We all like to feel needed — that is, until New York Senator Chuck Schumer texts you to donate to his Senate campaign near Election Day.
As a veteran of electoral politics since high school, I vividly remember the electricity in the atmosphere during election season across the United States. Through dozens of hours of canvassing, phone calls and texts, voter registration campaigns and meetings with local and state politicians, I will forever appreciate the personal significance that contributing to a campaign policy at any regional scale can have for those who are intensely invested. inside. I was frozen in the local pizzeria, surrounded by fellow campaign volunteers and staff equally trapped in biting anticipation as we watched the election results climb in real time on a Tuesday evening. And as social media and the attendant crises of climate change, attacks on LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights, right-wing election conspiracy theories and the rising cost of living make politics more engaging and alarming, more of people of all ages will mobilize their time and resources. to campaigns that reflect their values.
This midterm election season, which falls between the general presidential election season, Democratic and Republican candidates and their party organizations have multiplied to engage voters with their respective platforms or by taking advantage of the antipathy of the electorate towards the opposing party. During the election frenzy, the two main parties will do their best to recruit as many volunteers as possible – and as you’ve probably seen endlessly through YouTube ads, spam emails and mass text messages – collect donations. Speaking purely from experience, it’s appealing, even comforting, to think that contributing your labor and money to a campaign makes you part of the change – an active agent in the dense and seemingly impenetrable political process. And while there is a grain of truth to this depending on your class position and aspirations, I argue that there are tangible and effective ways to improve your community and impact politics. which are far more worthwhile than giving your labor or your money to your political party organizing machine. Instead, come the next election cycle, give your wallet or door-to-door shoes a much-needed refresh and get involved in direct action.
Direct action is a common term embraced by political actors, from animal rights activists to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., used to describe the immediate action we can take to improve local conditions in our environment, face personalities in positions of power or otherwise. rapid political change. Direct action can range from a demonstration to the payment of bail for an arrested person; from running a mutual aid table to forming a human blockade to prevent an eviction; from civil disobedience to very uncivil. However it is carried out, good direct action should bring to the forefront of our political imagination the fact that all political institutions are run by people through day-to-day functions, and this is precisely the area where we have the power to protect and uplift our communities. As a reminder, we trust elected officials to implement policies that we could very well do ourselves through direct action and mutual aid.
Since the Democratic and Republican parties each have “war chests” of over a billion dollars, not even taking into account the hundreds of millions of dollars donated to their ancillary organizations such as the Democratic and Republican National Committees, the necessities of basics such as groceries and housing are becoming increasingly unaffordable, prompting tenants to take action. The current Democratic consensus of letting corporations drive up costs while their profits outstrip them by hundreds and Republican dreams of savagely anti-poor austerity measures do not meet the needs of the working class, and few political campaigns offer meaningful solutions, opting instead for partisan loyalty. Voters, especially progressives, would be in a much better position to use their resources for direct actions that alleviate food and housing insecurity, such as mutual aid and tenant union campaigns, than to donate to a campaign. whose commitments will likely be stalled by a political stalemate.
It would be remiss of me not to address the concern that failure to contribute to political campaign war chests not only benefits the opposition party, but increases the dependence of these campaign organizations on vis-à-vis business financing. This is an understandable concern given the grim capitalist reality of American electoral politics; however, it ignores the fact that direct action inherently requires a political organization and a political platform. Giving more resources to community organizations and self-help initiatives may not allow email outreach and paid volunteers, but it does enable face-to-face conversations with community members who are impacted by social and economic policies. elected officials. Politically charged direct action allows those who benefit from it to make informed decisions if they choose to vote; after all, a message about mutually beneficial direct action speaks louder than a 30-second YouTube ad. Direct action does not require organizers to endorse or subordinate themselves to the hegemonic two-party system. On the contrary, politicizing direct action and your interactions with marginalized members of the community solidifies an organization independent of partisan politics that can lobby local governments, interface with other like-minded groups, and be one of many nodes that spare a counter-hegemonic movement.