Both sides of the political spectrum are fighting what they sometimes call a revolution, trying to change the system to reflect their beliefs. As a Bernie Sanders supporter in the Maine caucuses, I too believe we need a change. However, it’s becoming clear that too many of us on the left end of the political spectrum have been using the wrong approach.
While the chaos in the Republican Party may appear to be a failure for them to capture the White House, it is in fact a win for the extreme right, which seems to have taken over or destroyed one of the two establishment parties. If it weren’t for Trump’s misogyny, they would have been much closer to putting their prefered candidate in office. How did they do it?
The conservative strategy involves putting politicians into office by voting consistently for their best viable choice in all elections. In between those elections they write letters to newspapers and call their representatives, reminding them of how they got there. I think the best example of this is the NRA, which in the past made bumper stickers that said “I’m the NRA and I vote”. Republicans know the power of voting. This is why they also suppress voter turnout through voter-id laws that are widely known to do nothing but suppress turnout in poor and minority neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, liberals do much of their work for them by not voting. From 1994 to 2010, 40-50 percent of “likely voters” self-identified as conservative, while those who identified as liberal never broke 21 percent. In The Atlantic magazine last year, Sean McElwee wrote: “In 2014, just 41.9 percent of the voting-age citizen population of the United States voted,” and went on, “In many salient ways, voters are not like nonvoters: voters are richer, whiter, and older than other Americans.“
Why is this the case? In many cases it’s because they aren’t interested at all, can’t get off work to vote, or they believe both major parties are equally hostile to their priorities. Perhaps, like myself once, they are hoping for things to get so bad that the perfect candidates get swept in with minimal effort. Some strive to help this process along by voting for third-party candidates in general elections. In the Inquisitr, Caitlin Johnstone recently wrote “... if Donald Trump wins because many progressives voted for Jill Stein instead of Hillary Clinton, the Dems get the message, and we get a real Democratic primary in 2020, where we can elect a real progressive who’ll make real changes, easily defeat President Trump, and help make things better. ...” It’s as if the plan is to wait, possibly indefinitely, for the Democratic Party to suddenly decide to pander to a constituency that doesn’t vote for them.
So how has that worked? Well, most elected politicians have continually stuck with the 12 percent of Americans who are opposed to background checks on firearms. Eighty-three percent of Americans want tougher regulations on Wall St., but that isn’t happening. This demonstrates the effectiveness of their strategy, but it also shows why the Left and Right are not two sides to the same coin, as beltway pundits love to say. As opposed to the Republican Party being taken over by xenophobes and racists, a comparable takeover on the Left would work towards policies that are actually popular and morally justifiable.
From what I’ve seen, politicians don’t represent Americans as a whole, nor do they represent what is correct. Instead, they represent those who write the checks, and those who voted for them. Assuming you can’t cut big checks, if you don’t vote for Democrats, they won’t pay attention. If you poison the water by pretending the two parties are the same, they will properly write you off as delusional.
It may not seem like a revolutionary act to vote for Hillary Clinton, but it is. Elections are the rules through which we revolt, the rules of a very serious game. This time around, the game will be played between Trump and Clinton. Not voting, or voting for someone else, is the equivalent of not playing the game, and therefore not fighting the revolution in a way that has been shown to work.
As president, Hillary Clinton would follow a similar path that Obama has. That is fine with me for now. When I voted for Bernie in the primaries, it was an offensive move in the revolution. In November, it will be time to play defense. So, as liberals, let’s play the game, gain control of the Democratic Party, and win the revolution.