The United States of America only exists because a group of people decided to “get political” and break free from Great Britain.
Unless you’re a wealthy, white male, you only have the right to vote because someone “got political”.
Every black person in this country would still be in chains if it weren’t for people “getting political”.
You would be forced to work in unworkable conditions and for unlivable wages (even less livable than the currently unlivable minimum wage) if it weren’t for someone “getting political”.
We all owe every freedom we have in our lives to other people “getting political”.
People have been “getting political” for millennia to try and make people’s lives better because there have always been people who want to make them worse. The folks who want to profit from taking away your rights will never rest. They’re like weeds that take over a garden once you stop tending to it. And now, our government is infested with weeds because people got used to a (relatively) manicured garden and just assumed it would be there every day without anyone tending to it. Democracy requires tending to in the form of education and voting, and we saw what happened when we gave our full attention to that garden in 2008 when we had all hands on deck to elect our first black president. Only to be followed by the garden being taken over by weeds in 2016 due to neglect. Have you ever noticed that the people in your neighborhood with the best lawns and gardens are constantly in there tending to them? They don’t just sit back and only react when the weeds show up.
We can’t sit around and act like our right to vote, get paid a fair wage, or afford medical treatment will always exist just because they have existed as long as they have. Those freedoms only exist because enough people demanded that they exist and they have only stayed in place by continuing to take an interest in the politics that govern our lives. The second enough of us stop getting political is the second that those rights start to get taken away by those who profit from our loss of freedom. We’ve seen it in other parts of the world throughout history, and we’re starting to see it right here in America with this current administration.
Being political isn’t a 4-letter word. It just means you give a damn. It means there’s something wrong with the way things are, and you’d like them to change. Don’t let the people who don’t want things to change convince you that getting political is impolite or something you should never discuss. There’s a reason why conservatives tend to be the ones who discourage political discussions since they don’t want things to change, and would actually prefer we regress and make things “great again.” They know that if enough people get political, we could continue to progress as a society, and progress is kryptonite to conservatives.
If you aren’t political, then someone else will be for you. That means that if you don’t care about maintaining your rights, you’re giving someone else the power to control your rights for you, or to take them away altogether.
I always think of a scene from the movie Man on Fire when I hear someone say “I don’t get political.” I feel like Denzel Washington’s character every time someone told him “I’m just a professional.”
I’m tired of hearing “I’m not political” as an excuse for why people are too lazy or too naive to participate in the political process. Rest assured that the people who want to profit from taking away your rights will never become that lazy and indifferent. They’re relentless. But fortunately, we outnumber them, which is why it takes all of us to be involved and to encourage others to get involved.
Getting political doesn’t mean running for office, or watching C-SPAN 24 hours a day. It just means giving a damn and actively doing something, anything to improve your life and the lives of others. It means being an adult and staying somewhat informed about what’s going on in the world around you. It means voting in every possible election to improve our current system, and more specifically, voting for the person with the “D” next to their name for the foreseeable future.
If voting doesn’t matter, then why do conservatives try to stop you from doing it?
I’ll give conservatives credit for one thing: They consistently recognize the power of voting.
Conservatives who say that the Republican Party is the “Party of Lincoln” is the political equivalent of “my best friend is black.” It’s only brought up to say there’s no way they can be racist since their ancestors once helped free slaves. They’re trying to say that the same Confederate monument-loving Republicans of today are the same anti-Confederacy Republicans who elected Lincoln in 1860.
The south has always been heavily conservative. They’ve always loved mint juleps and the Confederacy. They’ve always been largely anti-black, anti-gay, pro-gun, and deeply religious. That much hasn’t changed in the 152 years since the Civil War. What has changed is the political affiliation of those southern conservatives. In 1860, the south voted exclusively Democrat, but now, the south votes almost exclusively Republican.
It was liberals who went from the “Republican Party of Lincoln” to the “Democratic Party of Obama.” Conservatives just went from the “Democratic Party of White Supremacy” to the “Republican Party of White Supremacy.”
You can clearly see this when you compare the election map from Lincoln’s win in 1860 to the election map from Trump’s win in 2016.
Not a single one of the 11 Confederate states voted Republican for Lincoln in 1860, but they all (with the lone exception of Virginia) voted Republican for Trump in 2016. Conservatives moving from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party (and vice versa for liberals) started to take place in the mid-20th century primarily due to an ideological split on (you guessed it) racism and Civil Rights.
Noting the existence of the party switch is important because it shows how conservatives have always tried to make it difficult for marginalized groups to vote: First via the Democratic Party, and now with the Republican Party.
In the 2016 movie Free State of Jones–which is based on the true story of the armed revolt against the Confederacy in Jones County, Mississippi–a group of armed, southern, conservative Democrats try to intimidate and prevent a group of black men from casting their Republican ballots.
This was commonplace in the south, and part of the Black Codes that sought to limit freedoms of the newly freed blacks after the Civil War. As much as conservatives like to tout that slavery ended a long time ago, they have been putting new obstacles in front of blacks ever since then, and have never stopped.
Conservatives have been there since the country’s founding to stop women, blacks, the poor, and basically anyone who wasn’t a land-owning, white male from exercising their right to vote and participate fully in society. Not because it was just a fun hobby, but because they knew the power of the vote, and what it would mean if others were able to participate in the voting process: That conservatives would lose their footing and power in this country.
Since slavery “ended” in 1865, conservatives have tried again and again to prevent black people from voting, first through black codes and Jim Crow, up until now with voter ID laws and general disenfranchisement.
Conservatives recognize that one of the most powerful things a citizen can do is vote, which is why they are both committed to voting consistently in every election as well as preventing others from voting. It’s the only reason they have the power they do. Not because they outnumber liberals or moderates. It’s because they show up while simultaneously trying to stop their opponents from showing up.
They maintain power in Congress and on the state level to institute gerrymandering and uphold the Electoral College system that favors small states and the Republican Party. But they only maintain these policies because we fail to show up and remove them from office so that we can end these unfair practices.
Our votes mattered in 2008 and 2012 when we elected and re-elected the nation’s first black President. They didn’t stop mattering in 2016. We just didn’t show up enough to overcome the Republican obstructionism, but the votes still mattered the same as they did four years prior. Tuesday’s major wins by Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey should serve as the perfect example of what can happen when liberals and moderates show up at the polls. But we can’t go back to staying home and pretending our votes don’t matter again.
Conservatives have always wanted you to stay home. In fact, a lot of them actually want you out of the country. They think this is their land and would rather not share it with anyone else who doesn’t look and think the way they do. And by staying home and allowing them to decide who gets elected, that’s exactly what has happened and will continue to happen unless we continue the momentum of Tuesday’s elections and get out and vote in every election possible.
Past generations recognized the power of voting so much that they were willing to be killed in order to vote, and others who were willing to kill in order to stop their opponents from voting. Conservatives have never stopped trying to prevent people on the left from voting, but we have absolutely lost our drive to make our vote count. That’s the only difference between the two sides at the moment: Drive. They never lost theirs, but we have to find ours. Like Bob Marley said, “The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?” Conservatives don’t take an election off, so we can’t either. Tuesday was a great start, but we have to keep that drive going, and most importantly, never lose it again.