Why I didn’t Vote and Why I Won’t “STFU.”

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Around midnight on Election night, I was starting to feel bad for not voting. As I saw the direction the count was going in and Florida turning red, I felt a sense of unease that maybe I should’ve done my part. By 1am, the writing was on the map, and it was clear that Trump was going to win. I almost vomited. Then I reflected on the reason I didn’t vote in the first place, looked closely at the two choices forced on us, and quickly went to bed. By the time I got up in the morning, those feelings had washed off because I knew I was not the cause of her defeat. That morning on social media, many angry and bitter Clinton supporters were hurling insults at people like me for not voting, telling us it was our fault and we can’t say shit and can’t complain about Trump cause we let him win and we need to “STFU” and don’t say a fucking word about it. Like, really mad. Like, “I’ll punch you in the face” mad, as if people like me are ignorant and don’t know a damn thing about politics and only complain when shit goes wrong. But the issue is much bigger than my vote, or any third party voters. To understand why I stood home on election night, along with millions of other Americans, we need to address the root of our disenfranchisement, and listen, because we won’t shut the fuck up.

I’m no stranger to politics. I’ve been active and vigilant since I was 18. I voted for Bill Clinton the first time with a sense of jubilant euphoria because at the time, I thought I mattered. I protested the First Gulf War in 1991. I was part of many anti-war marches over the years and participated and supported the failed Occupy Wall Street movement. I know politics. My Master’s degree in English studies with courses in psychology, philosophy, sociology, history and literature, have given me tools that allow me question everything and understand processes beyond what’s in the surface. My decision to withhold my vote in 2016 as I did in 2012 is not misinformed or ignorant and did not come lightly without a lot of thought and understanding of the flawed political system. I know politics.

I gave up on Hillary Clinton back in 2002, when she was a State Senator from New York. I recall her speech during congressional and senate hearings, that gave baby Bush authority to wage war against Iraq. During the time, I was protesting on the streets of NYC with hundreds of thousands of others, marching down 7th Ave. There were millions of others marching across the country along with millions more around the world. We knew this war was misguided and morally wrong. But the Bush war machine marched on and Clinton, instead of listening to reason and the millions of voices around the world, voted to give Bush the authority to wage war on a country that was no threat to us. She didn’t listen to us. The consequences of that war are still reverberating around the world today. Since then, she has made many other missteps, especially in foreign policy, which is very important to me as a humanist and existentialist. She works contrary to my ideals. Fuck no, I’m not voting for a hawk. That would be pure hypocrisy on my part after I’ve criticized American foreign policy for so many years, and wept for the countless dead in the Middle East due to our wars and interventions.

Therefore, the issue is not whether I should’ve voted for someone I do not believe in simply because she is in the party I mostly associate with. The issue is the lack of choices we have as American citizens. I have been at odds with the two party system and the Electoral College for many years. Both systems fool us into thinking we have a true democracy in this country. Both are nothing but shams meant to give us the illusion of democracy, but not the real thing. Ironically, this election seems to be bringing the problems with the Electoral College to the forefront and many people are only now beginning to understand the core of the problem. In that sense, maybe Trump’s victory is a wake-up call to the rest of America to see beyond the curtain.

Did I want Trump to win? Fuck no. He’s an asshole. But I had no say in whether he became the GOP nominee or not. It’s still hard to imagine how he even got so far. It’s hard to understand what is deeply wrong with the American people that a person like him, could even make it to the primaries, let alone win the presidency. This speaks volumes of the ideologies of half the country. I won’t get into a criticism of our citizenry here, since that topic has been beaten to the ground, but I will say that two choices are no choices at all.

To force us into choosing the lesser of two evils, does not allow us to exercise our given right to select a person who we really believe in. This process goes against our morals, our conscience, principles and integrity as individuals. When a person casts a vote, the person is in essence saying, “Here is my vote. I endorse you because I believe in your ideals. Please go to the White House and represent me.” But when we cast a ballot for the lesser evil, we are really saying, “Here is my vote. I vote for you, not because you represent my ideals, but because I can’t see that other person running the White House. I don’t like you and I don’t think you’ll make a good president, but the other person is much worse.” Is that how it should be in a democracy? Is that really choice? Where does this scenario leave room for our conscience as individuals? Why are we forced into this system where we have to make decisions, not based on what we want, but what we don’t want?

A better system would be one that gave us more choices to pick from. The current system evenly divides us into two camps, as we have seen this time around, and makes it seem like there are only two Americas. Two choices is no choice at all.

Place on top of that, the reality of the Electoral College and the limited form of representation it offers, and we now see the truth of our false sense of democracy. Most Americans believe that their vote counts as one vote. We think that the system is “one person, one vote.” In fact, that is not the case at all. Clinton has won the popular vote, but still lost the election. That means that more Americans voted for Clinton than for Trump, yet why is Trump president elect? I won’t go into a whole lesson on what the Electoral College is (Google that shit), but basically, our votes aren’t as meaningful as we are led to believe. Some states have more power than others, due to their Electoral College points and that is why a scenario where one candidate can receive millions of individual votes more than their opponent, can still cost the former the election. In that scenario, as is now the case, the majority of the American people voted for one candidate, but the one we get, is the one less people wanted.

In fact, as I write this article, all the votes have yet to be counted. But what is the point in counting the rest of the votes, if not for mere symbolism, since the election has already been decided? Those uncounted votes are as useless as my absent vote. Is that representative democracy? No fucking way. Would my vote have made a difference if we were counting the popular vote? Never.

I am at peace with my own conviction, knowing that I, along with countless others that stood home on election night (for principled reason), or that voted third party, are not the cause of Clinton’s defeat. The real problem is that neither she, nor Trump, were the best candidate for the office. We knew that shit. The majority of the population didn’t want either candidate. The real problem is the flawed system forced upon us with the lack of substantial choices and the misrepresentation and allocation of our votes. The root of the problem is not the individual voter, but the system that only offers the illusion of choice and democracy. So don’t tell me to “STFU.” Maybe we as a people should wake the fuck up. Perhaps our collective frustration should be turned to changing the flawed system we currently have, rather than blaming the victims of it. Good luck with that.

 

 

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About Wilson Santos

Wilson Santos is a writer, filmmaker, music producer, DJ, spoken word artist, graphic designer, entrepreneur and college professor. And he makes a hell of a Mojito too.

Posted on November 29, 2016, in Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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