Despite caring deeply about issues facing society, I’ve never been particularly into “politics.” I have a deep pool of thoughts on the pitfalls of our defacto two-party system that I’ll share sometime, but I suffice it to say I do not affiliate with any political party and never will.
I do, however, enthusiastically participate in elections. I vote, and I put a lot of conscientious thought into how I vote. I read my voter pamphlet, listen to candidate speeches, seek out arguments for and against different measures, and weigh them as fairly as I can.
And in my years of participating in elections, I’ve come to understand that my voting decisions are rarely about me.
I belong to a demographic that is one of the last to be directly affected by the outcome of elections one way or another. As a white, middle-class, middle-aged, able-bodied, American-born, cisgender, heterosexual citizen, I benefit from institutions steeped in white supremacy, I am largely protected from the kind of persecution that causes people to flee, my right to my identity is never legislated on, and I don’t worry about whether I can fill our cupboards or pay my bills.
It would be easy for me to sit out most elections because I don’t have anything personally at stake. That’s the position of privilege I’m in and I know it.
So I don’t vote for me. I vote for people whose voices have been drowned out by unequal representation in government, whose safety and security have not always been protected, whose happenstance of birth placed them in a position behind the starting block in some way, and who are asking to be seen and heard.
I vote for my Black and Indigenous friends who are terrified and tired of the constant battles they have to fight against racism.
I vote for my Jewish friends who keep sounding warnings informed by experience that keep going unheeded.
I vote for those for whom climate change will have the most immediate and dire effects, since the rest of us won’t see the worst of it until it’s far too late.
I vote for life by choosing candidates who show that they understand the need for safety nets compassionate policies, and I vote for the unborn by voting for candidates who support comprehensive sex education and easy, affordable access to birth control, as that’s the most proven way to reduce abortion rates.
I vote for my transgender nephew and my LGBTQ friends and colleagues who deserve to feel safe and respected and protected from discrimination.
I vote for the mom whose spends thousands of dollars a month to keep her son with a chronic disease alive and who will never be able to crawl out from under her medical debt because our healthcare system is so messed up.
I vote for my tax dollars to be spent on schools before scud missiles, on building bridges before walls.
And I vote for the women who sacrificed their livelihoods, their reputations, and their safety to fight for my right to vote so that I could have the choice of whether or not to exercise this privilege.
We’ve heard we need to vote like our lives depend on it, because they do—but that’s simply not true for many of us. We’re all impacted by elections in some way, of course, but some are impacted much more, with far greater potential consequences, than I am and I know it.
So I don’t vote for me—I vote for those who don’t share the privilege I hold. It’s literally the least I can do.