Shaming people into voting isn’t as effective as you think:
Instead, focus on helping undecided voters make the best decision for them
The 2020 Presidential election is quickly approaching and many Americans are feeling the weight of what is possibly at stake for the next four years. In August, former Vice-President Joe Biden officially accepted his Presidential nomination from the Democratic party at the Democratic National Convention, so the party has begun to rally behind its respective nominee. Additionally, along with his nomination, Joe Biden has historically chosen Kamala Harris as his accompanying Vice-President. Both his nomination and Vice-President pick have raised a bit of controversy within the Democratic party, garnering mixed reactions from people throughout the liberal spectrum. Some Democrats, who are centered between the liberal and conservative political spectrum, are decidedly satisfied with Joe Biden as the official nominee; though, many in the Democratic party aren’t so satisfied with Biden but will vote for him nonetheless in spite of the current President. However, there are some progressive-leaning individuals, many of whom also happen to be Black or people of color, who are not at all thrilled with Joe Biden as the Democratic candidate, given his history of racism (particularly finding issue with his contribution to mass incarceration and policing) and sexual assault allegations. These people have either still not decided on whether they will vote or are choosing not to vote regardless for a Biden-Harris ticket come November.
Due to the divide within the Democratic party between progressive/leftist non-voters and everyone else, there have been many debates on social media between the two groups on whether not voting in such a “crucial” election is morally acceptable. Non and undecided voters are conflicted with the ethics behind voting for Biden considering his past policies, practices, and rhetoric. While Biden supporters argue that Democrats must vote for Biden no matter what, perpetuating slogans such as “vote blue no matter who” and vote the “lesser of two evils.” The latter views the former as being unethical in their decision to not vote because, according to Biden supporters, America can not withstand another four years of Trump, so voting in this election is imperative to ensure Trump’s claim to political power permanently ends.
However, it’s important to consider those who have opted out of voting or are still unsure whether they will vote come November have valid reasons for their decision and should be listened to instead of gas-lighted or shamed. Shaming people who are not voting is unwarranted, and gas-lighting those who aren’t yet sure whether they will vote is ineffective. The upcoming Presidential election is no doubt controversial for many reasons, and BIPOC voters and sexual assault survivors who may be triggered or feel uncomfortable voting should be met with empathy and understanding. The lesser of two evils narrative used to persuade everyone within the Democratic Party to vote even acknowledges Biden’s many short-comings, to put it nicely, throughout his career. So, rather than shaming those who are not voting, people could more effectively focus their energy into providing BIPOC individuals and sexual assault survivors the care and support they need to make a comfortable and integrity-based decision come November.
For starters, some may find this first suggestion difficult, but those who have decided not to vote in November need their decision respected. It’s likely their decision won’t waver and no amount of shaming or guilt-tripping will change that. In her essay for Bitch Media titled, “Beyond Mural Purity: Non-white leftists are some of the most engaged political citizens” Reina Sultan interviews Black and persons of color American activists who have opted out of voting. All of her interviewees have concluded they will not vote for a Biden-Harris ticket in November because of the two candidate’s perpetuation of oppression towards BIPOC and LGBT+ individuals through crime reform, policing, and incarceration. Sultan concludes her essay stating, “Organizers who are prioritizing marginalized people’s well-being should not be shamed, whether they are voting or not; in fact, they should be supported in their endeavors.”
Moreover, rather than unsuccessfully persuading non-voters, people can instead find ways to listen to and support conflicted voters. We can do this by empathizing with conflicted voter’s valid concerns and criticisms of both parties and candidates. First, by seeking to eliminate the “lesser of two evils” narrative and elect people who simply advocate, without terms or conditions, for under-privileged communities. Secondly, refrain from putting the sole responsibility of “fixing” the United States’ systemic inequalities on the oppressed; instead, begin urging politicians to do more to effectively serve people of color. Thirdly, understand that voting is not the only way to serve your community, for there are other ways to contribute positively to society through community care, for example, that should be acknowledged as being just as important as voting. In hindsight, perhaps more of us should be engaging in community care and networking.
Ultimately, it’s important to understand- Joe Biden’s defects as a candidate shouldn’t be placed on anyone else except Joe Biden and the American capitalist system that continues to harm BIPOC individuals as well as a patriarchal society that harms victims of sexual assault. In addition, people should never be shamed or guilted into supporting parties or candidates they don’t believe in, because doing so contradicts the democracy we essentially seek to restore and maintain. The Democratic party should be trying to find commonality within each other, as the diversity of the party is their biggest strength. Part of having such a diverse range of voters means listening to minorities when we rightfully question the party’s choices and decide that perhaps we can do better going forward.