The leftist Discourse(tm) contains a lot of valid feelings on the futility of voting in US elections. I have been a staunch advocate of voting since well before I was even allowed to vote. Being held up to the voting booth by a parent to punch the chads in the 2000 election (in Florida) radicalized me for life.
Is the US election system flawed and easily corruptible? Absolutely. We don’t need to look much further than the constant gerrymandering that keeps the BIPOC and poorer communities away from the wealthy privileged (mostly white) ones and blocks them from adequate representation to see that voter suppression is real and takes many forms. It isn’t limited to sketchy redistricting, removing precincts, changing voting hours, banning water, eliminating vote-by-mail, or problems with the election handling itself. There’s another side to it that can’t be enforced by outside factors, but we feel it anyway.
Organized voter suppression tactics also wear on us psychologically, as feeling like even if we do vote, it won’t matter. It’s so hard to feel like it’s worth it to take the time to vote — especially if you live somewhere suppression tactics have been utilized — when time after time you see so many people vote against or completely ignore things on the ballot that would make life better for everyone.
Resisting the psychological damage would be a lot easier if the establishment Democrats were more than marginally different from the center-right. I know that I’d be more motivated to vote if the elected Democrats in Congress did more to stand in the way of the far right than continuously make concessions and quietly agree to fund an on-going genocide. I deeply understand not wanting to vote in the upcoming Presidential election when the biggest viable options are between a candidate openly into a dictatorship backed by theocrats and one committed to aiding an ongoing genocide in Gaza.
I’m writing this because I am wrestling with this question myself. I don’t know that I can, in good moral conscience, vote for Joe Biden even if I framed it as a vote against Trump (or whoever). The Democratic establishment has made it clear that he will be the nominee and to-date there are no challengers in the primary (there really fucking should be though). At some point the lesser of two evils starts to feel like the same amount of evil but decorated differently.
What I keep coming back to is: there’s more to voting than the Presidential elections. It’s the local races and State ballot measures that matter the most. Those elections have a more direct impact on the day-to-day quality of life. It’s hard to run for President, it’s easier to run for school board to make sure that the Moms for Liberty people are limited in their ability to harass queer students and staff for existing. It’s easy to vote for increased library funding and see the benefits of that.
So when I say “go vote because it matters”, I don’t mean vote for Joe. I mean vote for your community. Vote for school board, vote for city council, vote for better funding for community services and infrastructure like schools, libraries, buses, housing, harm reduction sites, and parks.
Vote locally, where it matters.