NGUYEN: Do not celebrate Biden’s victory. Electoral politics have no role in liberation.

Liberation requires divestment from the government—something many voters have proven they are not ready for as they ridicule third-party and non-voters. Your liberation will not come from voting.


Elle Choi

Vanderbilt campus scenery. (Hustler Multimedia/Elle Choi)

Danny Nguyen, Staff Writer

Every four years, each presidential election is revered as the most important one in history. So, it is unsurprising to hear individuals proclaim that the vote has never had more dire consequences each election year, resulting in quadrennial get-out-the-vote movements that call for increased voter turnout for the sake of democracy. My previous article, “Your liberation will not come from voting,” strayed from conventional wisdom, arguing against the vote and the existence of democracy. As many rejoice at the announcement of President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory, we must take time to reflect on our aims as voters and non-voters and the role of electoral politics on the freedom we hope to gain. 

Voting has undoubtedly brought social progress, granting disadvantaged individuals the civil liberties we enjoy today. As many state, it has been the only way we have achieved such liberties, as even civil disobedience has relied on votes that elect politically malleable leaders who are willing to give in to public demand at crucial times. 


Defining liberation

Regardless, voting will never achieve liberation for minorities. To understand this, an important distinction must be made between social progress and liberation. The former is a vital instrument in achieving the latter but does not, by itself, possess the power to free disadvantaged communities from oppression. One must not look far to observe this regression. The Trump administration began its legacy with an immediate undoing of civil liberties granted by previous administrations, placing marginalized lives at further risk even after years of successful advocacy work.

Liberation from socioeconomic injustice comprises all forms of social progress, but distinguishes itself from social progress by allowing communities to permanently enjoy freedom—once granted, socioeconomic disadvantages will cease to exist, and we will enjoy a liberated status that no administration can jeopardize. Furthermore, it calls for divorce from oppressive governments rather than collaboration to bring a shift in power from wealthy classes to working ones. Thus, liberation is the ultimate end of every movement that aims to better the lives of the disadvantaged. 

The passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg exposes the faults of social progress when liberation is unsecured. Anti-abortion advocates have been reenergized by her unexpected passing, reinvigorating their efforts to takedown Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman’s right to abortions with minimal government intervention. Years of advocacy work has been unsuccessful in granting permanent liberties to women, as any abortion case that rises to the Court may jeopardize precedent set by Roe. Had liberation been achieved, abortion liberties would not be in such a compromised position in which they can be undermined by an unruly arm of the government. 

Liberation first calls for a rejection of one’s chains to acquire self-consciousness of one’s socioeconomic state. Angela Davis’ “Lectures on Liberationhopes to exhibit revelations of freedom via “resistance” to combat the oppressive forces ruling marginalized lives by any means. Such resistance is a lifelong struggle—one must continually unlearn and combat institutions and individuals responsible for their disadvantages. Thus, liberation entails consciousness to recognize the gross means of oppression governments are equipping and total divestment.

Though the pursuit of liberation and social progress converge in many areas, it is difficult to find comfort in social progress, especially when voting—touted as a quintessential aspect of freedom by politicians—ensures that it comes at a glacial pace. If social progress is stalled, liberation is too.


Divesting from the government—who wants liberation?

Voter suppression via arms of both state and federal  government has overwhelmed the voices of the people. The Electoral College and de-facto segregation, among other means of disenfranchisement, have effectively silenced marginalized communities; however, many still naively hope that the same institutions that siphon their power will someday grant freedoms for which they have waited lifetimes. 

Get-out-the-vote movements aim to recruit young voters by emphasizing the importance of voting and presenting the alluring possibility of liberation veiled in incremental social progress. The rise of social movements like Black Lives Matter and new-age LGBTQ+ Liberation movements, among others partly pioneered by younger populations, has made liberation especially attractive to our generation. These movements echo past ones like the Black Panther Party to make one thing clear: racist, discriminatory governments are irredeemable. We must dismantle them and start anew. 

Despite many echoing the sentiment in demonstrations heard around the world, few have actually taken the initiative to divest from the racist governments they scrutinize, as many still enthusiastically and simultaneously support presidential candidates with unjust histories while backing liberation movements like Black Lives Matter. In the case of the presidential election, they reiterate rhetoric of the two-party system that hopes to maintain capitalism. Ridiculing third party supporters and non-voters who have divested from traditionally harmful institutions contradicts the ends of the social movements the dismissive promote.

Individuals who reject the reevaluation of government traditions that have a continued history of marginalization cannot align themselves with the liberatory movements many disadvantaged communities pioneer. This extensive subset of the American population, which includes many marginalized folk, does not want liberation—they want privilege. In other words, they would be content with the exploitation of others so long as power structures sufficiently increased their financial and social capital to grant closer proximity to upper-class whiteness and achieve the illusory American Dream. 

The emphasis on accumulating individual wealth degrades the march towards liberation for all, as graceful participants of capitalist societies will be unwilling to redistribute their wealth to exploited neighbors. One’s best chance at achieving this goal is through a socioeconomic system that hopes to maintain racial, class and gender divides and, at best, incrementally dispenses civil liberties to keep the masses at ease.

As long as one believes that the American Dream is within reach, they will blindly uphold it—even if their community or themselves are collateral damage. 

Divestment from the government will call for individuals to place these dreams in their peripheral vision or abandon them altogether, but all are prone to such temptations. Students at Vanderbilt are the perfect case study: we attend elite universities like Vanderbilt to hopefully ensure that we have adequate resources to provide a comfortable life for ourselves and our families, or perhaps live in excess. For those that lack socioeconomic capital, prestigious colleges provide the best resources to fuel upwards socioeconomic mobility. Per human nature and our prioritization of survival, we veer from disadvantage—a threat to our livelihoods. Politically aligning ourselves with upper-class whiteness allows us to maximize our chances of survival by distancing ourselves from our marginalized identities to avoid, for example, police brutality, hate crimes and food and home insecurity. Consequently, many do not wish to be defiant and engage in civil disobedience—a form of government divestment—despite calling for it. 

However, shunning those who have divested from their government via abstaining from the vote, for example, is counterproductive and contradicts the ends of such movements. Any divestment should be applauded and guide us towards a future where liberation is achieved, and debates and referendums are no longer needed to attain civil liberties. 


The gradual march towards liberation

Currently, total disengagement from our oppressive government is impossible and perhaps too idealist; however, that should not prevent individuals from trying to do so. We may not see such an overhaul to our political system within the next few years or even decades. Nevertheless, marginalized people have relentlessly fought for liberation in the United States for centuries to see change even when these struggles are initially fruitless to relentlessly demand our equal, ideal state. The centuries of political strife in times where racist ideology was upheld by an overwhelming majority of the American population was necessary to pioneer the radical movements we see today. Idealist thought is central to politics, with individuals across the political spectrum fighting to maintain or change current socioeconomic states to achieve their ideal ones. 

Many battles for freedom take decades, if not centuries, to bear fruit. Thus, the dismissal of individuals who divest from these power structures due to impatience is unreasonable, as one must be persistent in the fight to attain civil liberties. Electing to maximize divestment from aspects of governments that do not serve them do not make them outsiders. Individuals who divest via abstinence from voting can still be civically engaged by participating in, say, the Black Lives Matter movements heard around the world during the summer. Should the path to liberation take decades, it is important that individuals begin pioneering such a path immediately. Even if these movements do not see acknowledgment from representatives initially, they will inevitably capture the attention of other marginalized folk with the same goals and compel them to implement measures demanded by their constituents.  After continuous advocacy, the oppression imposed on workers will be unmasked, enabling them to grasp liberation without the hesitation we see today.

Biden’s presidential victory has restored a sense of freedom many last felt during the Obama era; though similar to the Obama administration, the Biden administration will likely see international terror and oppression masked in uncertain incremental social progress that will receive more attention than, say, his contributions to mass incarceration and approval of militant force in the Iraq War. In short, he will not be an arbiter of liberation, nevertheless significant social progress. Every social movement has made one thing clear: a better future will not be one in which we will have to compromise marginal social progress—if any is gained—with other atrocities that do not affect ourselves directly. Our reliance on the vote to minimize damage and continually choose the lesser of two evil administrations has wreaked havoc on many marginalized communities we aim to uplift.

For instance, calls to abolish the police, as echoed by supporters and spearheads of the Black Lives Matter movement, have been ignored as the “Settle for Biden” and unironically Pro-Biden campaigns have swept the nation. Biden’s calls for increased funding for the police have not fazed his supporters, and if they have, they have not fazed them enough to be repulsed by the possibility of an even more militant, murderous police force. Your claim that “all cops are bastards” is meaningless until you divest from individuals and institutions like Biden that argue otherwise. In reality, the path to liberation will take years. However, when presented with the opportunity to either divest from governments or invest in candidates like Gloria La Riva— a socialist presidential candidate who advocates for reparations for slavery, the jailing of Wall Street criminals, and an end to the prison-industrial complex— one must take those routes if they wish to uphold the values of movements they align themselves with.

Your unwavering allegiance should not be to political figures like Biden, but to your surrounding communities that are pleading for you to abandon centrist political practices and look beyond figures who compromise their rights for political capital. This support will someday come at the cost of the luxuries you hope to attain or are currently reaping; only time will tell if you are willing to forego them for the true greater good.