We find our voice in collective power, not at the ballot box

Why not voting is a valid political decision.

I’m tired of hearing the recycled narrative surrounding the importance of certain voices when election time rolls back around. How much Black, Latinx, Indigenous, LGBTQ+, women, or young peoples’ votes matter, and how underrepresented we are in the voting block. 

I am tired of hearing how we are so important to swing the votes in favor of the democrats, as though a blue vote will save those of us with marginalized identities. Because rather than considering why we are underrepresented and looking to better serve our various communities, they simply demand we turn out in fear of the alternative. They wave the atrocities of the other side in our faces and act like they aren’t offering a diet version of that same suffering. 

In a Zine entitled “Voting is Not Harm Reduction, An Indigenous Perspective” from Indigenous Action, they explain “We don’t dismiss the reality that, on the scale of U.S. settler-colonial violence, even the slightest degree of harm can mean life or death for those most vulnerable. What we assert here is that the entire notion of ‘voting as harm reduction’ obscures and perpetuates settler-colonial violence, there is nothing ‘less harmful’ about it, and there are more effective ways to intervene in its violences.”

Often the narrative of “harm reduction” is used to enforce the belief that our votes are where our power stems from. That by not voting you are somehow at fault for all of the suffering that is to come, that you have laid down your weapons in the fight against oppression. Voting is not the drastic political move you think it is. Voting is not radical and it does not generate change in any significant way. There is bound to be mass suffering under both parties. 

Voting doesn’t do anything for our communities. It merely helps uphold the system. This is why it receives so much attention, so much  praise and so many fundraisers and educational campaigns. And whenever democrats win, they celebrate us for helping them maintain the system that oppresses us. 

As Indigenous Action states, it is important to recognize that “under colonial occupation, all power operates through violence. There is absolutely nothing ‘less harmful’ about participating in and perpetuating the political power of occupying forces. Voting won’t undue settler colonialism, white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy, or capitalism. Voting is not a strategy for decolonization.” Both sides uphold these violent systems of power, it doesn’t matter if they are red or blue. 

They will still build the pipelines through sacred Indigenous land and pollute the rivers. They will still drop bombs on the middle east and murder innocent people for oil. They will still lock undocumented peopels in cages for seeking a better life. They will still be complicit in the murder of Black and brown peoples at the hands of the police. And they will still use that very same militarized police force to terrorize those that oppose the system, beating, gassing and shooting them in the streets. 

Radical change will never come from a system designed to maintain your oppression nor from a system that thrives off of your suffering. Indigenous Action elaborates that “while the harm reduction sentiment may be sincere, even hard-won marginal reforms gained through popular support can be just as easily reversed by the stroke of a politician’s pen. If voting is the democratic participation in our own oppression, voting as harm reduction is a politics that keeps us at the mercy of our oppressors.” 

If you decide to vote, that’s fine. But any ballot cast must be done so with the recognition that it is a passive act. Voting is not radical and there will be no change to the system through an act that is sanctioned by that system. A vote for anyone or for no one is meaningless if you do not take action to further your cause. 

Direct action and mass organizing are the most powerful and effective ways we can create change. We must be subversive and deny the system the control it thinks it has on us. Our voice is not granted to us through voting. We already have it. The system does not need to give it to us, nor will it ever. Recognize the power we have for change and break out of the system that does not serve us. 

They want you to be comfortable in your oppression. Don’t be. Now is not the time for passive anything, this era demands action.