In Buffalo, New York, a white supremacist terrorist went to a grocery store 200 miles from his house specifically to murder Black people. Which he did. I’m not going to name the terrorist here, because f*** that guy. But I am going to call white supremacy terrorism, because that’s exactly what white supremacy is.
What happened in Buffalo is a logical extension of what happens in a country that has rampant public health crises of racism and guns as well as the Republican Party fanning the flames of terrorism with their incendiary rhetoric about “Critical Race Theory” and “white replacement theory.” Not to mention Fox “News,” devoted to propaganda that supports the GOP’s warped view of this country (Hello, Tucker Carlson, et al!).
But I caution anyone who thinks this all started with disgraced former president Trump. It did not. Republicans have been pro-racism for a very long time. Trump just showed Republicans that the overt racism and ugliness they’d been trying to hide so as to not alienate voters can come right out into the open. Fuck You Conservatism has destroyed Compassionate Conservatism. (By the way, conservatism was never actually compassionate. That was just a term slapped on it to make it palatable to voters who might otherwise object to hurting people.)
And then there are the Democrats. It is maddening to feel like everything’s on fire and not see decisive action coming from D.C. They have the majority in the U.S. House, Senate, and White House, and yet here we are. Abortion is about to be criminalized in the majority of states, LGBTQ+ rights are in the sights of the same conservative Supreme Court, climate change is ravaging Earth, police are still executing Black people in broad daylight, we still have mass incarceration, we still punish the poor for being poor while making the very rich even richer as a matter of policy, and on and on.
It’s pretty gross. So when I hear people say they don’t see much difference between the parties, I have to stop my knee jerk response of, “Of COURSE there is a difference!” because for far too many people in this country, their actual lives are not made better and their actual suffering persists regardless of the party in power. And if that sounds absurd to you, then congratulations on your privilege.
I saw a meme on Twitter recently, that broke down the number of people who voted in 2020 for Biden, the number who voted for Trump, and then those who did not vote at all. Guess which number was biggest? The meme called these folks “people who better start giving a shit.” It’s such a simplistic, not to mention antagonistic, way to look at people who are registered to vote but don’t. For one thing, it doesn’t take voter suppression into account. We’ve got people who want to vote but, for many different reasons, can’t (a problem Republicans want to make much worse, by the way, and one that Democrats seem to feel little urgency about at the federal level). Also, perhaps it would be more useful to look at the non-voters as people who don’t feel like the major parties give a shit about them?
Democrats are the party of government: “Hey, look, government can actually work and do good things!” and Republicans are the party against government: “Hey, look, government sucks and will never help you, but we can use our power to hurt people you don’t like!”
The problem is that, as abhorrent as it is, the Republicans’ message works better because Republicans are doing exactly what they say they’re going to do. They govern terribly, but they are very good at being cruel and divisive.
The Democrats, on the other hand, are moving in slow-motion at a time that calls for warp speed. I’m still going to encourage you to vote for them, because the Republicans are hell bent on fascism. But I’m also saying to those who aren’t convinced it matters: It does, but I get it. You can only be let down so many times.
This is the system we have, like it or not. It really does matter who gets elected.
The big picture can be incredibly hard to see, especially with so much ugliness and hatred on display. But there are many, many good people running as Democrats at every level of government across the country. If you feel discouraged or helpless or frustrated, especially at what’s happening at the federal level, find a state or local candidate you can support and work to get them elected. If you’re engaged, then you know that giving up is not an option.
Otherwise, hate wins.
D’Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ+ politics for nearly two decades. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.