Perpetual subservience to the Democratic Party is a choice. We need coalition building and massive grassroots organizing, not voter shaming.
Nothing seems to strike more fear into American Liberals than a second Trump term. It seems to be what everything reverts back to these days. It was the first thing that most people thought about when rapper Kanye West announced his candidacy via Twitter over the weekend. Theories surfaced that this was all a ploy to divert Black votes from Biden, and help Trump eke out an electoral college victory. I have to be honest; I’d vote for Kanye before I vote for Joe Biden. However, both of them are drastically unqualified for the Presidency in my mind, so I won’t be voting for either of them. As we collectively reckon with systemic racism and mass incarceration at this moment, I’m reminded of Kanye’s 2005 track ‘Crack Music.’ In that one song, Kanye says more about the evils of our racist criminal injustice system than Joe Biden has said, or done, in his entire 50-year political career.
Biden can be credited as the chief architect of mass incarceration, and the police state that we’re currently protesting. As a result, Kanye is absolutely the lesser evil in this situation. He didn’t author the Crime Bill or push George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan to increase police spending more than they’d already planned, but Joseph did. I don’t believe in lesser-evilism, but if I did, it’s no question who’s better suited for this moment between Joseph and Mr. West. I completely understand that Kanye is not the same person that he was when ‘Crack Music’ was released. I also understand that making a song about the conditions that create crime and poverty in Black communities doesn’t mean that you’re capable of fixing them, especially when you have no political experience. However, Mr. West’s alleged candidacy exposes the fatal flaw in lesser-evilism politics. Someone being less evil doesn’t automatically make them good enough to rise to the occasion. The desire to oust Trump no matter what is not innately problematic. However, the tactics of voter shaming and a herd-mentality won’t help us address the systemic inequities that we currently face.
I’ve been writing about Politics for a little over a year now. I’ve canvassed, phone-banked, and done a lot of voter outreach in that time as well. The first thing that I was told when I was training for voter outreach was not to shame people for their views. It’s completely unproductive and self-defeating. Most people think of ‘swing-voters’ as voters that can either vote Democrat or Republican. When it comes to Black people, though, that’s usually not the case. We mostly vote Democrat, so what we’re really trying to achieve is to get our folks to the polls. Voters staying home costs Democrats elections every cycle; however, it isn’t a voter’s responsibility to deliver a candidate a victory. It’s a candidate’s job to earn votes by appealing to what voters care about. If you’re driven by your contempt for the Don man, then you’ll have to offer potential non-voters an alternative. “Orange man bad!” can’t be your end-all-be-all. Voters already know Trump sucks. You’ll have to sell them on how your candidate will be better and show them how casting their ballot is worth their time.
To this end, you’ll need to know what your candidate actually supports. Most people I interact with have no clue what Biden’s platform and track record actually has, and, in some cases, what it doesn’t have. I’ve written extensively since the beginning of this year about how Biden’s record is highly problematic. However, given the latest polling results, he’s still positioned very well to defeat Donald in November. You can’t change or ignore Joseph’s track record, but the good news is that you don’t have to. He is who he is, yet he’s still leading in the polls because Trump is just that unpopular. However, you need to be prepared to force him to enact an agenda that will address the needs of our communities. His policy positions are inadequate at best, and we all need to acknowledge that Biden needs to do better in many areas such as Climate Change, Healthcare, and addressing the criminal injustice system. It’s not enough for him to not be as embarrassing as Trump; he needs to substantively confront the problems that are causing social unrest.
A politician gaining power and undergoing a radical transformation isn’t unheard of. FDR wasn’t a working-class champion before he enacted the New Deal. He was a typical privileged white Corporate Democrat. However, the mass organizing of the Socialist Party and of the Labor Unions at the time built people power that he couldn’t ignore. We need to build on this template in this moment. People are being forced back to work without the existence of a vaccine, and we’re setting new precedents for unemployment. We’re at a critical time in our country. Voting Trump out isn’t a magic wand that’s going to make everything go away. Trump didn’t start the problems we currently face; he just made them worse. Biden has had a hand in making them worse throughout his career as well. If we’re going to vote Trump out and address the systemic problems that we’re protesting, then we’ll need more to our strategy than just voting.
We need mass organizing and mobilization around policies that help all of us. Voter shaming has no place in the fight for Black liberation. Only honesty, listening, and learning can help us build a movement grounded in Solidarity that will free us all. So if you’re scared that Black folks, or anyone else for that matter, will vote third party in November and cost Democrats the election, start articulating the activism and organizing you have planned for after we beat Trump. Demonstrate the ability to empathize with peoples’ frustrations with the system that actively oppresses us. Understand and articulate how Biden, or any other Democrat, needs to do better to fix the problems that we face as a society. Invite people to engage in activism and organizing with you before and after Trump is defeated. Otherwise, you’re just perpetuating Black peoples’ subservience to the Democratic Party, just for us to be ignored entirely when its policy time. We don’t build Black political power by voting for Democrats no matter who they trot out for us. We build Black political power by leveraging our support on substantive intersectional policy demands that take active steps in addressing systemic racism wherever it rears its ugly head. The maximum we’ll get is the minimum that we’ll accept. Simply being better than Trump isn’t enough for me because it won’t liberate us, and it shouldn’t be enough for you either.