Choice is a Privilege


Celia Gossow, Reporter

As a democratic country, the right to vote is opportune to the recognition of voices in our country. Established for white men with property in 1788, African American men in 1870, and women in 1920, this right was previously viewed as an opportunity, not an obligation. In our current political climate, with presidential elections close on the horizon, voting is a hot topic. Voter registration, mail-in ballots, and voter fraud are ever-present on the American psyche. The running of Biden and Trump, while highly polarized, is revealing about the American attitude towards voting. While many stand steady on their candidate of choice, many Americans lay undecided on their November ballot. Trump, on one hand, is struggling to grab the moderate-Republican vote, or in lay terms, economic conservatives who are socially liberal, while on the other, Biden’s moderately Democratic policies surrounding issues such as fracking and police reform leave the far left unsatisfied. Many supporters of either side argue the problematic background of the opposing candidate while refusing to reference the same themes within their own candidate. It is clear that both men need a refresher on consent. With Trump’s twenty-six and Biden’s eight sexual misconduct allegations and accusations, the search for the lesser of two evils halts at a grey-area. Although both men lay severely flawed, “Settle for Biden” has become a popular mantra among farther-left-leaning voters. This ideology harps on the shortcomings of Biden’s campaign, but recognizes the necessity of getting Trump out of office.

For many, the past nearly four years of Donald Trump’s presidency have stirred up feelings of discomfort and disgust. Any economic appeal of the presidency has been squashed under the boot of the one-percent. Forbes reports that Trump’s 2018 tax cuts allowed the 400 richest Americans to pay fewer taxes than any other group. Although these cuts were marketed towards the joint-benefit of the entire American population, the increase in standard deduction resulted in squandering results for everyone except the top one percent. In truth, Trump’s economic plan for his 2016 and potential 2020 term have different tones. Thanks to the incapacity of the COVID-19 regulations, all that is left of the American economy should be flushed. Anyone relying on standard income, living with multiple children, living in low-income communities, and almost anyone else in the middle to lower economic class has been hit hard by the pandemic. No American can say they have been wholly unaffected by COVID-19, but it is undeniable that a disproportionate portion of the damage was felt by low-income communities and communities in which the majority are people of color. Not only are POC more likely to have severe asthma, heart conditions, and diabetes, but they are heavily present in the essential workforce. ThinkGlobalHealth reports “Blacks and Latinxs are more likely to be unemployed due to the impacts of the pandemic on the labor market, but they are also overrepresented among essential workers who must stay in their jobs, particularly lower-skilled positions, where they are at greater risk of exposure to the virus.” This close to election day, the impacts of COVID-19 on these crucial communities could potentially swing the election. Trump’s lack of COVID-19 reform lands him in a sticky situation when campaigning for these demographics.

It should be noted that the political demographics of black populations are more left-leaning to begin with. This is not without good reason. The appeal of Donald Trump in low-income communities notwithstanding his economic plan is unpopular. Take a moment to step away from the economic sector for a minute. Hypothesize with me for a second; you are reading this article as a white student of John Burroughs School, in which 400 of the 600 students pay a full $30,000 tuition each year. You have been granted experiences and opportunities unheard of just miles away. Your political alignment most likely lays heavily on that of your parents, and your political engagements rely solely on what may affect you. As seen in the Republican Party, which is made up of roughly 89% white people, the items that could possibly impact your life up for debate are government-mandates against bodily autonomy, control over the rights of others, guns, and of course, taxes. On the other hand, for nearly anyone without your same privilege, the Democratic Party provides more appeal. With a demographic of 22% black people compared to the right’s 2%, and 13% Hispanic people, compared to the right’s 6%, the left are more reflective of the diversity of the population we live in. This leads to an overall more well-rounded and accurate survey of the issues important to the American people. In your hypothetical support of the Republican party, you would be discounting the needs of populations who look different than you or who are not granted the same opportunities. Hence, we see the need to look past personal desires in comparison to the survival and wellbeing of others.

As previously mentioned, these demographics are no coincidence. For POC, the electoral choice is not fueled by tax breaks or job growth; it is for survival. A 2% tax break is nothing to celebrate after the history of slavery, lynching, redlining, gerrymandering, police brutality, and Donald Trump’s lack of recognition of systemic racism in America. For families of undocumented immigrants, the electoral choice is a defining factor in the survival of those immigrants and the perseverance of DACA. For women, especially women of color, the electoral choice is predicting their accessibility to abortion clinics and women’s healthcare. For the LBGTQ+ community, the electoral choice means being allowed to legally marry, adopt, or attend businesses without being denied service. The impacts of Donald Trump’s presidency are majorly unfelt by his voters but are felt greatly by those already hit hard by systems of oppression in America.

For those who depend on the outcome of the election, voting is not optional. For the many undecided voters, I ask you, what privileges do you hold that allow you to make your electoral decisions based on anything but the protection of your own life? How has your privilege granted you the ability to have a choice? For many, voting for Biden is not a choice made out of great debate of the options at hand, but out of an understanding of the possible and already executed impacts of the alternative. “Make America Great Again!” is a tricky concept for those who still are not granted equal freedoms. Which America was great? The one that relied on the backs of slaves? The one where a six-year-old integrating into a white school required military intervention? Or was it the one where the lynching of black people was a weekend activity and rape was legal? Or maybe the one where you were forced to hide who you loved for fear of being beat in the street? It is necessary to recognize this privilege in yourself. Your choice in November, whether it affects you or not, will impact those around you. As a participant in democracy, you have a responsibility to not only educate yourself on the candidates and the history of American politics but also to share that knowledge with others. We, as a generation, have an immense role in the outcome of the election. I ask you to please use your privilege as an opportunity for good. Educate yourself, look out for others, and take responsibility for your actions. Whatever the outcome in November, know that your continued efforts towards equity will not go unheard. Biden’s election is only a stepping stone to greater social equality, and you have a role in the rights of yourself and others. Get out there and make your voice heard on November 3rd.