On Voter Abstinence and Political Violence in the Left-Wing Nation-State
After working alongside many undocumented persons this summer, and after a long period of deliberation during which I considered both the Green and Libertarian Parties as viable alternatives, I have decided to cast my vote for Hillary Clinton. My reasons for doing so are many, but a great number of them stem from what I am questioning now; namely, whether or not those who refuse to vote for Clinton (or refuse to vote at all) on the basis of leftist ethical principles are, in fact, engaging in an indirect form of marginalization against stateless and undocumented Americans.
It seems to me that the privilege of abstaining from a vote on moral grounds is fundamentally bound to the privilege of having a vote to abstain from in the first place; the privilege of possessing, in so many words, a relatively secure position of citizenship sanctioned by a nation-state. I recognize that, for many Americans who exist at various intersections of marginalization, this must be an incredibly bitter and perhaps traumatising reality: to suffer under the so-called “privilege” of citizenship within a system that denies their humanity in ways that I will never fully understand, because I will never directly experience them, seems unimaginably horrific. The last thing in the world that I want to do is discredit these people. But privilege is often, if not always, a complex and surprisingly double-edged facet of our existence. And no person, no matter how impassioned or socially disenfranchised, has the inherent moral authority to prioritize political models that serve his, her, or their own ideology, and yet are only attainable on the basis of his, her, or their relatively secure position within a structure as violent and oppressive as the United States citizenship and legalization process.
I wonder whether or not the model of ethicality that drives the logic of voter abstinence in this election, while certainly understandable, and with which I sympathized for a very long time, is not also flawed in that it fails to extend its revolutionary stratagems to a vital group of people who do not have the privilege of critiquing and radically changing the United States government by either voting third party or not voting at all. The task of improving both the ideological and tangible condition of this country is necessarily contingent upon a safe and humane emigration model that allows stateless persons to safely remain in what is, simply and irrefutably, their home. Only then will true progress occur. But such an ideal must be achieved via solidarity, mutual labor, and reasonable compromise within and between the various United States demographics that will be affected by this election in challenging and largely negative ways.
My present concern is less centered around the disastrous consequences of a low voter turnout for the Democratic Party come November–although the thought terrifies me–and more around the truly worrying lack of consideration that I am witnessing, in most of the discourses concerning “revolutionary” voter abstinence, for many of the lives and communities that will be most affected by a Trump presidency.
I consider my confirmed vote for Clinton to be less of a decision, and more of a responsibility to those whose documentation status simply does not afford for what the contemporary American Left seems to consider the ultimate act of subversion. To throw away one’s vote on this occasion would seem, to me, uncomfortably close throwing away a great number of systemically devalued (that is to say, undocumented) American lives for the abstract sake of some greater sociopolitical change. I believe that no action can be truly radical, or insurrectionary, if it is inaccessible to marginalized communities; and even less so if it compromises their safety in any way.
I am sure that there are many facets of this issue that I have yet to grasp fully, and that I may never grasp fully due to my privilege as a white, middle class American citizen. I am still open to conversation and differing opinions. I speak on behalf of no one but myself, and I certainly do not seek to posture myself as a voice for undocumented citizens, whose struggles I have only witnessed from my comfortable position as a third-generation American. But I will be casting my vote for Clinton in this forthcoming election, and for the aforementioned reasons, I implore that my leftist, socialist, and radical friends and communities at least consider doing the same.
I have come, the long way around, to the same conclusion as so many before me. I cannot sanction or endorse the notion of left-wing voter abstinence in this election. The stakes, for all of us, are simply too high.