Peaceful Protests & Voter Registration, Please

On January 16th, 2017, America celebrated Martin Luther King Day. A day in remembrance of a Civil Rights icon who stood up in the face of everything thrown at him to resist peacfully and change the system in any way he could. A day in remembrance of the struggle Dr. King gave his life for. He believed in the future of this country. He had a dream that we could all live side-by-side with equal rights and protections as Americans. Dr. King endured opposition that today’s protestors will never know in comparison to what the Civil Rights Movement endured, and yet today’s protestors feel a need to act out in violence to change the system.

On January 20th, 2017, we watched Donald J. Trump get sworn into office and protesters turn violent in Washington DC. I agree Trump is not qualified to be the President, but the Civil Rights Movement built itself on the backs of peaceful resistance. Breaking windows of a Starbucks that isn’t the neighborhood one you visit isn’t going to solve anything. You wouldn’t do that to the Starbucks you go to down the street from your house or the bank you cash your checks at in your neighborhood. Your outrage doesn’t make it okay to destroy others’ property or harm people who think differently from you.

Hell, most of the people affected by the damage done during protests are the minimum wage workers that oppose Trump also and are just doing their jobs while you break the window panes of their workplaces in the deepest depths of winter, ushering in freezing winds and scaring innocent people. I find it incredibly distressing that this concept of nonviolent protests needs to be explained to my fellow liberals.

If you claim it is only a few individuals causing violence but you’re standing there witnessing it in person and not speaking out, you are complicit. To any liberals who are passively watching the damage unphased or reveling in joy: it is your duty as a liberal to stand up against violent protests to prevent these acts from damaging your own interests in future elections.

I believe in the future of this country and everything Dr. King stood for. That is why it upsets me that protesters these days have turned to violent means to express their opinions. I think Dr. Martin Luther King would be ashamed at how these protests have turned towards violence instead of using the example he gave us and his life for.

I also believe Dr. King would not only be voicing his opinions but trying to register as many people to vote as he possibly could that agreed with what he was protesting for. He relied heavily on organizations to help him that focused on peaceful resistance and registering voters, with one of the most important being the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee  (SNCC). The SNCC was created in 1960 by Ella Baker with an $800 grant from the Southern Christian Leadership Committee (SCLC) which Dr. King was the first President of.

Dr. King was willing to put himself in harm’s way to deliver a peaceful message to all he could deliver it to, but other groups like the SNCC were crucial to increasing voter turnout and changing the political landscape of the country. The SNCC was responsible for many protests, “Freedom Rides”, and sit-ins. Although they eventually fizzled out of existence by 1970 due to internal struggles, their work was essential to both the Civil Rights and Voting Acts in the 1960’s. They were a driving force behind the Freedom Summer of 1964 and due to organizations like them voter registration increased from below 10% among the black community to over 50% within only a few years in some areas. Naturally, this had a huge impact on elections as communities began to realize the power of their votes after they gained the right to vote.

Protesting is wonderful, but protesting without registering new voters and observing nonviolent strategies in the crucial places lost the 2016 election for Democrats. Occupy Wall Street created the beginning of the recent liberal protests, but they effectively did nothing in the long haul policy-wise. Protesting violently will also do nothing to progress liberal policies, and will only incite more rage in Conservatives and get them to turn up to vote in larger numbers in the future.

In comparison, the Tea Party movement is the root of what gave Donald Trump the ability to win. It grew out of opposition to Democrats and Obama whether it was justified or not. The voters who won the election for Trump in the swing states that went against all the pundits’ predictions are a direct result of the Tea Party movement which grew inside the Republican party. They went out and they got their neighbors to vote, they marched on Washington, they did everything right, and even though I don’t agree with them I admire the tenacity they showed in changing the Republican party from within. The Democrats need to use the Tea Party as a case study without the divisive and sometimes racist elements that came with it.

If Democrats don’t take their surplus of voters in their strongholds like the West Coast and invest serious resources in registering voters in battleground states before the 2020 election then liberals are handing another four years to the Republican party.

We need to fund voter registration drives. We need to increase voter registration in the Democratic strongholds of the midwest like Kansas City that get drowned out by the number of conservatives in their states that are registered to vote. We need to pay to relocate people from cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and New York to move to battleground states and work full time registering voters in places like Missouri, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

We need Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren doing voter registration drives in battleground states right now. We need to successfully win an election based on how the election actually works and not the popular vote. We need our Democratic members of Congress and the Senate to spend less time fundraising and more time on when, where, how, and why it is so important if we want to change this country.

We saw the amount of popularity Bernie Sanders gained in only one year of campaigning, imagine if he focused his energy right now on helping with the 2018 and 2020 elections. Only half the eligible voters in this country voted in 2016. We have tons of ground to register more liberal voters and flip swing states in 2-4 years. It isn’t that difficult if we educate people on how to vote and get larger numbers of liberal people to actually show up at the polls in the 2018 midterms and 2020 general election.

Many of the things Dr. King dreamed of are a reality today because of the way he fought for the Civil Rights of all people in this country, and people fighting for civil rights and against oppression today have lost sight of the way he accomplished his dreams even after his death. He built a message and convinced voters who were only white to support his ideas in large enough numbers to change the status quo. We need to do the same thing today in the areas that barely won Donald Trump the 2016 election. It is no secret that a vast majority of white voters voted for Trump, and we need to adapt to that reality and take our message to them so that their opinions might change even just a little.

What do we have to lose as liberals? We don’t have control of any of the branches of the government right now, and it will only get worse if we don’t do something about it sooner rather than later.

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