This is a two-part guest post from my dear friend Kelly McCullough, one of the few people I really enjoy arguing politics with. He was also one of the people I had in mind a few days ago when I observed that it was a joyful thing to watch good writers who normally keep mum on politics reach their breaking points.
This was from Kelly yesterday.
Refusing to vote for the lesser of two evils is fundamentally anti-democratic.* It’s also stunningly bad tactics. Politicians cater to the people who vote. It’s a shockingly simple concept that seems to be lost on a number of people on the left.
The way that the conservative movement pushed the Republicans so far to the right is simple. They showed up. They did it for primaries and caucuses, they did it for local elections, they did it for off year elections, and they did it by supplying people from their own ranks to run for local offices because those local politicians of today are the national politicians of tomorrow. And they did it by making sure that that the politicians knew that they would be there for every election.
Every single time the Democrats lose an election they move to the right because that’s where the voters who showed up are. Not showing up doesn’t create more progressive Democratic candidates it creates more conservative ones.
We are in the mess we’re in now with so much state control in Republican hands, and gerrymanders because conservative Republicans reliably show up and Democrats as a group don’t.
I’m not particularly sympathetic to the claims that Democrats don’t show up because the candidates don’t inspire them either, because the way to get candidates that inspire you is to show up and elect them in caucuses and primaries, and if no one on the ballot at that level agrees with everything you want done, then run for office yourself.
Getting your views represented in the halls of government is work. Sometimes, it’s the kind of work that means you have to do it yourself. I did.
*It’s anti democratic because it says that your purity of heart in waiting for the perfect candidate is more important than all the harm that will be done if the greater evil is elected. Democracy is about making the best governing choice at every level for the common good. It’s not about you, it’s about coming to a governing consensus. Sometimes that means you don’t get everything you want, but you compromise to get some of it. Sometimes it means that you don’t get anything you want personally, but you do it to protect the rights and gains of others because that’s important.
I haven’t followed all the discussions where this was shared, but Kelly asked me to look over this follow-up today. I asked him whether I could turn this into a guest post, and he agreed.
I will vote for the candidate who is better on maintaining abortion rights because, even though I’m a man who has had a vasectomy and will never need an abortion, somewhere out there is a woman facing an unwanted pregnancy who doesn’t have the time or energy to vote, and her needs are important to me.
I will vote for the candidate who is better on gay rights because, even though I am a straight guy, there is a gay individual out there who is too depressed or too busy to vote for the candidate who will do best by them, and their needs are important to me.
I will vote for the candidate who is better on caring for the needy because, even though I am middle class and don’t have to worry about my next meal, there is a single mother out there who needs food aid who is too busy taking care of her child to make it to the polls, and her needs are important to me.
I will vote for the candidate who is better on racial justice issues, because even though I am middle aged white guy who doesn’t need to worry about racial profiling, there are people of color who won’t or can’t vote for one reason or another, and their needs are important to me.
I will vote the candidate who is better on immigration issues, even though my ancestors have been in this country since the Mayflower, because there are refugees and new immigrants who cannot yet vote in our system who are in need of a voice in how they will be treated, and their needs are important to me.
I will vote for the candidate who is better on religious tolerance because even though I am…oh wait, I’m an atheist. Yeah, that one is easy.
I will vote for the candidate who is better on economic issues because, even though I am one of the people who has been able to make slow advances under the current system, there are people out there who can’t get ahead or who have lost ground who may not have the time to both vote and put bread on their table, and their needs are important to me.
Sometimes voting for that candidate means voting for the lesser of two evils because there is no better choice, but I will not turn away from that vote to claim a right to only vote for a candidate who serves all my needs. And I do that because, when everything is done and my race is run, I want to be remembered as the person who opposed the greater evil and not the one who let it happen because I had the right to walk away and know it probably wouldn’t hurt me.
I heartily endorse all of this, including the dive into overt politics. If you prefer cat pictures and solid fantasy books, you can usually find that at Kelly’s website. Oh, and yes, he is one of those atheist politicians we don’t talk that much about because he’s working quietly at the local level.