Our work is not done
Disclaimer: This piece was written before the Associated Press called the 2020 presidential election for Joseph Biden on Saturday.
Even before the race has been called, in a show of true “democracy” (abolish the Electoral College), I can say we will have once again elected a meaningless president. One who has not committed to serious reforms regarding climate change. One who has perpetuated institutional racism and instigated mass deportations. As a sexual predator, the man is an affront to women everywhere, even demeaning women during his time in office. In our lifetime, we have faced two severe economic recessions, 9/11 and its consequential wars in the Middle East. We are currently facing a looming climate disaster, a pandemic and an economic depression. Gen-Z, alongside millennials, have been the casualties of consecutively cruel administrations who seemingly agree on war and increasing the wealth gap. Prior to Gen-Z’s political attunement, Americans voted in a “progressive” president in 2008, and our parents hoped and prayed our situations would be better — that we would finally have a competent president, one who would save us from the horrors of the Bush administration and uplift us from the dark roots of poverty, war and racial injustice. What we did not know was that our realities were far from our hopes and dreams and that Obama’s administration, like tens of administrations before him, fell prey to the rot in our political system that is corporatism. As the first Black president, he made history while simultaneously embracing corporate policies, appeasing the military industrial complex by keeping troops overseas, dropping drones in Pakistan and Yemen and shipping jobs abroad through awful trade policies that severely impacted the working class. Every single president, Republican and Democrat, has failed the American public: the minimum wage stagnant despite higher costs of living, global intervention increased and our infrastructure crumbled. This election surely didn’t change that. This is why I say, “Damn electoral politics to hell.” For the true liberation of the multi-racial working class, stopping imperialism worldwide, eliminating racial injustice and working to reverse climate change, we the people must rise for our rights rather than depend on the same politicians that pushed us onto the deadly track we are on now.
I can’t write this opinion without addressing the 2016 election. Having cried myself to sleep after Donald Trump won Pennsylvania and dreading the next four years of my life, I threw myself into politics as I attempted to analyze the way our system worked. Hoping to one day be involved in taking down the system that led us to a candidate as vile as Trump and a candidate that couldn’t more perfectly symbolize liberal rot, Hilary Cilinton, I inhaled information. To me, understanding politics was my weapon. I no longer wanted to be blissfully ignorant. I tuned into podcasts, bought news subscriptions and listened to the news, working endlessly to be thoroughly aware. I quickly realized that though understanding politics is important, it certainly was not the end-all, be-all. Everything I studied in my political science and sociology courses helped me understand that every time true liberation occurred, it was in the hands of people, not those of the meek politicians we elect. The more information I consumed, the more I began to understand politicians’ mindsets as they worked to better their political capital and shun the otherside. It was not about serving the people who have elected them but who can make the other side look worse, as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi somehow became a Twitter-anointed resistance hero and the Republican Party became the anti-Democrat party. Though Democrats tend to have a slightly better understanding of economic and racial issues, politicians from both parties often jump to gather wealth and give the same cues to their audiences often blaming the opposing party for their failures. As a result, the American people are suffering while politicians use us as political pawns for their own presumed electoral gain.
Social and intellectual mobilization is arguably more powerful than political mobilization. I couldn’t name a more perfect example than the civil rights movement. Black citizens, angered by centuries of institutional injustice in the form of racist segregation laws, coalesced alongside allies, to protest through sit-ins and marches for their civil rights. Black Americans did not truly have the right to vote, and politicians attempted to silence leaders like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Kwame Ture. When that did not work, he was forced to listen, thereby signing the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act into law. If the Black population as well as those sympathetic to the cause were dependent on political actors, would change have occurred? What kind of world would we live in today? Let’s not forget, the same political system we praised for this legislation also assassinated MLK Jr. and imprisoned or threatened prominent members of the Black Panthers and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
The working class has also had a history of socially mobilizing for labor laws. In a world consumed by monopolies like those of Rockefeller and Carnegie, as well as the unfortunate history of wage cuts and unjust and dangerous labor practices, the labor movement began to organize. Workers were recognizing their group power, with the first strike commencing in the late 1700s. They are the labor of course, how could businesses operate without their physical and mental work? This sentiment inspired the ever-evolving labor movement. Though starting off fragmented and fraught with racial division, the movement has advocated for workers’ rights for centuries. Workers striked and protested, successfully achieving rights such as a fair minimum wage (at the time of instatement), banned child labor laws and established the ever powerful two-day break we aptly refer to as a weekend. The power to unionize was perhaps the capstone of the movement, finally allowing workers to have power against their employers who are oftentimes their oppressors, as they continue to lobby the government to push against corporations and support workers. Despite decades of trying, the movement has not accomplished everything they would like as they have not yet gained equitable rights for undocumented immigrants or diminished the wealth gap. However, the working class proves that change is possible through social mobilization and grassroots organization.
Social and economic change driven by civilian prowess prove that change is indeed possible. Sure, having politicians that can adapt to the people’s cries is important, but without the determination of the civilians, our country will not see shifts as significant as those from our history. Do not misunderstand me; we are far from success racially and economically as the nation continues to reckon with institutionalized racism and the failures of an inequitable capitalistic system. However, every time change occurred, it was through the voice of the people and solidarity among people of various degrees of disenfranchisement. The power of social movements has kept me hopeful amid horrifying news stories centering on politicians who never fail to dismay me.
In reality, I am writing this piece not knowing who won the election or if the election is being contested. For me, it does not matter. The politics of the wretched situation we are in is not going to change depending on whoever is elected president. Perhaps the symbol of the consumerist rot embedded in American culture and politics, Trump will always have power — win or lose. As I have looked for hope in times of darkness like the awfully dire political situation we are currently living in, I have come to the realization that we must stop depending on politicians to be our saviors. These are the same people swayed by lobbyists and hypnotized by the possibility of attaining corrupt political power. Like the great social movements in American history, it is time that we collectively work to dismantle a system that continues to suffocate us as it paints fellow citizens as our enemies, props up corporate power and continues to promote racial and economic injustice. Currently, American power is exclusively concentrated among a select population of people at the top. Imagine if we decided that power belonged to us.