In Defense of Defensive Voting

Read Scott Horton's new book Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan

Unless something wild happens, I hope and expect that this is my only post about Election Day. It’s a more personal post than anything else. I’m kind of out of commentary that isn’t “everything is fucking horrifying and why won’t this experience machine turn off.”

The kind of politics I raised myself on was heavy on polemics. While I would like to say I’ve improved in the decade since, the foundation of my ideology comes from CrimethInc. pamphlets and punk lyrics. “There is no master but yourself,” “fuck the system,” “make total destroy,” etc. I was kind of an angry, directionless kid when I started reading about anarchism, and that anger carried me a substantial way through my 20s. Anarchism really helped mold my path. But now, as I approach 27, I’ve gone back to feeling directionless. And my anger, while not gone, is waning. It used to be so easy for me to get so mad at injustices perpetrated by the system, but now I mostly just go to bed each night feeling sick to my stomach. This is a privileged position for me to take, I know.

But really so have all my positions. I have been incredibly lucky by dint of birth to be able to take the positions I’ve taken over the years, and personally I think I have mostly squandered that privilege. And it’s left me feeling unmoored.

When I vote on Tuesday, it will be the first “meaningful” act of political anything that I’ve taken since the last election. And that’s really fucking sad. It’s sad that so much mobilizing energy is wasted on voting, but it’s even more sad that for me and millions of other people like me, voting was literally the entire plan. This is the resistance. There are no better alternatives put forward. Vote… and hope to fuck that the person you vote for a) wins and b) stymies the authoritarian fuckitude until the deep state can finally get its shit together with the Mueller investigation or until the old orange bastard drops dead of a heart attack and leaves Pence in charge.

Meanwhile, what is anarchism doing? Antifascist actions are only just keeping the Proud Boys and other paramilitaries from literally turning into the Brownshirts; it still blows my fucking gourd that Patriot Prayer and other alt right assclaps actually managed to get snipers into the roofs of Portland businesses recently. I’ve heard of a few community defense programs, the John Brown Gun Club and Redneck Revolt are still kicking, and I’m sure there are other small projects out there that are addressing the needs of whatever local areas they’re in.

But I’m surprised that I haven’t heard any serious calls for mobilization at the border. I’m surprised that there isn’t more of a coordinated push right now by cis anarchists to protect trans anarchists and other queer folks. I’m surprised by the fact that, at least locally, there’s not more of an outreach to our Jewish and Muslim friends. Of course, I can be surprised all I want but I also haven’t participated in making that or anything else happen.

It’s often said that people don’t vote because they don’t believe in voting’s efficacy, or in other words, they don’t think it matters and don’t think their voices carry. In my case, it’s precisely because I don’t think I’m doing enough or that anything that I _have_ done has mattered that I *am* voting.

I’ve got some good friends right now who are definitely keeping the radical flame alive better than I ever could. And I’m sure still more friends from earlier days will read this and laugh at my fall into disgusting centrist liberalism. And I don’t have anything to say other than I’m sorry.

But one thing I will say is this. Tuesday will not save us. Voting is not going to get it done. There has to be something on the other side. Something for us to do on Wednesday. We’re all exhausted but this won’t go away with a single cast of the ballot. The various murderers and genocidaires on websites like Gab and 8chan won’t put their killing spree plots away because Democrats win. How do we really stymie the flow of reactionary right-wing movements? That’s the question I’m left asking.

Of course, there are no easy answers. There never have been. And I’m still feeling unmoored. But maybe there’s hope.

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Read Scott Horton's new book Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan