Four years ago, I attended a College Democrats conference in Chicago. I set foot inside Obama’s campaign headquarters and felt the enthusiasm about his presidency first-hand. For the first time, I called myself a Democrat with confidence. Democracy empowered me. I wanted to share my enthusiasm with the entire world.
Throughout my college career, I was actively involved with the College Democrats. I served as president. I recruited friends to attend meetings, volunteer for voter registration drives, petition for candidates, canvass in local neighborhoods and spread the word about upcoming presidential debates. I even formed close relationships with fellow Democrats through it. Civic engagement and active citizenship was my life. I wanted to empower everyone around me to exercise their political power.
Nonetheless, during these events, I sometimes came across striking reactions to my passion. I once knocked on a registered Democrat’s door. I rehearsed one sentence before the resident shouted, “THE PARTY DOESN’T CARE ABOUT MY VOTE,” and slammed the door in my face. During a voter registration drive on my college campus, a peer asked me, “What’s the point of voting if [Al] Gore didn’t win?” That peer walked away. I didn’t know how to respond to these critics back then, and I still don’t today.
This election, I feel different. As an otherwise hopeful millennial, it's becoming more apparent our political system is broken, corrupt and unjust. This isn’t an unpopular opinion for my generation, either. Admittedly, I feel conflicted as a political activist. I’m uncomfortable abstaining from the most invaluable, basic aspect of democracy. It’s a new concept for me. However, shedding my Democratic label is also new to me.
In the Wyoming caucus Sanders won the popular vote by 12%, but Clinton scored four more superdelegates.
On Monday's "Morning Joe" on MSNBC, hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough discussed the disenfranchisement thrust on voters.
“Why does the Democratic party even have voting booths? This system is so rigged,” Scarborough said.
“We always talk about voter turnout and how it important is to do your duty as a citizen. There’s absolutely no reason any of those people voted,” Brzezinski adds.
“These are the rules,” said Mark Halperin of Bloomberg News “It’s not rigged.”
Even Donald Trump, in defending Bernie Sanders, slammed the delegate system.
“For the last five weeks, you turn on your television. Sanders wins, Sanders wins, again Sanders wins, like seven or eight or nine. He keeps winning, and then you listen to the people and the pundits. They say, ‘There’s no chance of winning.’ I say, ‘What’s going on?’ Because you have superdelegates.”
While I might agree with this phrase within reason, I can’t deny who this GOP candidate will likely run against. Superdelegates unfairly favor Clinton. There’s no question why Trump would be against this system. News organizations, meanwhile, are preoccupied with superdelegate counts without concentrating on the popular vote of the public. That’s unjust.
Although I intend to vote for those running for Congress in my area, I am not as confident when it comes to the presidential ticket. I am likely to leave that column blank. Here’s why.
This election year, I’ve been preoccupied with the theory of citizen participation. We support a system by actively taking part in it. In a capitalist economy, we support a company when we purchase their products and services. When we shop at Walmart, our money keeps them in business. When we protest Walmart, we find gratification in purchasing fair-trade and locally sourced goods and services.
When we participate in a political system, we support it. In a “democracy,” our involvement inherently supports candidates. Although they might not be winning an election, they’re fundraising millions from private donors to win over voters. Voters fund elections.
Now, there’s the Donald Trump factor. Many stress the importance of voting at all to avoid Trump’s potential president. I refuse to vote for a candidate to dodge another’s victory. Therefore, I won’t vote for Clinton to block Trump. In a democratic system, I’d vote for a candidate that aligns close with my political stances. I wouldn’t vote for a candidate of the lesser evils to keep a horrific GOP forerunner from entering the Oval Office. That’s partially why our democracy is rigged.
Already, Clinton’s neoliberal background, corporate donors and plenty more deters my support for her. For instance, I share similar anxieties many intersectional feminists express in those sensationalized "I’m a Feminist, But I’m Not Voting for Hillary Clinton" essays. So far, Sanders is the most competent candidate for my political positions and stances. Although I’ve been a vocal advocate for him in the past, he doesn’t meet my standards for gun control, racial justice and foreign policy. Previously, Sanders voted against background checks for gun purchases in Congress and explicitly explained his stance against reparations. Only recently has he started standing up for Palestinians.
However, if Sanders somehow wins the nomination, he'll get my vote. I’ll feel uneasy about it, but at least the Democratic ticket picked my more favorable candidate. Otherwise, I’ll leave that space blank.
As a third-party candidate, Sanders doesn’t stand a chance; the nomination is his only hope to win. If I don’t vote for the Democratic party, liberals (even millennials) will villainize me for inherently supporting Trump. Instead of performing my right to vote for a candidate I closely align with, I’m seen as supporting the opposition. In reality, under a two-party model, anyone without a nomination won’t win anyway. We can only hope for small percentages to increase gradually over decades.
In a truly democratic system, we’d have more competent, diverse candidates. Voting no longer provides me the indulgence and satisfaction it once did. I feel it does more harm than good with our current political climate. If I vote for Clinton as a rejection of Trump, or vote for Sanders to dodge a Clinton vote, what duty am I actually performing? When I vote for a president I don’t support, I support a flawed political system. I refuse that system.