This article was originally published in the Huffington Post.
Memo to all progressives, activists, eco-warriors and Lefty paradigm shifters: I get it, I get it. Obama is a wimp. The Senate is completely dysfunctional, and your congressperson isn’t doing nearly enough. Right. Check. Now get over yourselves and vote.
I agree that the stimulus bill should have been much larger and financial reform much stronger. Yes, Democrats have shown a troubling lack of political will, and have not heeded their base on many important issues. But do you really think this will get better if Republicans gain seats in Congress this November? Are you willing to sit back and let that happen?
The standard-issue excuse that “there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans, so why bother,” just doesn’t cut it this year. It is not a question of Democrat versus Republican in this election, it is a choice between those who are capable of governing at all, versus those who are not. Today’s right-wing candidates make no bones about it: they would happily cede the entire act of governing to the likes of Charles and David Koch’s favorite charities.
That is how bad things are in this country right now. And it is never, ever a reason to stop exercising your right to vote. In college in the 1980s, my activist friends and I were horrified at how ineffectual the Democratic candidates for president were. But every election we would jokingly call ourselves “Anarchists for Mondale,” or “Anarchists for Dukakis,” and would get our radical behinds down to the polls and vote.
Here in California, this election is even more critical than usual. Our state government is broken, our roads and schools are crumbling, and the economy sucks. But if you thought things got worse on Schwarzenegger’s watch, just wait till Meg Whitman, the $119 million Stepford candidate, buys her way into the governor’s office. Do you really want to experience what will happen as she auctions off the rest of the state to corporate bidders? Will that forward your principles in some way?
I lived here under Governor Moonbeam. I can’t say I’m a big fan. But Jerry Brown cares about governing, and understands how to get an economy working. So does Senator Barbara Boxer, who is battling yet another candidate financed by her private fortune, one who can’t even run a business let alone a government. If you care about the environment and want to keep our beaches free of oil for your children and grandchildren, why on earth would you risk displacing Barbara Boxer for an utter disaster like Carly Fiorina? Why even take that chance?
Other Huffington Post bloggers have written in much greater detail about why this election is important. But here’s the thing: if you choose to sit this one out and the Democrats lose control of Congress, you probably don’t want to hit me up for a contribution anytime soon. Even if you catch me with some change in my pocket coming out of Whole Foods and ask for a donation to your pet cause, my first question will be, “Did you vote in the midterms?”
If the answer is no, count me out as a supporter. Because no matter how important your issue is, it is small change compared to what we are challenged with right now as a nation. By choosing apathy over engagement this November, you will be making all of our efforts way more difficult, and in the process demonstrating how incomplete your grasp is of the big picture. In that context, how can anyone take you or your activism seriously?