Today, I begrudgingly registered to vote. My whole life, I’ve waited for the day I turned 18 and could engage in the civic responsibility that is voting. As an early teen, I’d engage with polls on the Internet that were aimed at those my age who couldn’t vote but still wanted our voice to be heard. I was wrapped up in Obama’s first run for president during 2008 (I was eleven during the time) cheering alongside my father when he defeated McCain. I sat nervously at the edge of my friend Ellie’s couch during his second run against Romney, as she blankly skimmed through her phone eating potato chips. I remember getting a call from my mother later that night yelling at me for staying out too late and only being able to respond with tears of joy that Obama had won.
As a young adult, I now question my previous devotion to the Democratic party. Why did I accept Obama as my president so willingly? Why did I never take the time to critique his policies or look with a finite lens at what he was actually doing as president? Part of this was the fact that I had barely lived a decade in life, but the other end of this was the political realm I grew up in.
My generation grew up in the Bush administration. For the majority of our lives, we have lived in a society that has been engaged in combat, a war built to hate and fear. We’ve seen nations fall to fascism, all built on this fear of weapons of mass destruction. We grew up with the after effects of 9/11, Islamophobia instilled at our core. Our whole lives, we have been conditioned to fear politicians and point fingers at marginalized groups of people instead of critique their actions and policies and get to the root of problems.
It wasn’t until adulthood that I started to see through the fog of U.S. elections. I started to analyze candidates through their policies, instead of the outdated “Democrats Good, Republicans Bad” lens that ran through most Democrats in California. I started to unpack the problems of Obama’s administration, upholding neoliberalism and being equally as bad as the Republican party. The Democrats slowly became more and more like Republicans, just with a pink bow and glitter.
The fire that was once rampant during election season has reduced to ashes ever since I started to unpack the problems with our electoral system. My cynicism has not gone in vain, as I started to understand change comes from grassroots work. It is the masses that create change, not the President of the United States. Working class people like myself mobilizing, critiquing, and acting on their analysis. Knowing the power the masses held and studying how to organize and transform it into actual change strengthened my hope in our world and made me more active and energized as ever.