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Political Action in December 2020

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I wanted to pull out a comment from a post from yesterday, not because it is objectionable in any way, but because I think it represents common liberal shibboleths that need to be questioned a bit.

IvanTheAlmostBearable17 hours ago

This is yet another reason why everyone here should be registering voters. There’s a critically important election coming up in less than two years. That’s enough time to completely turn a state if the numbers are anywhere close. GO REGISTER VOTERS!

I’m certainly not going to question the ultimate need to register voters. Yes, that’s important.

But I think there are two issues here worth discussing. First is the question of how efficacious this actually is in politics. This seems based on a) the liberal notion that people participating in politics is good no matter who they vote for, which fine, and b) that if we register voters, they are going to vote and vote for us.

But is that true? We just had the greatest voter turnout in a presidential election since 1900 and….it made almost no difference overall. Biden won a slightly higher percentage of votes than Hillary and thus the election (thank god), Democrats tanked in the House compared to 2018, and the Senate was disappointing and probably disastrous without winning the two Georgia runoffs. Obviously, we had to register voters to even gain that much, but it hardly seems like a real strategy to win in the future. A lot of progressive wins have taken place in low-turnout elections (AOC’s primary win most notably) and that’s probably something we need to be paying more attention to as we go forward. Registering voters means registering Americans. And Americans have some pretty disturbing views on a lot of things. They may appreciate you registering them to vote and then go right ahead and vote for Donald Trump Jr. for president in 2024.

Also, even if you register voters, you have to get them to vote. And you have to give them a reason to vote. Voter turnout operations are obviously critical before Election Day and that should always be a major investment of the parties and candidates. But that’s not something to concern ourselves with 23 months before the midterms. The bigger issue perhaps is that you can get them to register, but if you don’t touch their lives, why are you giving them a reason to vote?

That leads to my other issue here. This is simply not the time to be focusing on electoral politics. That time will come, by the spring of 2022. Right now, what we need to be doing in focusing on non-electoral politics. It’s in that realm that you actually politicize people and make them understand that politics matter in their lives. If you can get them involved in their local communities, working on local issues, you can connect that work to national and state issues and then create a reliable voter out of them. And since most voters are pretty low-information, assuming they are going to pay attention to platforms or watch debates or actually know the first thing about which candidate supports what position is a fool’s game. They only way they do that is if they are already politicized and that is far more likely to happen outside electoral politics than inside it.

In other words, we have to focus on the non-electoral politics now in order to make a difference in the electoral politics of 2022 and 2024. That can happen in a huge number of ways–union work at your own workplaces, community organizations, protests, political meetings and reading groups, churches, neighbors, families. There are lots of ways to do this. And this is playing the long game.

Registering voters in December 2020 to prepare for November 2022? That’s just not a well thought-out strategy. We can do that in 18 months. And like the idea that giving as much money as we can to races where we have no chance of winning is a good idea (hello Kentucky Senate race), there’s quite a bit to reconsider and question about the current liberal model of politics here.

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