A Latino Without a Party

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Like most Latinos I began my voting life as a registered Democrat, filled with hope. Not only am I Latino but an Illinoisan, born and raised, so voting blue was naturally the thing to do, like cheering for the Bulls, eating deep-dish, and saying “pitcher” instead of “picture.”

But by the time the 2014 midterms rolled around, I was done with the Dems—done with voting, really, but I still went to my local polling place so as not to ruin my nearly pristine voting record (I’ve voted in every election year I could except 2004).

When he came into office in ’08, Obama, touted as a “progressive Democrat” at the time, immediately bailed out Wall Street while leaving the working class, especially Blacks and Latinos, out to dry.

He didn’t pass immigration reform his first year like he promised he would, but he did back a coup in Honduras before the 4th of July weekend, which is not nothing. He then went on to drop instant death on U.S. citizens overseas and deport more immigrants than his immigrant-hating successor would manage.

It turned out that Obama was no progressive but just another centrist neoliberal—what they call a “Clinton Democrat” or “New Democrat,” which is really not much different than a Carter Democrat, or a Johnson Democrat, a Kennedy, Truman…

You get the picture.

And now we have another Democrat in the White House, only this one, when he’s awake and coherent, makes Obama look like Fred Hampton.

Sometime during Obama’s second term, I officially left the Democratic Party and registered as “Nonpartisan.” Not that I’m voting Republican anytime soon, which I would never do for the simple fact that I don’t believe America was founded as a Christian nation, or that it should be one, and that rich people and their property must be protected at all costs—which seem to be the two pillars of the GOP credo.

So I guess I’m a Latino without a party, at least one worth voting for, given the electoral system in this country.

I moved to Vegas in August 2016, in the midst of a roiling battle for America’s soul, they told us, fought mostly between a sleezy, pro-war corporate thug, and her colleague Trump, who was even worse. Nevada went for Hillary that year and elected a Democratic senator, Catherine Cortez Masto, the first Latina ever, so I feel safe in telling you that I didn’t vote for Hillary. I voted “None of the above.”

I would’ve voted for Jill Stein of the Green Party, had she not been blocked from appearing on the ballot by Clinton allies, Democratic Party operatives, and an Obama-appointed judge.

In the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential election, I voted blue purely as damage control, like defecating on yourself in prison to keep your bunkmate off you. I wasn’t excited about it. Given our two-party system, the center-right bent of the Overton window, and money’s firm grip on politics, only moderates and conservatives are afforded the luxury of being happy to vote on Election Day, while progressives are left with a Hobson’s choice between the lesser of two evils.

The lesser-evil principle at play in U.S. elections, reinforced by a two-party system in which no third-party candidate stands an honest person’s chance in Congress, appears to be a great big trick pulled on the American voter in order to get him or her or them to accept evil as an essential part of sound government. Every politician is at least a bit evil, we’re convinced, so just pick the less evil one.

Why, when electing our leadership, are we constantly given a choice between two bad apples? Does our apple tree only grow rotten ones? Or could it be there’s something wrong with our whole apple-picking process?

I’m done voting for less evil candidates, which seems to only get us more evil government—Biden is worse than Obama, Trump was worse than Bush Jr., so I tremble at the thought of our next toss-up.

Let me make one thing clear right now: I’m never voting for Krysten Sinema, even if she is a woman and gay and would help the Democrats win some moderate Republican voters. It isn’t the Democratic Party’s job to win Republican voters, and if the Democrats are winning Republican voters, then they’re probably not serving the Democratic ones.

Give me one good person to vote for, or at least a party any true progressive would be happy to get behind without it being a form of protest. Why do moderates and conservatives routinely get what they want while the progressive vote is merely symbolic?

That isn’t democratic.

I know the kind of party I want, but there’s no point in voting for that kind of party so long as the big two have cornered American politics to a degree that Coke and Pepsi can only dream of doing in their industry. After all, you and I can go buy us a Dr. Pepper or a Sprite right now, no problem, and there wouldn’t be anything symbolic in the purchase, simply a matter of naked preference.

Shouldn’t we have that kind of freedom when deciding who is going to run our country? Hell, I’d gladly drink Diet Shasta for the rest of my days if I were guaranteed a free and open choice come election time.

That reminds me of what Fidel used to say whenever we would criticize him for imposing a one-party system on the Cuban people: “You yanquis only allow one more than us,” which is a solid point. Imagine if Freedom of Religion meant you could only worship God or Vishnu but no one else. Some freedom that would be.

If we want to get rid of our two-party sham and have a real choice on Election Day, we need to ditch our winner-take-all process and adopt ranked-choice voting, which is basically where you pick your favorite party or candidate, then your second-favorite, and so on.

Ranked-choice voting, along with various proportional voting methods, have been shown to result in more representative outcomes—meaning the people or parties that the voters actually prefer tend to win more power in government—whereas our winner-take-all, non-transferrable voting system is one of the least representative of voter preferences.

It’s easy to see why our system is so off. Take 2016, for example. Say I and my fellow Nevadans could’ve voted for Jill Stein and the Green Party, and say she won two, or five, or 10 percent of the vote. Say Hillary got 40 percent, but Trump got 41, or even 40.1 percent. Trump would’ve been declared the winner (as he was), even though around 50 percent of the voters would’ve preferred something else.

With a ranked-choice voting system—and all candidates allowed on the ballot—I would’ve chosen Dr. Stein as my favorite in 2016, then Gloria La Riva as my second-favorite, then Hillary I guess as my third-favorite—though I still might’ve found voting for a golpista too hard to swallow.

Still, no one could then say that “a vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Trump,” as we heard so many repeating in 2016.

Rather than being democratic, which is supposed to mean that the government represents the will of the people, our voting system actually promotes minority rule. And in a country where the poor far outnumber the rich, liberals outnumber conservatives, cityfolk outnumber countryfolk, and people of color are set to outnumber white people any decade now, why we’re forced to play a political game based on minority rule is no mystery.

And don’t get me started on that damned Electoral College, which only exists to tilt the scales in favor of white rural conservatives—and that’s not even a controversial statement, but plain common knowledge. You should’ve seen the look on my immigrant father-in-law’s face when I tried explaining to him how Biden, though he was up by a bunch of votes, could still lose to Trump thanks to our backward, oligarchic way of picking presidents.

My suegro just kept gaping at the popular vote count on the TV and back at me, looking as lost as I felt.

Hillary won by three million votes in 2016 and still lost. Democratic voters routinely outvote Republicans but still can’t keep control of the House or the Senate, or both—all by design, I promise.

We need a viable third party in this country—of course we do—and a fourth, a fifth, and sixth. The more the merrier, no?

But we can’t have that or any real choice with our current voting system. And until we fix it, every election will force us to choose between the kinder-looking, gentler-sounding of two corporate henchmen, and the only real decision will be which people get screwed and how badly.

 

Featured image: H2Woah!/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Hector is the founder and editor of MANO magazine as well as the host of the LATINISH podcast. A Chicagoan living in Las Vegas, he's also the senior editor of Latino Rebels as well as a former managing editor of Gozamos, an art-activism site based in his home town. He was a columnist at RedEye, a Tribune-owned daily geared toward millennials. His work has been mentioned by The New Yorker, Good Morning America, TIME and other outlets, and his writing was featured in Ricanstruction, a comic book anthology whose proceeds went toward recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. He studied history at the University of Illinois-Chicago where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States.

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