t give a shit about people who can’t afford health insurance policies, or who HAVE health insurance but still can’t afford the things that aren’t covered. You don’t give a shit about civil rights for LGBT individuals. If you care about these things, and you don’t vote, you’re one more vote that could have prevented Romney/Ryan from winning and instead allowed them to get that much closer. No, that’s not hyperbole. Everything I’ve stated above are facts. If you don’t care enough about any of those groups of people to vote for someone who has made their lives demonstrably better, to vote to keep out someone who will make their lives demonstrably worse, then seriously, fuck you. Don’t follow me anymore and don’t speak to me again.
Remember how close Florida came down to, once upon a time? And have you SEEN the voter suppression tricks the Republicans in various states have been up to? Printing incorrect election dates on Spanish-languge ballots; illegal/unconstitutional voter ID laws; Republican voter “helpers” instructed to give out misinformation; voter registration forms in Democratic districts thrown into dumpsters. The side of actually giving a shit about your fellow human beings needs all the caring votes it can get this year.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry that fear of the bad things that will happen under Romney should be an impetus to vote for Obama even if you don’t like him. I agree that it sucks. I also acknowledge that it’s reality. Do your research. Read stories of trans people suffering discrimination, of people denied access to their dying partners in hospitals because they’re gay. Read stories of people without access to health care; read stories of what women’s lives are like in countries where abortions are illegal. Read stories of people in poverty.
I could refuse to vote, throw my vote away in a futile protest that literally nobody in power will be aware of or care about. I choose to take the action that has the most positive effect and promotes the least harm.
I beg you to do the same. Don’t stay home, don’t think that voting doesn’t matter. IT MATTERS. Please.