Thoughts on the importance of the vote in light of #drumpf & #brexit

Yesterday I was angry, and very disappointed in the world. It’s exactly what I felt on 23rd June, when the UK voted to leave the EU. The dust has settled a bit in the last 24 hours and I have been thinking a few things I wanted to write down.

As a liberal and someone who wants positive change in this world (go Ada’s List), those feelings of depression, anger and frustration are unsurprising. The vast majority of people I know felt just as I did on both occasions.

The thing is, that’s the problem. This election has woken me up to the fact that it is not OK that the people I know are largely, like me, educated, comfortable in their surroundings, privileged and middle class. And that some of them do not feel strongly enough about things that affect all of us.

Of Trump’s victory, the reasons put forth are varied and complex. Maybe the media is to blame, but so are we – they feed off clicks, so if stories about Trump’s sexual misdemeanours make them more money than his views on education (hardly covered) then that’s where they’ll go. Maybe technology is to blame – Facebook has admitted they have a problem, and during this election they probably have been a ‘sewer of misinformation’. Perhaps the American electoral system, in yesterday’s case, is also to blame – Trump won the Electoral College but he did not win the popular vote. The incredibly negative campaigns run by both parties probably contributed to voter apathy, resulting in many people not turning up at all. And we cannot ignore race and gender as reasons for Clinton not making it – white men voted overwhelmingly for Trump, and so did most 45+ white women, especially Conservatives – the CNN’s Jill Filipovic explains this phenomenon.

But all that makes it easy to place the blame on others, not on myself, or, as is being theorised now, the neoliberals (not that I am part of the Davos set – far from it, but hopefully you get what I mean).

There are many complicated reasons why Clinton lost, but the one that I want to dwell on is voter turnout, which is currently reported to be 56.5%, lower than the turnout at the last election (remarkably, in the case of Brexit, voter turnout was actually much higher than expected – 72.2%, though of course with a much smaller population than the US overall).

Very simply, not enough people turned up to vote in America, and not enough Remain supporters turned up for the Brexit vote, despite the better-than-average turnout in the latter.

Voter turnout is not the whole reason Clinton lost (see above, and yes, I truly do believe that many American people were just not ready for a female President, even though countries in Africa and Asia have had them for ages), but it’s ‘an important subplot’ as Vox says:

Clinton garnered 129,000 fewer votes in heavily Democratic Detroit than Obama did four years ago — and lost the state by around 61,000 total votes.

She also got 95,000 fewer votes in heavily Democratic Milwaukee than Obama did — and lost the state by 73,000 total votes.

This is why I’ve been bothered. With Brexit, I actually know people who simply did not turn up to vote – laziness or sheer apathy is all I can attribute it to. And I’m ashamed that I did not stand up and shout. I did not make my opinion known and chastise them. When everyone sat down at the pub to discuss politics, I did not make my thoughts on the importance of the vote clear, especially when, as a woman, we did not have it till a few decades ago. And that’s what results in an ‘extinction-level event’ that puts women and ethnic minorities at risk.  

I will be quiet no longer.

If you do not vote, you do not have a voice. You, by default, are then leaving it to those who can be bothered, because they are angry or frustrated enough by the lack of economic opportunity and what they see as ‘outsiders’ taking what they think should be theirs – and what resonates with them sometimes, as we have now seen, is racist, sexist rhetoric.

The penalty will need to be paid by the minorities.

The people I know who do not vote, some of whom, as I said earlier, are comfortable, undeterred by high taxes because they can afford it, are part of the problem. I will treat them as such going forward.

At least I will have a clearer conscience.

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