Emotional Manipulation and Electoral Bullying: A Pastoral Message
I want to tell you a story: I voted in my first presidential election in 2000, just a couple weeks after my twentieth birthday. I was not excited at all about either candidate: George W. Bush was highly problematic and Al Gore seemed dull, uninspired, and centrist. I have never been a member of the Democratic Party because I never truly felt like it represented me. So, I voted my conscience that day and selected Ralph Nader, the Green Party’s candidate.
Of course, we all know what happened: George W. Bush won the electoral but not popular vote, largely because of a close margin in Florida, and third party candidates were largely blamed in the media for the loss. I spent the next eight years, through two unjust wars and a series of right-wing regressions, feeling like I was the cause, or at least part of it, of George W. Bush’s victory, despite the fact that I lived in a state at the time where, due to the way the electoral college works, my vote essentially didn’t matter.
It is apparent as I write this piece that Joe Biden will be the nominee for the Democratic Party. Quite frankly, he makes Al Gore look like a rock star by comparison. We’re bracing for what could be one of the most apathetic voter turnouts in modern history.
And, in the midst of this, is a group that calls themselves “Blue No Matter Who,” who are demanding that everyone who voted for a Democratic candidate in the primary immediately throw their weight behind Biden and ignore all ideological differences. Their sole goal is to unseat President Donald Trump.
But what I’ve struggled to express and, even more, get others to hear, is this: if the Democratic establishment truly cared about courting progressive voters, they wouldn’t be nominating one of the most problematic candidates in the race. They picked a guy who the best things most people can say about him is that he isn’t Trump and he got to hang out with Barrack Obama a lot.
And it’s taken me a long time to see what this “line up behind our candidate” mentality is, but I’m finally seeing it clearly: it’s bullying and gaslighting.
The Democrats are failing to nominate a compelling candidate, yet they want you to unquestioningly get behind him. They want you to ignore that tugging feeling in the pit of your stomach that tells you something isn’t right, and they’re banking that Trump has created so much fear and anxiety in this country that you’ll be willing to vote for anyone they put before you.
In other words, they want you to ignore your concerns about the path both parties are taking in favor of temporarily relieving the fear and anxiety you are feeling about Trump. Many people will take this road because it is easier, but it won’t change the fact that Biden’s candidacy in the first place is an endorsement of the neo-liberal status quo in America and a guarantee of at least four more years of policies that will not make the lives of the most vulnerable people in America better.
I’ve spent the next twenty years voting for Democratic candidates, even when they didn’t inspire me (see John Kerry and Hillary Clinton), all because I didn’t ever want to feel that way again. But what I wish someone had told me back in 2000 was that Bush was not my fault; the fault was with the whole damned system.
Our system is fundamentally broken when it’s demanding you get behind one flawed candidate to prevent another’s election. Our system is broken in that it is demanding allegiance to party and not ideals. Our entire way of electing officials is broken when the only way progressive candidates can get into the race is through the very flawed third party system.
And none of that is your fault. Every candidate, regardless of the letter behind their name, should be forced to earn your vote, not demand party loyalty. They and their followers have no right to demand you fall in line, and the tactics they’re using on Twitter and other social media platforms, quite frankly, make the so-called “Bernie Bros.” look tame by comparison.
I’m naming it for what it is: emotional manipulation and abuse.
What I believe is needed is ultimately revolution. In the meantime, though, switching to a proportional representation system would go a long way towards bringing more democracy into our republic.
I don’t yet know what I’m going to do in November, but I know this: no one has the right to blame you for a result because you voted your conscience. If the major political parties were more in touch with the concerns of actual voters, or if our system was more representative, these would not even be concerns. The fact that they’re having to resort to emotional manipulation to court a portion of the electorate means the establishment is completely out of touch.
So, as we prepare for a long finish to the electoral cycle, I want to leave you with three takeaways:
- Presidential candidates absolutely need to court you and convince you they are up to the job of being a president, and that involves showing you how your values line up. To demand party loyalty is very authoritarian, and makes my leftist heart deeply uncomfortable.
- No one, I repeat, no one has the right to imply that your vote is a moral failing if you cannot, in good conscience, vote for Joe Biden.
- If Joe Biden does not win the election in November, the fault is on Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, not on you. Don’t spend the next four years beating yourself up.
I expect that I’m about to have to deal with a bunch of concerned and anxious people who are going to accuse me of supporting Trump by proxy simply by writing this article. However, I stand by my words: it is Joe Biden’s job to convince you to vote for him, and, if he hasn’t done that, it is on him.
I repeat, it is on him. Go do you, and demand this flawed system be changed.