Politicians listening to us is the Bare Minimum
We need a ceasefire call, and a reversal of the top-down power dynamic
It’s time to flip the script. Almost every day we’re told that voters who are pissed off at Biden will hand Trump the presidency, will cost Democrats the election, and will cast our country into a fascist dark ages. We’re told to shame Americans who can’t bring themselves to vote for Democrats while the party does nothing to address this genocide while we all know that the United States is the one force on Earth that has the most power to halt Israel’s atrocities.
I’m sure you already know all of this, and I’m equally sure that you don’t want the result to be another Donald Trump presidency. But yesterday I saw something that really shattered any illusion that the folks in the White House are willing to to listen to the majority of their own party or the majority of independents who want a cease-fire right now. What I saw was this:
Biden might be in Michigan as you read this. Arab-American voters in Michigan are a crucial block in this upcoming presidential election. If they sit out, the state is substantially more likely to go for Trump. A November poll of Michigan Democrats that found only 16% of Arab-American voters would vote for Biden if the election was held today. In 2020, that number was estimated at 70 percent or higher.
And there’s something Biden and other Democrats can do to make Arab voters less likely abandon them this year. It could help ensure the turnout of young people and more people of color and the coalition that propelled Biden to victory in the first place. It’s quite simple, really. They can start listening to voters. They can start listening to the people they’re supposed to represent. They can listen to the vast majority of Democrats, and the majority of independents, who want this country to call for a cease-fire. It’ll take a rapid change of course, but we shouldn’t foreclose that option.
Beyond focusing on what politicians who have proven themselves largely unresponsive to the will of the people should do, however, I want to focus on what we should do. For one, we shouldn’t subscribe to the idea, often pushed by those in power, that our role is to fall in line with their desires for us. Right now we have a situation where politicians view loyal members of their parties as foot-soldiers to get them elected and support their every move. We should begin by rejecting that paradigm as the upside-down notion that it is. They work for us, or at least elected officials are supposed to work for us, and the very least we can do is adopt that mindset, then attempt to enforce it.
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At this moment many of us are rightly scared of a second Trump term. And that fear, combined with the mentality and direction taken by the leaders of the party, has a decent number of lifelong Democrats thinking that what they ought to do is shame, rebuke, or generally antagonize and fearmonger people into voting blue. My counter-argument to this approach is simple, and comes down to this: it doesn’t work.
Poll after poll shows young people not only abandoning Biden, but even voicing support for Trump. In a survey that would’ve been shocking just months ago, registered voters between the ages of 18–29 were leaning Trump over Biden 49% to 43% at the end of December. Perhaps less surprisingly in this context, 48% of voters age 18-29 think Israel is intentionally killing Palestinian civilians. And they know that Biden isn’t doing anything to stop it. We all see the occasional admonition of Netanyahu, or leaked comments about frustration, but then we also see that the weapons and money continue to flow, with no strings attached. There has been no concrete change of course.
In place of the policy changes that might sway voters there’s a repetitive drumbeat coming from the White House, from the DNC, and from plenty of well-intentioned voters around the looming fascist dictatorship. I don’t want Donald Trump to be president, but I also am very well aware that putting the impetus on ordinary people to shift their feelings about a politician who is unwilling to change simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. If you want to win I urge you to embrace pragmatism, to embrace realism, to embrace actually doing politics instead of beating people about the head.
So what I’m saying is let’s shift the paradigm. Let’s start telling politicians what to do. Let’s start demanding and expecting that they listen to us instead of having it the other way around. We know this won’t change overnight, and we know that the systemic problems like infinite money being poured into elections won’t go away, but we can start with a little more psychological freedom. We can start by being little more able to think about politics ourselves and being less caught up with frantically doing as we’re told. Maybe we’ll begin to imagine something better beyond a country where we have to fight for even a semblance of democracy. That better country, society, world could even look like real, direct, bottom-up power. Who knows.
But let’s begin by altering this distorted paradigm we find ourselves in where politicians chide us for wanting a ceasefire, or peace, or justice. Let’s start by doing more telling them what to do and not accepting the backwards idea that it should be them telling us how to behave, what to say, or what to believe.
Having a real democracy, in the U.S. or anywhere, takes much more than winning one election. It takes systems and structures and culture that build and sustain and grow power at the level of the individual and the community. That is where control has to lie in so many ways. But we’re so far, far away from that. We can make a beginning by rejecting the idea that we are merely the cheerleaders and foot-soldiers of politicians, and by remembering that we are, or ought to be, their bosses. We should force them to listen to us both because that is how a representative democracy, flawed as it may be, ought to function, and because it’s a winning strategy. It’s just one small step on a long road, but one that’s vital to saving lives in Gaza right now and to averting catastrophe at home in the long run. It’s the bare minimum; we should demand that and so much more.
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