A lot of the people I’ve met at Wesleyan think that if they don’t find a candidate who agrees with everything they think, it is okay, even morally right, to refuse to vote or to protest vote in major elections. Either that or they deride the political system that we currently have in place, saying their conscience dictates that they cannot vote, as doing so would support an exploitative and evil system.
Fair enough. Those are legitimate excuses—unless you are a white man.
As a young white man myself, I understand the frustration with the political system. I understand how easy it can be to remain apolitical and either ignore it or refuse to be a part of it because of the evil it does. That kind of suspicion, that kind of railing against what we see as wrong, is important now more than ever. But it cannot keep us from recognizing reality: that we are infinitely better off than any other subset of the population. It cannot preclude us from working within our system to make it immediately better, in the near future, for people who don’t have the privilege that we do.
We must face the real world: Trump’s election does not affect the vast majority of white liberals. Depending on how much money we make, it may actually end up being better for us. But we cannot abuse our privilege by not voting, and we cannot abuse our privilege in order to make a protest vote just because the consequences of who will gain power won’t really affect us.
When you step back and consider that 89% of Black Americans (and 94% of Black women) voted for Hillary Clinton, it is impossible to ignore the choice we made. By refusing to vote or by protest voting, white men like me helped elect Donald Trump. It doesn’t matter what state we are from, and it doesn’t matter that we were trying to fight the two-party system. White men across this country got Trump into office whether they checked his box or not. And it’s our responsibility, if we actually care about a progressive movement, to own up to it.
We need to recognize that if enough white progressives had voted for Clinton, DACA would not be in peril. We must acknowledge that if we had done more, a president whom more than half of Americans (and almost half of white people) recognize as racist, would not wield overwhelming power and that women would not be losing control over their bodies. We are obliged to admit that if we had stopped hiding behind a disdain for the system as an excuse, protections for gay and transgender people, for refugees, and for people with disabilities, would not have been rolled back. In short, by ignoring the privilege that we had in not voting, we have put every population in America, besides our own, in danger.
That’s on us.
We can no longer use political frustration to excuse political apathy. Progressive white men in this country have no excuse not to show up on election day. We could be helping to make this country better and safer for those who need it most; instead, we put one of the worst representatives of our population in the White House.
The good news is that we have another chance. The 2018 midterm elections are some of the most important in this country’s history. And if you disagree with the current administration’s modus operandi, it is your responsibility to vote in your state’s primary election and in the general election in November. That’s how we make our voices heard, and that’s how we use our privilege and power in this country to protect the people who are currently under attack.
So, white men, I’ll close with this. Our indifference is unacceptable. Our apathy is unacceptable. Our failure to vote, if we really want to make this country better and more equal, is unacceptable.
Our political future is a choice. Let’s make the right one.
Spencer Arnold is a member of the Class of 2020 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org