I wrote an earlier post, where I shared an unpublished letter about how frustrated I was last year in August with President Obama. I cannot consciously vote for President Obama given his stances on a range of issues. He is, in my opinion, not someone who fits well with my conscious. However, I think people have the impression, or are confused, about my stance when it comes to President Obama, and worse voting.
I am a firm supporter of voting, people are dying to have that right, as seen currently in Syria, so voting matters even more. Also voting is not just about or between two Presidential candidates. In my opinion local politics is far more impactful on my present circumstances then the Presidential election.
People believe that my tactic is a wasted vote. I strongly disagree because my decision is not constructed blindly. Voting is as much a community strategy as it is a personal decision. However, not voting is unconscionable and I do not accept that line of reasoning.
I understand and appreciate the gravity of having Romney become President. However, from the get go, my vote in California does not matter because California has never been in contention when it comes to the popular vote or the Electoral College. However, if you live in a battleground state, or as they are called by others-swing states- like Florida, Ohio, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and now New Hampshire, your vote actually matters.
In those states a minority turnout that supports Obama or Romney can significantly swing the states electoral college, and a study shows that minority do make up significant population growth areas in the past ten years. Consider Nevada where its estimated that 12 percent of the population now is Asian. That means if there is a 50-50 split among the general population, a strong Asian American turnout could tip the election. NAAS estimates that there is a 59 percent favorability rating for Obama among Asian Americans and they are more likely to vote if they have registered to do so. (stats pulled from National Asian American Survey)
While I will not vote for President Obama, I will do what it takes to support him where it counts. That is why I devoted my weekend to getting out the Asian American vote with American Asians, Pacific Islanders for Obama‘s caravan from California to Nevada. I encouraged my employed friends to donate to those swing state efforts.
However, I do not have any illusions that voting for President Obama is going to change his trajectory on issues that matter to me as an American Muslim. I encourage people to vote with their nose plugged and their eyes closed.
Furthermore, I am thankful I live in California where my vote doesn’t really matter. Here I believe I can vote for a third party to give them stronger support, but more importantly exercise strategic voting. For example read this excerpt from Chris Mathews biography Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero:
As a Roman Catholic, Jack Kennedy would have been, until this moment, an unlikely candidate for national office. World War II had changed things, however, and it was obvious that now there were ways to position oneself favorably as an Irish Catholic, to take advantage of the changes. He needed to make the case that the number of Catholics Stevenson lost in 1952 could be lured back to the fold with the right running mate. Catholics liked Ike, who’d vanquished Hitler, and were turned off by the divorced [Stevenson]…
Kennedy gave the job of proving the case for putting him on the ticket to Ted Sorensen…Again, Sorenson proved equal to the task, knocking out a seventeen-page memo showing the power of the Catholic vote in fourteen key states. It demonstrated how Catholics’ defection in 1952 had cost the Democrats the election. It showed, too, that they had split their tickets int he election, voting for Democrats for the House and the Senate, but for Ike for President [who was Republican]…
…he had the Sorensen memo distributed by Connecticut’s John Bailey, the state Democratic Party chairman, a close Kennedy ally. In any case, the “Bailey Memo…” went out to fifty top Democrats thought to have Stevenson’s ear. A few days later, it showed its power. Stevenson’s campaign manager, Jim Finnegan, asked for a dozen copies of “that survey” that was going around…”You know, about the Catholic vote.”
What I learn from this is that to show the power of a community’s voting capacity is to understand that it is not a winner take all system. We have to plan things beyond the immediate election. The rate of return in this upcoming election is insignificant because we do not, as a community, truly have the leverage to convert those votes into “rewards” which would be the most immediate form of political power we could gain and wield (i.e. appointments to Federal positions, cabinet positions for community members with the right credentials, assistance to elect more people from our community, appointments within key Senatorial or Congressional offices/committees). That is how Indian Americans and Asian Americans translated their voting bloc power in 2008 and why we see Kal Pen and other Asian Americans in all sorts of positions within the Obama Administration.
The idea is incredibly straightforward and ingenious. I can see this being applied by the Muslim community to leverage future political clout. It is much better than the broken record lesser of two evils argument or the equally tiring third party argument being tossed around. I am hungry for real political power. I am hungry and I want it sooner for my community, rather then later. But we seem to keep tossing it down the road with each approaching election.
While I am not deluded to think that we can show that type of results in this election I am still inspired by the JFK strategy to leverage the Catholic vote. On this reasoning I believe that those Muslims living in non-swing states can, in essence, send a clear message to President Obama and the future Democratic Party that our vote is not to be taken for granted. Future support depends on addressing our concerns and our issues.
But people living in swing states need to remember that for their consideration is not just their conscious but also the larger fate of the people of the world. Unfortunately, your vote could place someone worse then Obama AND Bush in the white house. So we owe it to the people of the world to ensure the least amount of suffering possible is conveyed via our President elect.
That is my take on tomorrow’s Presidential election. However, more importantly, keep organizing and working in your communities. Politics is local and there are significant issues that hit close to home that require your involvement.