It's O.K. to Have a Complicated Political Identity. It's Not O.K. to Not Vote
Updated: Oct 29, 2020
We are all on the spectrum of political efficacy whether we know it or not. Political efficacy can be broken into two parts: the first being the extent to which a person has faith and trust in their government, the second being the confidence one feels in their ability to understand and influence political affairs. In a nutshell, a person’s political efficacy is determined by how strongly they feel their participation in the democratic system impacts results they want.
There are a number of invisible obstacles that might be bringing your political efficacy down, some of which are intentionally created through underhanded legislating. In and of itself though, political efficacy is truly a spectrum that depends on your personal identity and even more so on the area you live in, thanks to practices like gerrymandering. Regions in which gerrymandering is present, it's difficult for your vote to count because of how voters are distributed between district lines. However, I am here to tell you that if an immigrant has more political efficacy than you, then perhaps it is time to unpack why that is before you decide whether to vote in the 2020 election.
When my father was just 17 years old, he immigrated from Mexico to the United States by himself. He was finally able to gain his citizenship more than a decade later by marrying my mother. My father also doesn’t hide the fact that he used to be a Republican and would vote (R) straight down the ballot. While I’m not sure exactly when his views began to change, there’s been a political, Democratic fire burning inside him in recent years thanks to Trump (and probably his Facebook feed). As we were walking out the door to go vote in the 2018 midterm election, I realized for the first time just how much love my father has for his country. He said, “Let’s go take America back,” and together we went and did our part to do so. We voted.
I felt so much pride in my father for having changed his political views as a direct response to the way the Republican Party has changed. Here was my father, a man living in a country that time and time again proved it didn’t value him, but he continues to exercise his democratic rights with the goal of changing the things he doesn’t like about the United States. Although my father can speak near fluent English, he never took lessons in reading or writing, making a lot of informational resources inaccessible to him. Yet, he still makes an effort to stay informed and stay angry at our current political state.
Perhaps he understands more than anyone what is at stake; he and I cast our votes for the unheard voices of America who don’t have the privilege to vote. The immigrant families held in detention centers, the Black lives lost to police brutality, the unreasonable amount of incarcerated people (disproportionately People of Color) who have lost the right to vote, the people who are turned away at the polls because of a new Republican voter suppression bill that was implemented, and many others. These voices are why you too should make an informed vote.
I completely empathize with having news fatigue. Following politics in particular is exhausting to keep up with and drains our mental health. While it’s okay to step back to recharge at times, we should never totally step away from being informed. My family and millions of others don’t have the luxury of ignoring politics, and those with the privilege to do so should also be aware of how dangerous it is to idle in democracy. Democracy requires participation if a country wants to remain democratic. It’s not easy by any means, but we all have a starting point to begin learning and growing as people living in this country.
You absolutely will catch my formerly proud Republican father voting in the 2020 election with conviction to get Trump out of the White House. My sister, mother, and I will be voting right next to him, and I hope you will be there with us too.
About the Author
Lyli Chavez is a Latinx math teacher and lifelong learner. She identifies as an intersectional feminist and will continue to be an ally to those historically disenfranchised.