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Fear and Voting: Progressive Voter Turnout

fearVoting is placing our support behind our team of choice just like in sports and I have to admit, I’m not a constant fan of any one football team. Typically, I watch the first few games in the pre-season, pick a team, and follow them through that one season. I have caught a lot of flack from avid fans as being disloyal. I’m okay with that, I’m not that invested in football, but I am highly invested in the state of our nation and I carry this same process into voting; I’m looking at each candidate and seeing what is best for our country.

Beyonce and Bruno Mars during Super Bowl 50 Half Time Show

While everyone is kvetching over Beyonce’s performance, I’m deeply bothered by the realization that we are doubling the votes of the competition by not voting at all. The most troubling trend I’m noticing when it comes to voting isn’t gerrymandering, or some insidious plot by the GOP, but our desire, nay need, to vote for the winner, so essentially ego is our biggest problem. Everyone wants to be a winner, to be associated with the winners, and we see that in sports. The bandwagon nearly buckled under the weight of thousands of Carolina Panther’s fans on their way to Santa Clara, California, but on the teams return trip, after losing to the Denver Broncos with a final score of 10-24, only a couple hundred people or so showed up to welcome them home. After a 15-1 season that lead to playing in the Super Bowl, the NFC Champions’ “fans” couldn’t be bothered.

Ta-Nehisi Coates
Voting for Bernie Sanders but doesn’t ‘support’ him?

This gave me some clarity on the problem we have in voter turn out for progressives. For so long we have been hearing about the inevitability of a Clinton win for the democratic ticket that some can’t be bothered to go vote for Bernie Sanders. You have bought into the idea that it doesn’t matter if we vote or not because you would rather not vote at all than be remembered for voting for and supporting “the loser”. This competition based thinking mingles with the fear and shame that has been ingrained in us of what being the loser means. How many times have you heard some progressive say, filled with resignation, that they won’t vote for Bernie Sanders because he doesn’t have a chance at winning? We have psyched ourselves out of the process, in effect, helping along the loss we so fear by not being willing to be thought of as part of the losing team. Many go so far as to encourage other progressives not to vote at all because of an ill-conceived belief that our votes don’t matter, or using their platform to encourage voters to think that if a candidate doesn’t support 100% of everything they believe in, we shouldn’t “support” them, sending out a confusing message that some find hard to follow when they are searching for understanding of what has become an unbelievably convoluted process. This kind of waffling also makes us look like we don’t know what we are doing nor why, also weakening our political stance.

U.S. turnout in 2012 was 53.6% according to a Pew Research survey, which is one of the lowest turnouts for a developed country. Then, when those numbers are broken down, the communities needing the most help are the ones less likely to actually vote. We continuously complain that our communities’ needs aren’t being met. That is not a coincidence when we refuse to get out and support the very candidates that would work toward making the changes we need in order to move this country forward, then sit back dumbfounded as the opposition drags the country down with antiquated ideologies and playground antics of halting progress when they don’t get their way.

That's not how this worksShould we even expect more when we give into the same childish way of thinking that it’s better to not try, rather than try and fail?

Now is not the time to give up on the very process we say we stand for and want to protect, by castrating ourselves out of fear. We have to do more than talk about what the other side gets wrong, and how it should be done, and do the one thing that actually makes a difference. Vote.

Written by Pamela Getz

Writer and Activist. Follow Pamela on Twitter @goddesspamela.

Pamela Getz is Editor of International Affairs for Progressive Army and a member of its Editorial Board.

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  1. If the Democratic party wanted progressives to vote Democratic they should nominate a progressive candidate who will fight for progressive values. If Hillary wins the Democratic nomination, I and a lot of Progressives I know, will have to vote for the Green candidate. If the Democratic party doesn’t suffer the consequences of their choices they will never regret or correct those bad choices.

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Fear and Voting: Progressive Voter Turnout