11 November 2016
What to do when elections go to fuck
So, erm, the American election went well didn't they?
Okay, it went well if you actually wanted a misogynistic, Islamophobic and homophobic billionaire celebrity with no political experience who publicly mocks disabled people as President.
But if you're reading my blog chances are you're not down with that (unless you're a troll or hate reader - then hello!). Chances are you put your cross in another box (or would have if you were American) and are now feeling frustrated, angry, upset, scared and a host of other negative emotions.
I hear ya. The last couple of elections in the UK haven't exactly went my way. The UK voted for Brexit, The Conservatives won another five years, Scotland didn't go independent, and the Tories had a bit of a resurgence in Scotland. I sometimes wonder why I bother staying up to watch results come through giving I'll be both sleep-deprived and punching walls the next day.
On the morning of the American Presidential result, I messaged my American friend to check how she was feeling. She was heart-broken but also asked for coping advice, throwing in a reference to Brexit. It was a difficult question to answer, as I live in Scotland where all council regions voted Remain. I don't have to live side-by-side with most Brexiters, and it still remains to be seen when the UK actually will leave the EU (if it ever will).
But I've had a few days to think about it, and here's my advice for when elections go to fuck and what you can actively do.
It's really easy to shout "racist, sexist, middle America who always votes for white men" and then go sulk. And while, yes, Trump (plus Brexit and Tories) win elections because there's still people out there who think women should only be married to politicians. Or that America should close its doors to immigrants, even though almost everyone in modern USA is descendent from an immigrant. Or can't even tell the difference between Iran and Mexico on a map.
I will never ever say these things aren't true - they are. But it's not the whole story.
Clinton won the popular vote but not the electoral college. There's a massive flaw in the voting system. There's a massive flaw in the UK voting system too: it's not about how many votes you win, it's about your supporters being concentrated into the same region! I am lucky that I can vote for who I want in a city like Glasgow where the Tories will never see light of day, but in other parts of Scotland I would be voting for the candidate I hate the least. The voting system is a massive problem.
Another problem, was the mainstream media. I don't know how bad it was in America - but after a few weeks of watching the American elections on the BBC I actually had to Google 'who are the other Republican candidates?'. If this is how the news channels behaved in America, then it's no wonder Trump won the Republican candidacy.
And then there's the other problem with the mainstream media - people sick of mainstream media so decided to vote for the candidate who wasn't media darling. Hillary was favoured by the American media and Hollywood, and some people took that as a sign that 'she was part of the system'. Donald on the other hand had very few endorsements so he's seen as some kind of cool anti-establishment figure. I don't know how because he's, like, the 1% of the 1% but it worked.
We have the same problem in the UK - the BBC is state funded and meant to be unbiased. But unbiased media does not exist. Look at the way they followed Nigel Farage around before there was ever a UKIP MP, but didn't give the Green Party any attention even though they had a damn MP (in the form of the fabulous Caroline Lucas).
And while we're on the subject of media bias ask yourself honestly: should Hillary have been the Democratic candidate? Did she maybe not get chosen due to media attention and voters thinking more about strategy rather than who really was the best candidate. Look, I'm not saying Bernie would have won - statisticians can analyse the numbers all they want but unless anyone has a crystal ball they can't say.
AND (this is my final point) a lot of Trump's support came from un-educated Americans. You know, people with less information at their finger tips and have to rely on mainstream media. Sometimes university-educated, middle class, urban living, technology-savvy progressives need a reminder that they have access to a bulk-load more information than someone who is working-class, doesn't know how to use the internet, is working two jobs just trying to get by and lives in a small community.
You on the other hand have a degree in sociology or politics, can pay to read news that is covered by paywall, can use the internet to dig up dirt or read a piece of information that the mainstream media is conveniently not mentioning. This is a privilege and you need to understand that many people don't have it.
It wasn't even just the American elections - a lot of Leave voters were working class, as were a lot of Scottish Independence supporters. Because when you're fucked by the system, you'll vote for change - any change. Fellow Green Party member Chris wrote this well-balanced piece after Brexit, which covers what exactly happened.
So what can we actually do? If you're in the UK donate to and support the Electoral Reform Society, and make electoral reform an important issue that you ask candidates about. Read news articles that go beyond mainstream media - dig deep, and when you find something don't keep it to yourself. Write a blog and shout your views loud and clear. And don't just campaign once candidates are chosen - campaign while they are being chosen. Don't just vote, be an actual voice.
The world is still capitalist, and that's why billionaire business men win. If you want a candidate to win (whether Hillary, Bernie, or a third-party candidate) one of the best things you can do is donate to their campaign. With more money they can have more bus adverts, pop a leaflet through every door, run a TV campaign, hire a great press officer, have posters in all their supporters windows and provide badges for their supporters. Money doesn't grow on trees, and that includes the trees outside the White House.
But it's not just political campaigns that need money. Since the Tories got in vulnerable people have become more vulnerable - and it looks like it might be the same when Trump takes his seat in the Oval Office. Donate to organisations that need you right now. It's difficult to list them all as so many need support - but Get Bullish has compiled a great list to get Americans started. I could name so many in the UK but some organisations that I throw donations towards include Rape Crises Scotland, the PDSA, and MS Society. I also give random donations to the Scottish Green Party on top of my membership fee.
The next election in Scotland is the council elections. Yeah, those fun ones that have a really high turnout (eye roll). But the council elections actually have the fairest voting system - and that makes them one of the best to get your voice heard. Parties such as the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and even UKIP will never have a Prime Minister under First Past the Post. But they can lead councils. And that's where small little parties have the chance to prove themselves worthy of the people's vote in bigger elections.
I'm not sure when the next American election is (or if any of them could be counted as fair) but whatever the vote is - make sure your vote is cast.
If you need to cry, let yourself cry. If you're one of the disadvantaged groups that are scared right now - you are allowed to be scared. Take a few days. Have a media blackout.
If you're not one of the disadvantaged groups Trump has made bigoted remarks about, now is time to be a good alley. Publicly let LGBT+, immigrant, Muslim, black, Asian, Hispanic, and disabled communities that you support them. And then take action. Donate to organisations that support them. If one of your disadvantaged friends is scared to leave the house, offer to go with them. Accompany your female friend if she needs an abortion. Call out racist and sexist jokes. Words are great, but actions are better.
Also, do not ever fucking tell people 'now is time to unite and build a America for all'. By doing this, you are telling people that their fear of a Trump presidency is not real. You are telling them to roll over and accept a President who publicly mocks them. By saying this you keep the oppressed, oppressed.
The next four years will be bleak, but there is life after every shitty government.
And the proof?
Millennials - well, most - did not vote Trump. The cycle of life guarantees that these progressive attitudes will expand as people born in the past two - three decades grow older and finally kick bigoted views to the curb. And even take office.
Then there's anger. The morning after the No vote in the Scottish Referendum, yes voters didn't roll over and accept it. They joined the pro-independence parties and the SNP became the biggest political party in the UK by membership. In the months that followed it became obvious that the UK Government wasn't going to keep its promises to Scotland (remember when they said that staying in the UK was the best way to guarantee EU membership, and that Scotland could never become a member on its own - still not forgotten that).
So what did Scotland do? Sent a tsunami of SNP MPs to Westminster in the next UK election. Scottish Labour lost their stronghold on Scotland and could be found floating dead in Loch Ness somewhere.
Heck, I've even seen it in Student Elections. One year my old university's students union Vice-President was shitty and wouldn't do his job. The next election? He ran for President and people were pissed. The turnout was high and the other candidate won by more than double the votes.
Somewhere in the USA a young woman or girl, seen Hillary's defeat and is pissed enough that she has decided she will become the first female President.
Sometimes, anger is what people need to get involved.
Hold tight America, you deserve better and you'll get better.
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