Voting, the Electoral College, and Next Steps.
I’ve been wondering over the past few days if I could have done more in the last few months regarding the election. I’ve felt guilt and some sort of responsibility for not being more involved because the answer is that yes, I could have done a lot more. I could and should have had more conversations with people, especially about Trump’s racist, misogynist, xenophobic platform.
In the past two days, people have blamed third party voters (particularly in swing states), low turnout rates, the electoral college, the gutted Voter’s Right Act, strict and inaccessible voter ID laws, and more. Honestly, I see it as a combination as all of the above and more.
democracy is this cool system where you yell at people online for 6 months and then people in Ohio and Florida pick the president
— Albro (@bromanconsul) 14 June 2016
Systemically and on several state levels, we’ve made it very difficult for people to vote, especially for the more marginalized Americans. Strict ID laws prevent many citizens from voting, the forced closures of many polling places made it hard or nearly impossible for some to vote, and cuts to early voting only added to the long lines on election day. If you’re disabled, elderly, work, or a variation/other, spending all day in line just to vote isn’t feasible. The Nation has been covering the topic of voter suppression for some time because it’s a sorely under covered topic. As Ari Berman writes:
Even if these restrictions had no outcome on the election, it’s fundamentally immoral to keep people from voting in a democracy. The media devoted hours and hours to Trump’s absurd claim that the election was rigged against him, while spending precious little time on the real threat that voters faced.
Citizens of these United States should have an unobstructed and accessible way to vote and that includes free from threat of violence from other citizens. Thousands of activists throughout our history have worked long and hard for their right to vote and faced violence and threat of death for it. To work so behind the curtain to undo the work of the Voting Rights Act, Civil Rights Movement, and 19th Amendment is despicable.
All of that doesn’t even begin to cover the process of the Electoral College, the actual way a president is elected. The process is simple to some degree but essentially, each state is given a number of electors proportional to the state’s population and it’s the college that directly elects the president.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) 11 November 2016
So the citizens are not directly electing the president of the United States and if it were based on the popular vote, both Al Gore and Hillary Clinton would have won the presidency in 2000 and 2016 respectively. Because of that and a few other reasons, many are calling for the college to end and for the popular vote to have a larger impact on who becomes President. PBS has a really interesting article about how some Constitutional scholar say that the college is actually a vestige of slavery.
But more than anything, I blame myself and my fellow white people the most. Most of the white men and women who voted actually voted for Donald Trump and he is a product of white America. Even if we were one of the “woke” white folks who didn’t and don’t support the hatred and discrimination that Trump has built his platform on, we probably know a few people who did and should have had conversations with them.
It’s easy in a relatively progressive city as a white person to stay stuck in a bubble and pretend that Trump’s America isn’t a terrifying mess of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and so much more. It’s comfortable to overlook and ignore the racism and white supremacy in our society and to pretend that we aren’t in some way complicit in the very thing that got Trump elected. Joking about moving to Canada or getting out of the US isn’t that funny because it would be at the expense of the black, brown, and poor folks who can’t escape the mess we played a large role in.
If you’re a liberal, progressive white person like me, it’s easy to deny the notion that we are in some way complicit and to say that we aren’t like the other white people. Let’s actively reject that. Instead of denial and shock, we as white folks should be having those hard conversations about Trump’s large platform of racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and hate with those who do actively buy into it.
In addition to a whole lot more, we should be questioning and challenging the racism and assumptions of not only ourselves but of others. And we should be using the privilege we do have in whatever context (race, gender, class, etc) to help those around us. I will be writing more in depth about how to have these hard conversations and how exactly to show up in the next few days, months, years. But it’s important that we support each other during this time, especially with the rash of racist attacks that have broken out since Trump’s victory.
All of this is way too late but I wrote it as a way to keep pushing back against my own complicity in white supremacy and the desire I have to just ignore the harsh and very real reality of Trump’s America. People from all sorts of marginalized communities are impacted in a huge way because of this election – LGBT folks, black and brown folks, disabled folks, immigrants, women and gender nonconforming folks. I also don’t wish to unite and necessarily work with the next administration but instead want us as white folks to push back more in ways that won’t harm the people of color around us. (Being violent at protests and rallies by the way? That impacts the people of color around you and they pay for your actions.)