Elle’s Guide to Surviving the Election Season (and Hopefully Electing a Democrat)

As of writing this, 12 Democrats, or Independents-running-as-Democrats, have filed to run for president or at least formed exploratory committees. More are expected to do so *cough* Joe Biden is expected to run *cough*. Bill Weld is exploring the possibility of taking part in a primary against Trump (I will pay money and buy popcorn to see this happen) and that Starbucks guy is… doing whatever that Starbucks guy is doing that will probably manage to hurt the Democratic party.

The election is over a year away. The election is almost two years away. And I am already very, very tired.

My Facebook feed is wild, and Twitter is basically on fire. Posts for and against candidates are everywhere, and pretty much all of my friends have already taken different corners. My two most liberal friends have nearly opposite opinions on Bernie Sanders. Posts for and against a candidate can be next to each other on my feed. Litmus tests are being established. Think pieces are being written.

I am thiiiiis close to trying to use cryogenics, or at least a good snow storm, to freeze myself and wake up in January, 2021. (Depending on what the world looks like when I wake up, I may decide to go back under.)

So for the sake of my sanity, and for (hopefully) an election that avoids some of the pitfalls of the last election, I put together this handy dandy guide/plea for my fellow leftists. Enjoy.

Don’t Do the Republicans’ Work for Them/Focus on Constructive Criticism

I remember a fair few elections, and I don’t remember any Democratic primary as vicious as the last one. This is a situation where there really were good and bad people on both sides, and both sides did their fair share of harm. Hillary and the DNC screwed the pooch by pretending the situation was set up fairly when it clearly wasn’t, Bernie made it clear he was only pretending to be a Democrat for the sake of the election, and neither side did a good job of reining in their followers or their attacks. I’ve never had to unfollow fellow Democrats before, but 2016 was weird. The Republicans barely had to do anything to tear us apart because we were already doing it to ourselves. Some things that the left gets criticism for, and that I think we are guilty of to an extent, are purity tests, call-out culture, and gatekeeping. If a candidate doesn’t check all of our boxes, we hate them. We’re going to decry anyone who doesn’t meet our standards. And woe betide the person who tries to join in that doesn’t fit the bill, because we’ll happily excommunicate anyone who we think has failed.

This isn’t all of us. I don’t even know if it is most of us. But I know it’s enough of us that we have serious trouble with candidate in-fighting, while any opponent with an R next to their name gets the Republican vote. We have the right to be idealistic, but we should also think about being pragmatic, and going for inclusion instead of exclusion.

That isn’t to say that we can’t, or shouldn’t, critique candidates. The purpose of a primary is to try and winnow things down to the best possible candidate, and that means taking a serious look at each candidate. But we need to critique politicians the same way a teacher critiques an essay—with the intention of improvement, rather than destruction. What could this candidate do to improve? What can we do to improve the candidate? What concerns do you have, and how can they be assuaged? What are our absolute lines in the sand, and how realistic are they?

Whenever we critique a candidate, we have to keep in the back of our mind, “This person could wind up being the candidate.” What would happen if we spent all of our time tearing a candidate down, and then they were the candidate going against Trump? How damaged will they already be from the primary? What portion of the electorate will abandon ship instead of voting for them, like that weird cross‑section of Bernie supporters who voted for The Orange One? Or the usually-Democrats who decided they hated Hillary more than they worried about the fact that Gary Johnson couldn’t name any foreign countries? We want the candidate that we wind up with to be the best of the best, not the last, shell-shocked survivor of the Hunger Games.

Try to Support the Candidate We End Up With/Remember the Stakes

Look, I know that it isn’t fair that we repeatedly get asked to pick the lesser of two evils. I’m aware. And there are certainly some lines in the sand that I would probably not be able to cross for a candidate. But life is not fair the vast majority of the time, and I’m doing my best to deal with that. And we have to ask ourselves how much holding tight to every single one of our principles will keep us warm when Hell is actually freezing over.

I still owe my dad a nickel, because after Trump won the primary I thought that we had won, and I bet my dad a nickel that Trump wouldn’t be elected. I was certain that Trump was too awful for anyone to actually elect. I thought that if even Ted Cruz didn’t like him, no one else in the Republican party would. But a lot of the Republicans held their noses (and probably their breath) and voted for someone they hated, because he was the Republican candidate. (And a lot of them were honestly just totally fine with a racist, ableist, misogynist sexual abuser. I mean, it takes all kinds.)

We have been through two years of hell. But now we have at least two sexual abusers on the Supreme Court, and poor RBG can’t hold out forever. Roe v. Wade teeters on the brink of being overturned. LGBTQ protections are being rolled back. Diseases that we thought we had eradicated are coming back. We can’t seem to go a month without a mass shooting. Our education system is under-funded, unbelievably segregated, and not actually really working. A good portion of US citizens couldn’t overcome a sudden emergency that requires a few hundred dollars. Disability rights activists are dying because their insurance won’t pay for certain medicines. We’re facing an opioid crisis that was brought about by the very same pharmaceutical industry that has immense lobbying power and keeps jacking up prices on life-saving medications. We are keeping children in cages, and sexually abusing them when we’re not letting them die of dehydration. We’re building a stupid fucking wall that is going to disrupt crucial animal habitats and drain funding from other parts of the government while simultaneously Not Doing the Thing it is Supposed to Do. We spend a small fortune on military equipment we don’t need. We’re rolling out the red carpet for Russia to overtake us as superpower. We’re alienating basically all of our allies. Wealth is being increasingly amassed by the 1%, and we’re forming super-monopolies. The internet is becoming more and more pay-to-play, and we’re censoring female sexuality and LGBTQ activism instead of, you know, the Nazis. Oh yeah, we have actual fucking Nazis. And that’s all bad enough, without the looming threat of irreversible climate change. We are literally and metaphorically on fire.

I will be honest—I would vote for a turnip before staying home from the polls or voting third party if it means defeating Trump. As it stands now, there are no Democratic candidates who are so violently against my principles that I couldn’t manage to vote for them. There are some I like better than others, and some whose policies I don’t entirely approve of, but all of them have this very fantastic quality of Not Being Goddamn Trump. I don’t expect everyone to be me, so again. I’m not going to tell you to do something that is absolutely against your conscience. But do give some serious thought to the stakes.

Do Your Part/Seriously Did You See the Part Where We’re On Fire?

I know you’re tired. I’m tired. We’re all tired. But you know who aren’t as tired? The Republicans who have been riding the Bigotry Carousel for the last two years. They just can’t wait to take a ride on the Oligarchy Express between 2020 and 2024. Guess how tired we’ll be by 2024? So to the best of our abilities, we have to do what we can to make this happen.

Donate to campaigns. Volunteer for campaigns. Hold fundraisers. Write letters. Make phone calls. Write articles. Harass your friends and loved ones. Knock on doors. Make petitions. Help your neighbors register to vote.

Get engaged in local politics. The presidential race makes everything a lot more intense and gets most of the attention, but your local city council, county commissioner, House, and Senate all need good people in them, too. It’s really important to have a Democrat in the White House, but it’s also really important to have a Democrat on the school board so that we don’t bring abstinence-only education back. Think about running yourself—you can do it! We are the grownups now. I know, right? It’s fucking wild.

So… that’s my guide. Or my begging, whichever way you want to think about it. Most of all, what I’m going to beg you all to do is just this: be good to each other. We are all hanging on by a very fragile thread. We need to stay a community, and we need to keep looking out for each other. Because on top of all the upcoming election craziness, Trump is going to still be president. Think about how bad 2016 was, and then add “Trump actually being president” on top of that. Because he is going to be president during this. We have to stop praying for an impeachment, or a smoking gun, or anything else that is going to save us. We should have stopped doing any of that after the whole “the electoral college may rebel!” thing died a pathetic death. But we’re overly optimistic sometimes. Really, I think if we’ve learned nothing else from the Cohen hearing, we’ve learned that the currently-sitting Republicans are craven cowards who would rather stay in power than actually have a democracy. Diane Feinstein is negging children (and yes I saw the uncut video). Black Representatives are taking time out of hearings to reassure white racist Representatives that the white racists aren’t white racists. We can’t expect that anything resembling “doing the right thing” is going to come from most of the government right now. Not everyone can be AOC or Stacy Abrams. We have to buckle down, and we have to be there for each other. Please.

In the words of Spike Lee: let’s do the right thing.

Signed: Feminist Fury

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Featured image is an 80s “laser text” meme reading “2020”.

How To Watch The Midterms: A Guide

Tips for a cozy night in watching the results.

 

Tomorrow’s a pretty big deal here in the US. If you’ve already voted, YOU’RE AWESOME THANK YOU. If not, the first thing you have to do tomorrow is get out there and vote. After that, it’s time for damage control. Here’s our guide to watching the results tomorrow.

Step 1: Check how much whiskey you have. Do you have whiskey? What about gin? You might need some gin. Did you know pot is legal in Massachusetts now? Awesome. Things to know. Get some cocktail sausages for snacking later, maybe some candles. Candlelight is pretty relaxing, right? You got this.

Step 2: Check what time it is. Is it 6pm Eastern? That’s when polls start to close. They don’t close in Alaska until 1am Eastern, so don’t think you’re going to know how this all goes by the end of the day. You won’t. Manage your expectations. Be cool.

Step 3: Let me guess: it’s only 2 in the afternoon. Have you considered buying a pizza? Go buy a pizza. Treat yourself. Have some friends over. They’re probably feeling the same way you are. A little on edge, a little anxious. Get together. Togetherness is a good thing.

Step 4: Do you like board games? I love board games. If you don’t have any board games, you’ve still got time. Go buy a board game. What you’re looking for is something that takes at least an hour or two and that’s complicated enough that you’ll want to play it a couple of times to really get it right. I like Scythe and Brass. Elle suggests Dominion, Dixit, and Race For the Galaxy if you’re looking for escapism. Pandemic or Dead of Winter if you just want to feel aware that you’re rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. That’ll kill some time. Yeah.

Step 5: Don’t check the exit polls. Don’t turn on the TV. Don’t do it. Don’t. I see you thinking about it. Leave your computer closed. Unplug the router. Accidentally drop yours and all your friends phones into a box than can only be opened once every 24 hours. Failing that, remember the whiskey? You can do this.

Step 6: Check the time again. Oh god it’s only 5? The first polls don’t even close for an hour. Are you trapped in a fold in spacetime? Is it Groundhog Day? Have you done this before? How much whiskey is left? Unplug all the clocks in the apartment.

Step 7: Enlist your friends in the fun activity of lining a room with tin foil. You knew there was a reason you bought sixty-seven rolls of it when you went out shopping last week, didn’t you? Be Prepared. That’s the Boy Scout Way. You can get through this. In addition to killing a little more time, it’ll keep the y-rays out of your room and make it way easier to keep free of New World Order mind control techniques. Remember to stretch.

Step 8: Check your friends’ watches. Realize that it’s 2018 and nobody even wears watches anymore except Steve, who’s got one of those fitness trackers that happens to also tell the time. According to Steve, it’s only 6pm. How did that tinfoil thing only take an hour? Whisper to your friends about how suspicious this makes you all about Steve. Without looking at your phones you have only one timepiece. Consider taking it from Steve.

Step 9: It’s dark. Thanks to daylight savings time ending the sun has been down for over an hour or more now. The last light of the day star has faded from the horizon. The descent into madness had felt more upsetting in the cold light of day, but here in the night it feels comfortable. Right. Consider heating up those cocktail sausages.

Step 9: Arrange the candles in a circle the way the elders taught you. Sal knows the ritual, too, so she’s the most useful by far. She’ll have a place of honour in the coming times. Is there any whiskey left? Are we on to the gin? Well, gin’s fine, too. And anyway, the question isn’t so much what you’ll be drinking, is it? It’s what They’ll be drinking. When They arrive.

Step 10: Prepare the sacrifice. It doesn’t really matter who it is. Maybe it’s Steve. Maybe none of you have names anymore, or you won’t soon anyway. No one will have names in the time after the Coming. All will be Well.

Step 11: Everything is set. The candles are lit. The bottles are empty and the words that have been whispered into the void have begun to whisper back. Steve’s watch reads midnight. It is time. Lift the long knife and watch it shine in the candlelight. Stare into the eyes of your friends one last time.

Step 12: Check the results.

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Image is of a cozy little TV, table, lamp, and chair, and is by Marco Verch and released under a CC-BY-2.0 license.

PSA: VOTE

Please, please vote. Please. Do it.

 

VOTE.

 

BUT SERIOUSLY. VOTE. IF YOU KNOW ANYONE WHO IS BETWEEN THE AGES OF 18 AND 29, CONVINCE THEM TO VOTE, TOO.

 

VOTE, GODDAMNIT.

 

Signed: Everyone at Into the Void.

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The featured image is a photograph of the word “VOTE” in chalk on the ground with a pair of feet in red, white, and blue shoes making the letter V. It was taken by Theresa Thompson and is released under a CC-BY-2.0 license.