The primaries and conventions of the Democratic and Republican parties have ended, and it’s onwards to the general election in November. Presidential nominees and running mates have been selected. Your favorite candidates’ campaign decorations are plastered on walls and green lawns. Even before this point, I predicted Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would face off, but I, a minority in our population, have decided to not cast a vote in the 2016 presidential election.
Before being written off, I would like to make a few things clear.
Yes, I’ve heard all of the arguments towards my decision. I’ve heard how my inactivity in the electoral process is a vote for Trump or the Republican party, and about my ignorance of third-party candidates. I’ve listened to people telling me to “suck it up” and pick the lesser of two evils, referring to the parties that American elections typically favor. I believe that the Independent, Green and Libertarian third parties should be guaranteed federal funding and accessibility to mainstream debates, in order for voters to have more visible selections for President.
Picking the lesser evil between two candidates doesn’t automatically mean that one’s selection is their favorite politician. But because I choose to not vote, I’m voting for “The Donald” and his band of circle-jerking conservatives? Could it just simply mean I trust no candidate? Because that’s exactly the statement I’m issuing.
I never took Trump into consideration to be a person of sincere accomplishment. When he was on his way to becoming the presumptive Republican nominee, it was easy to conclude that his nomination came from a rise of visible white supremacy and racism, things that we thought were subtle in this millennium. However, as systemic racism continues, our access and creation of media has become transformative and necessary in documenting and spotlighting that America is a country still running away and attempting to paint over its paper trail of endless violence.
You think Trump is the only Oval Office-hungry person representative of these actions? He’s proven himself repeatedly on who he is: a non-articulate, white supremacist storm, but there’s another person who fits the same description. She makes millions of people think she’s a greater hope for oppressed people: Hillary Clinton.
Yes, the same Hillary that has a 30-minute YouTube video circulating the interwebs containing her falsehoods throughout her 40 years of political service. My conscience is clear when it comes to her. From her speaking in a “blaccent” in 2008 to garner Black support over Barack Obama, to throwing Ashley Williams, a NC-based activist, out of a campaign fundraiser, to going on a popular radio show and declaring that she carries hot sauce in her bag, Clinton’s Hefty bags of garbage are common knowledge, just as common as knowing that a daffodil will die if you pluck it from the ground.
No vote for either of them.
But let’s go further.
Jill Stein and Gary Johnson have succeeded to the Green and Libertarian nominations, respectively. I voted for Stein in the 2012 election. What happened, you may ask? After answering a question I sent her through Facebook about her awareness of the violence and oppression that Black trans, queer, and gender non-conforming people have to fight through, an answer that did satisfy me at the time, I noticed her sensationalizing the struggles of trans people, applauding us for being so courageous and brave in a way that didn’t settle with me. In addition, her own benefits of white supremacy started appearing, as well as shocking ableism that I didn’t expect from a physician like her. Stein referred to conditions such as autism, asthma, and cancer as “public health calamities” to Elle Magazine in July.
And Johnson? To be honest, Libertarian politics haven’t caught my eye much. During CNN’s recent Libertarian Party Town Hall, he said, “What it [Black Lives Matter] has done for me is that my head has been in the sand on this. I think that we’ve all had our heads in the sand and let’s wake up. Discrimination does exist, has existed, and for me personally, um, slap, slap, wake up.”
What do you do after waking up, Gary? Remove the dead lashes from your eyes? Johnson has had sufficient time to partake in both activities since his last presidential run, but not everyone is clapping their hands at such an answer.
Come November, it doesn’t matter who is elected. They will be one of the key players of oppression, and it will either be Clinton or Trump. I’m not speaking on behalf of the average non-voter, but when chances for Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz were growing increasingly dim, I faced reality and knew that I couldn’t cast a vote for candidates who remain complicit in my liberation as a Black queer trans woman, candidates whose pockets of money and resources are never leveraged, candidates who are the real “super predators.”
I’ve concluded that liberation is not in the hands of a President, and people can disagree with me. My conclusion comes from burnout, my own political education and social justice foundation, as well as unfulfilled expectations from all representatives in elected offices that I’ve voted for in seven election seasons.
My vote is no longer a given in any voting process. One must earn it.
And if one has committed high profile abuses, there are accountabilities. These candidates face critique and demands from marginalized people every day, people who want proper atonement. If those accountabilities are refused, there is no trust.
Instead of voting, what do I do? I work in my community as an artist, raise awareness of issues vital to me that rarely appear on a ballot, and make spaces of celebration, healing, and mourning. Maybe I’ll try this again in 2020, but until then, my alternative methods seem less stressful than walking into a voting machine. Being instructed to vote is one of the biggest forms of violence I can experience.
On January 20th, it doesn’t matter who is hailed as America’s next chief, but I’ll be doing liberation work on grounds they’ve never touched.