Electoral politics will never bring the change we need

Clara Barros/ Staff Writer 

Every day, more people get disheartened by the U.S. electoral system. Every day, more people feel betrayed by their favorite candidates. Every day, more people realize the power that corporations and donors exert on elections. And every day, more people get disillusioned by the calls to “vote them out.”

These frustrations are all justified. And they indicate the consolidation of a new political understanding: that Republicans, Democrats, third parties, whatever — they all serve the interests of the ruling class.

Many people who oppose the Trump administration for its reactionary policies have noticed that the conditions for it have been in development well before his candidacy. Take the immigrant family separation crisis, for example. Trump’s “Zero Tolerance” policy is an extension of family detention policies carried out by Democrats like Bill Clinton, Cecilia Muñoz and Barack Obama.

In 1996, Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which “expanded a list of crimes (…) that can make an undocumented immigrant automatically deportable,” as per journalist Jorge Rivas. Around 2011-2014, Muñoz, in turn, advocated for the deportation of unaccompanied minors, stating that “even broken laws have to be enforced.”

Many progressives were silent when Obama became known as “Deporter in Chief” because he deported more people than any other president (more precisely, 2.5 million immigrants).

Similarly, many were silent when both Obama and Hillary Clinton helped bomb the Middle East.

The same pattern repeated this year when several Democrats supported the tax reform bill that mainly benefitted the rich.

What we must understand is that the apparent difference between Democrats and Republicans is totally secondary to their commonality: both will always put profits over the interests of workers, immigrants, students and families.

Obama made this clear when, one day after Trump’s election, he said that “we are actually all on one team,” and that “this is an intramural scrimmage.”

For those not familiar with that term, “intramural scrimmage” refers to a game between two units of the same team.

Today, we see some progressives excited by the emergence of figures like Andrew Gillum and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in the belief that “if we can just get the right people in power, we can change this whole thing.” But all those historical examples go to show that, when we thought we finally got the right candidate into power — time and time again — they sold the people out.

We cannot rely on politicians to bring victories for the people. The change we need will only come through struggle, through people organized as a social force. Right now, under Trump, many of the rights we gained are easily being rolled back because there is no strong, independent movement to hold them in place.

Remember that our strength does not lie in a ballot. It lies in social movements and organizations in our schools, our workplaces and in the streets. Let’s choose neither the “greater evil” nor the “lesser evil”: let’s choose to build popular power.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Photo by Nick Knupffer on Flickr.

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