Monday, October 25, 2010

Voting in the U.S. - Why We Must!


Matt Kailey is a transman living in Denver, Colorado, and an author, public speaker, and trainer on transgender issues. He blogs at Tranifesto. In his ideal world, no one would be equal to anyone else – everyone would just be equal.

Something evil is happening in the United States (more so than usual) - and it has nothing to do with our upcoming celebration of Halloween. It has to do, instead, with our upcoming election on November 2.

I used to think that the Tea Party - a radical branch of the conservative Republican Party - was a joke. And some of it still is. 

Christine O'Donnell, Tea Party favorite and the Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Delaware, had her name spelled wrong on a fundraising website until just a few days ago - but she's been campaigning for months. While this isn't her fault, it pretty much demonstrates the attention that her supporters actually pay to who she is or what she might even stand for. 


O'Donnell, right now, is most famous for not paying her bills and for likening masturbation to adultery (if that's the case, Christine, whoever you're dating is cheating on you - guaranteed).


O'Donnell is one of the funny ones. But Sharron Angle, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate (and Tea Party favorite) from Nevada, is not. Last week, a group calling itself “Latinos for Reform” ran a radio and television ad in both English and Spanish targeting Latino/a voters in Nevada and telling them not to vote. It didn't tell them to vote for Sharron Angle instead of incumbent Democrat Sen. Harry Reid, which is just your basic political ad. It told them not to vote at all. 


While Angle's campaign - and finally, Angle herself - tepidly denounced the ad, it's hard for me to believe that Angle is completely innocent. 

In fact, Angle has supported the racist anti-immigration law passed this year in Arizona that encourages - no, mandates - racial profiling in order to identify “illegal immigrants.” 


Angle has been criticized for using dark-skinned men in her anti-immigration ads in order to target Latino/a people, and she told a group of Latino/a students who questioned her about the ads that some of them (the students) looked “a little more Asian to me.” 


As an assemblywoman in Nevada, Angle introduced legislation to make English the official language of the state. And she also favors a requirement that voters show identification in order to be allowed to vote, which will not prevent voter fraud, but which will prevent legal citizens who do not have driver's licenses or “acceptable” identification from voting.


Discouraging - or preventing - marginalized groups from voting is nothing new in this country. Poll tax, literacy tests, police and guard dogs monitoring poll entrances - we have a long history of un-democratic behavior in this so-called democracy. 

Even in recent elections, some states have set up one or two voting machines in polling places that are utilized primarily by low-income voters and voters of color (groups more inclined to vote Democrat), ensuring long lines and the need for people to leave without voting in order to go to work or care for children, while polling places that serve largely white and well-to-do voters (groups more inclined to vote Republican) have more than enough voting machines. And this is just one of many tactics that continue to this day.

But flat out telling Latino/a people - or any people - not to vote in this very close race should be, in my opinion, illegal.

Again, Sharron Angle is not responsible for this ad (I don't think). But the fact that an ad like this can run at all is a testament to the evil that is infiltrating our already-dysfunctional political system. 

The Tea Partiers are racist (Tea Party supporters have spit on and shouted racial slurs at current members of Congress), they are homophobic (they have also shouted homophobic slurs at current members of Congress, and Sharron Angle has stated that she would take no campaign donations from any company that supported LGBT rights in any form), and they are grossly and pathetically uninformed (Sharron Angle doesn't understand the difference between Don't Ask, Don't Tell and same-sex-marriage rights and Christine O'Donnell doesn't understand the First Amendment). 

But, in some states, they are winning. And that's why those of us in the United States who are still clinging to the edges of reason - no matter how frustrated we are with the current system, the current administration, or the current speed of “change” - have to vote in this election. 

We have to vote because they're telling us not to. No matter who that specific ad is targeting, it is, in essence, telling all of us who favor equality, fairness, and justice not to vote - which means that we absolutely must. See you at the polls.