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The World Will Still Need Your Attention: Beyond the 2016 Election

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November 7, 2016


I can’t wait for the election to be over. This is generally true most election years, but this particular one has given us a surreal choice between two horrible candidates: An imperialist beholden to corporate influences and a war-mongering megalomaniac beholden to his own corporate interests.  As I’ve written earlier, the choice here is between elites.


Putting aside all the poll-taking and the neurotic images of doom and gloom on all sides: I want Hillary Clinton to win.  It’s not that she would be a great president, or a feminist one.  As several of us keep pointing out, her record on all matters public is an abysmal one and has been especially bad for women and immigrants in particular. Hillary Clinton will not save anyone, least of all women and the most marginalised. But if she wins, we can finally move on and begin to truly examine and resist her awful politics, and lay bare the inadequacies of left-liberal politics.


I meant this to be a somewhat longer piece, about the possibilities and potential for an ongoing left politics post-Clinton. But this flu I’ve had for nearly a fortnight now is seriously kicking my ass, so I’ll reserve my energy for a longer piece post-election.


I still do think there is a possibility that Trump could win, but I defer to wise friends who point to excellent reasons why this will not happen.  Still, this is the weirdest election I’ve ever seen and I’ve resolved not to be surprised by anything.  If you’ve followed my work and/or my tweets or Facebook posts, you’ll know that I detest both candidates.  You’ll also know that I’m not particularly enamoured of a “Bernie Sanders Left,” which remains, despite its claims to be the opposite, a largely white and white-centred movement.


In thinking about the best of what I’ve seen in the last year, and of the kind of work we should all think about for future political horizons, I remain moved and impressed by the organising clarity presented to us by the #ByeAnita campaign.  It’s easy for people to be dismissive of such efforts, claiming that they don’t represent real movement-building, but they forget that such work actually overthrew (there is no other word for what happened in a city ruled by its notorious Machine) the State’s Attorney for Cook County, Illinois, a woman who was actually supposed to win even just weeks before the election.


Again, I’ll have much more to say about all this, but I also wanted to emphasise that those who might dismiss such work as somehow not being part of  a “movement” (What does that even mean? That they didn’t have enough procedural meetings?) forget how deeply contextual it was and is.  Certainly, like many others, I’m concerned about how to harness that kind of energy over the long term, but even as an outsider (I had nothing at all do with the efforts and only remained an admirer, looking on), I was moved and awed by the energy and work that went into the campaign. That kind of intensity is difficult to replicate every single time, but there's so much to learn from the organisers about organising and the power of resistance against power itself. They did all that work in a city that is notorious and, I'd argue, even proud of its record of police brutality.


There’s a lot of hysteria about voting this year.  It’s not unusual for there to be a great deal of finger-wagging during presidential elections, and I never fail to be amused at how Americans, who have one of the lowest voter turnouts in the world  — are among the loudest when it comes to bullying everyone around to vote, damn it, or else.


On that: Please, stop it.  Hillary will not save us all and neither will a Trump presidency mean the presence of actual Nazis marching down the streets (Trump’s constituents are really not that organised).  On whether or not you should vote, I’ll leave it to two of my friends and colleagues to say more on that.

Mariame Kaba wrote this in 2014, and it still remains relevant:


1. Voting will not uproot oppression. Only social movements can do that.

2. Voting is harm reduction.

3. Voting is one tool in a larger toolkit to engage politically. And being an engaged political person is a good thing.

4. Voting doesn't make you special and it doesn't make you a sell-out(a word I hate).

5. Not voting doesn't make you specialor a more radicalperson or a bad person.

6. Dear fellow Black people, our ancestors did not die to vote. They died fighting for their liberation. There is a real difference.Those choices just mean you voted or didn't vote.

You can see more of her work here.


In a related take, Ryan Conrad writes,


At the end of the day, I still maintain I am ungovernable no matter who is elected, and that my dreams will never fit into a ballot box. And I am still committed to prefigurative politics and activist work that builds new structures to address immediate communal needs outside our current hierarchical, capitalist and governmental frameworks. But I do not see harm reduction voting as irreconcilable with my anarchist politics.


You can read more of his piece, “I’m an Anarchist and I Vote” here.


So, vote or don’t vote, for any number of reasons.  Just don’t pretend that the world will not require your attention the day after Tuesday, November 8.


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