Though the gains the Republicans/Tea Partiers/general all-around fools have made this past Tuesday should be no surprise, they are, nonetheless, disheartening. Living in Alabama where the electoral choices seem to be conservative candidate A v. ultra-conservative candidate B, it’s hard for this crunk feminist to feel good about her choices. ‘Cause let’s be real: when you choose between the lesser of two evils, you’re still choosing evil.
Nonetheless, with a heavy heart, I went down to my local voting spot to exercise my right and, to be honest, to show my damn face. As I walked toward the entrance, there was a trio of law-abiding black folk sitting exactly thirty feet from the front door. One called out to me, saying, “My princess, here’s a sample ballot.” (Side bar: I don’t think I’ve ever been called “princess” in my entire life, but I’mma let that one slide since the sister was an elder and trying to do her civic duty). I noticed they were handing out sample ballots to every black person who crossed their path. I also noticed that they were getting some serious side eye from some melanin-lite voters. Sigh.
I entered the building feeling a lot more sad than I did two years ago. Not that I was jumping up for joy in 2008 either, but I digress. Once I got inside I noticed lots of black people voting. Like, a whole lot. Like, most of the people in the room.I’ll admit it. I had a sort of kumbaya moment seeing everybody. Standing behind a sister, we exchanged greetings. I asked how she was, and she replied, “Blessed, really blessed. Happy to be able to do this.” She said this with a simple grace and dignity. All I could do is nod in reply.
Herein lies the rub. Black folks in Alabama have not the opportunity and safe conditions to vote in for all that long. The politics here are so retrograde that driving through this state sometimes I feel like I am not in the 21st century at all, but in some strange time warp. So, I can’t dismiss the mere right and opportunity to vote as something that is not particularly significant. At the same time, in a place like Alabama (and increasingly across the country), those of us on the left–shoot, even moderates!–are getting shut out as the Right/Wrong has a very successful political temper tantrum. So, what does it mean when 1) you have to choose between the lesser of two evils and 2)your “lesser evil” has no chance of even remotely winning. Let’s be clear, while fools like Palladino are dismissed in New York (for now), candidates in his vein (who are ridiculous, uninformed, and who spew hateful nonsense) summarily thrash their more moderate opponents in my neck of the woods. In other words, what does exercising the right to vote mean when the system is so ridiculously effed up?
I guess what I’m trying to figure out is, what are the strategies those of us on the left (can) employ in the face of such rapidly encroaching/re-entrenching conservatism, both locally and nationally? For while I see the most efficacy in battling oppressions in our local communities, the fact of the matter is national de jure sanctions do affect the everyday lives of Americans. For example, I remember reading about so-called welfare reform as a kid in my social studies class and not soon after experiencing its effects in my own home, so the notion of opting out of the national dialogue does not ring true to me at all. At the same time, I’ve been known that hope is not a political strategy and that we are going to need more rigorous and radical applications for justice and social change.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on voting, the election, and the state of progressive politics.